Bears, fishing and the ultimate balancing act

As a Brit, it’s something I can read about with horrified detachment but the horror is genuine nonetheless, as I peruse Deb Freele’s account of surviving a bear attack while sleeping in a tent on a camping and fishing holiday.

Firstly, her description of hearing something wild and nasty outside her tent a few nights before the attack – “I heard a noise like a guy giving birth to a truck with tape over his mouth” – has stayed with me all day. As evocative similes go, Raymond Chandler would have been proud of that one.

Then there is the moment she realises that her salvation calls for a moment of contrarian self-control that I believe would be utterly beyond many people. With me at the head of the queue.

“I decided screaming was making it worse, and then I remembered: you’re supposed to play dead,” Deb said.

She forced herself to relax, which was no easy trick with the bear attached to her arm.

“But I totally relaxed; my brain went into survival mode; I went limp, and in a few seconds the bear dropped my arm.”

That action likely kept her alive, a Cody bear expert said later”

I’m sure it did but this is one of those episodes where knowing the right course of action and executing it are two very different things. An irate grizzly locked onto your arm, every nerve ending screaming “escape” and you have to somehow suppress millions of years of evolutionary conditioning and persuade yourself to lie still?!

All you people who witter on about the challenge of patting your head and stroking your tummy at the same time, don’t even think about wasting my time with your drivel from now on.

Oh, and a mention in dispatches for Deb’s husband, Bill, in the next tent, who somehow managed to sleep through the whole thing.

A true bloke. Respect.


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