While out exploring and hiking in bear country, heed any uneasy feelings that suddenly come over you. You may have picked up a subliminal message--a sound or smell you did not consciously notice, or maybe it's instinct. One evening, a sense of apprehension came over me while I was exploring a very rocky beach with a friend. It was in a place called Bird Cove. She and I had gone exploring together on my first evening at the Centre. The incident described in the previous paragraph happened on a beach that had boulders the size of an old-fashioned volkswagen bug--dark gray and rounded from ages of wind and snow and surf. Think giant cobblestones, only for giants, and you get the idea. I had been climbing from rock to rock, barefoot. Walking shoeless in arctic moss, feeling your feet sink almost to the ankles in this soft, moist stuff, is a very sensual experience. Jen was far too sensible to go on a barefoot arctic rock scramble. Crazy Alice from L.A., did. My intention had been to make it all the way to the water (about 60 feet from where the serious boulders started) and go wading in Hudson Bay surf.
Suddenly, ankle-deep in a tide pool, I had gotten a very creepy feeling that we were in some kind of danger and had to get out of there--right now! That was when the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up and I started to feel afraid. The sensation was so strong that I felt hairs prickle on the back of my neck. I gave in to this, while wondering if I was being an idiot. Much to the annoyance of my companion, I insisted that we leave the beach and get back to the car. Since I was the one with the rental car, we left. The following day, I asked my breakfast companions if I had been a jerk about it. Somewhat to my surprise, all agreed that I had done the right thing in getting out of there. They counseled that it was always wise to listen to such internal signals.
They also mentioned that Steve Miller, up in his helicopter sometime very early that morning reported seeing two bears that had swam ashore onto one of the beaches near Bird Cove. Joan later explained to me that polar bears often sleep between those huge beach boulders, the very sort we were climbing over. I learned much later, from Susan P. (a polar bear biologist pictured in another section of the website) that male bears tend to hang out on rocky beaches while mothers with cubs tend to wander inland.
Understand a polar bear's sense of smell
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