Charges Dropped Against Charging Bear

The unfortunate encounter between two Yellowstone National Park hikers who “did everything right” and a grizzly bear who was just “protecting her cubs” ended in the death of one of the hikers. That’s sad. But the Park Service is probably right in its decision to not destroy the bear in question, since its behavior marks the attack as defensive.

Officials called it a ‘one in three million’ occurrence. Literally. It turns out that 3.6 million people visit Yellowstone each year, so let’s hope this is the only one. The Christian Science Monitor pointed out that bear population numbers and the number of park visitors are both on the upswing. Unexpected meetings are bound to increase. Two people were killed by bears near Yellowstone last year.

How can we adapt to defuse these dangerous situations?

The married couple spotted the bear and her cubs and retreated. They turned their backs on the animals and continued down the path the way they had come. When they checked to see the bears reaction, she was already charging them.

Clearly the hikers’ actions in this case were not enough to get the bear to see that they intended no threat. What part of “backing down the trail” don’t you understand? All of it, I suppose. Wild grizzlies just aren’t attuned to the signals we send. I think I would have done exactly the same thing as these two hikers did, probably with the same results.

The man who was killed told his wife to run when the bear charged them, but park rangers say it was her decision to play dead that probably saved her life. The bear attacked the man first, inflicted the fatal wounds, then turned its attention to the woman, picking her up by her backpack before dropping her and leaving.

She must have done a convincing job, though I can only imagine being crazy with fear in that situation. How does a person stay still and limp while being picked up by a grizzly? But with a bear that’s able to run 35 miles per hour, this may be the only reasonable reaction to a defensive attack.

And yet playing dead is not a natural behavior for humans, nor is it something we teach in our schools. Too bad. There’s another important skill that has been sacrificed to our obsession with reading and math.

Still, as Tim Pawlenty would tell us, if you can find it on Google then the government doesn’t need to do it. And wouldn’t you know – there is a small but earnest “how to play dead” industry online.

The best advice I’ve seen so far has to do with breathing – you should do it, but not too much. Also:

* When people die, they do not always have tongue sticking out one corner of their mouth. Try to avoid it.

* Do not smile, even if the people around you are laughing and saying stupid things.

Yes, smiling is a dead giveaway for any ‘playing dead’ player. We all know the dead have nothing to grin about, and do not generally ‘get’ punch lines, even obvious ones.

Perhaps we will, through brutal experience, develop this survival strategy until we are on par with the wily possum. But how many millions of years will it take before evolution gives us a grizzly who will charge you, pick you up and drop you, then tell a good one-liner, just to make sure?

Do you know a joke that’s guaranteed to get a laugh?

78 thoughts on “Charges Dropped Against Charging Bear”

  1. Morning all! Nice piece, Dale. I didn’t read the stories about the bear attack because I’m a little too afraid of bears already. I’ve always been completely aware when I am in their habitat, that they know it better than I do

    As to jokes — I have a TERRIBLE memory for jokes. In fact, sitting here I can’t think of a single one. I hear them, I laugh, I think I should tell this to whomever and then I promptly forget it. I wonder if any studies have been done on folks who normally have fabulous memories but can’t remember jokes?


  2. When my son was in elementary school he grew tired of our nightime ritual and sugggested that we trade jokes instead. He was in day camp at the time-a never-ending source of jokes. I had to work harder and at one point told him all the Helen Keller jokes I knew.

    Our favorite from that summer-
    Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?

    They taste funny

    Wishing everyone a splendiferous day and that’s no joke!


  3. Rise and Shine Baboons:

    Like VS I have a poor memory for jokes and remember only two, one of which is inappropriate. The other one is such an old light bulb joke it should be outlawed. And remember, my profession is Social Worker.

    How many Social Workers does it take to change a light bulb?

    One. But the light bulb must want to change.

    Groan. The clown joke is better.

    (Meanwhile, our legislature is a JOKE. My husband has just completed his first week here at home, practicing for retirement. I know Krista and Beth-Ann are home from work, too. I am a little amazed at these “lawmakers” inability to deal with reality.)


      1. I’m on treading on thin ice with this one and in no way does it reflect on my wife, daughter or any of the ladies present:

        How many women with PMS does it take to change a light bulb?
        Six. IT JUST DOES!


    1. Jacque,
      Thanks for your support. I am actually working. Keeping babies alive was recognized as a critical function. I miss my colleagues and all the support systems that make me more efficient. Unlike the legislature, the rest of my agency colleagues know how to work together and pick up slack so we are holding up in the short run.

      It’s stressful but not as stressful as life in MN would be under an all cuts budget and I’m not joking!


      1. B-A, did you ever get a way to fund postage? Saw the picture of the guy polishing a desk on the front page of the Pioneer Press and read that was considered essential. Nothing against the guy doing it, he is just making his living while he can, but honestly!


      2. Beth-Ann, I’m glad to hear that keeping babies alive is a critical function! I’m sure the babies are in good hands. I’m glad they didn’t exchange you for a baby monitor! I hope things are going well for you.


      3. Thanks Krista! Your support means alot when it comes from the other side of the paycheck gulf. Too bad the politicians don’t get along well as the congress of baboons!


  4. Good morning all:

    I’m another person who has trouble remembering jokes. The only one liner that comes to mind is one that was frequently used at some agricultural meetings I organized.

    What do you call boomerang that will not come back?

    A stick.

    If you want to try to get someone who is playing dead to smile, maybe you should just tickle them. I hope the bears don’t learn to tickle people to see if they are playing dead. Maybe the lawmakes need some heavy tickling to wake them up so that they can see that what they are doing is not in the publics best interests.


    1. I used to be able to crack up my sister by wiggling my nose – a talent that she did not inherit from my mom. She’d look across me at the dinner table, I’d twitch the nose and she could never hold it in. This sometimes caused problems because my dad always used the dinner hour as “let’s have a serious conversation” time and we weren’t supoosed to be laughing.


    1. So there’s a correlation between ball size and dancing ability? What about Joanne and I who are both excellent dancers? I have no testicles to speak of though I cannot speak for Joanne; we’ve not met.


  5. doug peacock a guy i met in ivingston montana s one of the grizzly bear experts in the world. he taught us to puff up and look as big as u=you can when the bear is looking at you and then to play dead if its coming. doug is now talking about the dangers of the griz having to go out of its normal range to search for new food source and will certainly come into contactwith many more people as time goes on .


  6. i used to enjoy going out to montan where they tell north dakota jkes.
    how many north dakotans does it take to change a lightbulb?
    one to climb up the ladder with the light bulb t stick it in the socket and four to grab the legs of the ladder and walk around in a circle.


  7. Well, the joke is on us here, as both our fridge and dishwasher are on the fritz. Pooh! We are off the Fargo to see our son and his wife. My parents are joining us there, and we will have a belated 90th birthday celebration for my dad. Have a good weekend, baboons. I hope some of you get a chance to work on your respective hoobies.


  8. Aha! That’s a paraprosdokian, is it not? A figure of speech or phrase where the latter part of the sentence is unexpected, as in “where there’s a will, I want to be in it.” Or “change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.”


  9. I probably have forgotten a few of the jokes I used to know, but just a few. I remember jokes kids told on my second grade playground. But I’m a piker compared to my old buddy, Lefty. He was a walking encyclopedia of jokes. Lefty was once in a little pontoon plane up in Alaska that hit bad weather and cracked up on a beach. “Don’t worry,” said the pilot. “I know so many jokes, I can keep you amused until the rescue boys figure out where we are.” “You don’t know as many jokes as I do,” said Lefty. And that set them off, taking turns. Three and a half days later, the rescue crew arrived, and Lefty admitted he was getting nervous because he could see he was maybe a day from running out of new jokes.

    One of Lefty’s personal friends was Jonathon Winters. Lefty had a ton of stories about him, and I love remembering those. Lefty said of Winters, “He was a funny guy, but loco crazy, just loco crazy. He’s the only man I ever met who was so crazy he shoulda been locked up.”

    I can remember two jokes relevant to Dale’s story this morning. Actually, Lefty told me one of them. Two guys blundered into a grizzly mom with cubs, and she attacked. As they ran away, one said, “It ain’t no use, Jerry. Grizzlies run at 35 miles and hour, and we aren’t that fast!” And Jerry said, “I don’t gotta run 35 miles an hour. I just gotta run a little faster than you!” (It’s an old joke.)

    The other one was popular a few years ago. What should a careful hiker do when traveling in country where grizzlies might be found? Answer: you don’t want to surprise the bear, so you sew little bells to your clothing. And then, just in case, carry pepper spray.

    But how do you know if grizzlies are around? Answer: you examine any bear scat you find. Black bear scat is gooey with undigested berries in it. Grizzly poo reeks of pepper spray and has lots of little bells in it.


  10. Did you hear that YouTube is buying Twitter and Facebook?
    The new company will be called YouTwitFace.


  11. Morning—

    Not really jokes but things I repeat so often my children are tired of hearing them:
    “I see. Said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw…”
    ‘Walk this way’. If I could walk like that I wouldn’t need the orthopedic shoes…’

    How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A Fish!

    I went fishing with Salvador Dali.
    He used a dotted line.
    He caught every other fish…


    1. If wishes were fishes, we’d all take a swim. Teenager hates that one. The other one she REALLY doesn’t like is when I quote the Parent Handbook (“I have to… it’s on page 136 of the Parent Handbook”) – she always responds that there is no such thing.


  12. Daughter is at an age where Knock Knock jokes are hilarious…a few that crop up:

    Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    Boo who?
    Well there’s no need to cry about it…

    Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    Who who?
    What are you – an owl?

    Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    Banana who?
    Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    Banana who?
    Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    Orange who?
    Orange you glad I didn’t say banana again?

    Knock knock
    Who’s there?
    Interrupting cow


  13. Oh that’s just great, Dale. We’re meeting my sister and son at Yellowstone the week of 7/18. Remind me to NOT show this blog to my mother, or let her anywhere close to a newspaper today.

    Elephant jokes….
    How do you get 6 elephants in a VW?
    3 in the front, and 3 in the back!


    1. why do elephants wear red tennis shes?
      so they are camouflaged when the hide in apple trees

      whats red and white on the outside and gray on the inside?
      campbells cream of elephant soup

      why do you need t be careful when walking through an apple orchard?
      an elephant may jump out of tree tree and kill you.


  14. My favorite and clean as a whistle, although possibly not be politically correct, I need to consult my friends who would know about this-

    What do you say when you jump out of an airplane?


    What does Geronimo say when he jumps out of an airplane?



  15. “My way of joking is to tell the truth – it is the funniest joke in the world.” — G. B. Shaw.

    When I was in TX, an irreverent faculty member (so-called authority in her area) would go around asking, “What is the second most important mid-line organ in the male?”

    PJ/M – I haven’t personally CouchSurfed someone else’s couch (not counting friends of friends), but Mr. MNiS did when he went round the world before we met. All expensive cities – London, Tokyo, Singapore – and he says he would do it again.

    Looks like we are not going to be able to make the Aug 25 Cornie cabin get-together as family is in town then😦 But Civic Holiday (Aug 1) is coming up – how do I get in touch with Steve?


  16. Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day.
    Teach a man to fish and he’ll sit in a boat and drink beer all day.


  17. OK… I have finally remembered a joke. Actually it’s a string…

    How can you tell the difference between an elephant and a grape? A grape is purple.
    What did Tarzan say when he saw the elephants coming over the hill? “Here come the elephants over the hill.”
    What did Jane say when she saw the elephants coming over the hill? “Here come the grapes.” Jane was colorblind.


  18. My friend Pete Morton’s favorite joke:
    What do you call a singer/songwriter without a girlfriend? Homeless!

    And with apologies to all accordion and banjo players, what do you call it when someone tosses an accordion into a dumpster and it lands on a banjo? Perfect pitch!


  19. This one is for Beth-Ann:
    PIcking my daughter up from day camp today, saw a bumper sticker on a car that said:
    “My kid has more chromosomes than your kid”


    1. Ben,
      This could get dangerous…..At one point we collected brittle bone jokes-

      What is a person with brittle bones least favorite season?



  20. I love that one in Catch Me If You Can that Tom Hanks tells the two FBI agents who accuse him of not having a sense of humor.
    Knock Knock.
    Who’s there?
    Go f **k yourselves.

    Why did the TV addicted wife leave her recluse husband? Because he was a remote controller.
    (Dale helped me with this one. I was trying to win the Joke A Day calendar from Garrison on PHC’s annual joke show. It must have gotten lost in the mail.)

    Lately I’m having fun with store clerks when they ring up the total by asking if they have a SD Educator’s Discount.


  21. From the non-pc side of my life….

    What do you call a girl with one leg?

    A man with no arms and legs on the beach?

    A man with no arms and legs in the ocean?

    A man nailed to the wall?


    1. Beth-Ann… you’ve led me to a memory. When I was in the bookstore, we used to have racks of the top ten best selling paperbacks up at the cash registers. One holiday seasons as I was arranging the bestsellers (my once a week job when the list came out) I was dismayed to realize that FOUR out of the top ten were those little “Truly Tasteless Jokes” and I remember thinking that our civilization was doomed!


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