Across Continents

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Situational awareness

Euphoria had quickly passed. Suddenly aware of situation potentially unfolding. A very real risk aggressive bear encounter. Best to slowly move off, further along the highway, and leave the cameras stowed.

Moments earlier I’d spotted a black bear pad majestically across the road, descend into a small ditch and then carefully pick a path amongst the vegetation on the steep banking beyond. It stopped, sensing my presence, and watched me for a few moments before continuing upwards into the thicker undergrowth.

My first sighting of a bear, of any sorts, in the wild. A few miles short of the town of Terrace. Perhaps a hundred yards away, maybe a bit less. I’d not, to my surprise, felt particularly frightened. No inclination to so much as place my hand on the bear spray holstered on my hip. Instead, albeit briefly, transfixed by the creature’s beauty.

Then the realisation that this was a small black bear. No sign of the mother. Aware that to come between them, however inadvertently, would be extremely dangerous. Real risk of an aggressive encounter.

To my left the bear, now only just visible amongst the undergrowth. To the right, the Skeena river. Fertile fishing ground, and the direction from where the animal had come from. And railway tracks, along which a lengthy goods train was passing. Which, I suspected, was what had separated mother and cub.

Quite a lot of rolling stock had already passed. I’d guessed the train would be fairly long. There’d been three power cars at the front, and the wagons sounded empty, clattering noisily as they rolled by. There’d been a couple of loud blasts on the horn on the driver as he’d gone past. Encouragement I’d thought as I’d waved back. But perhaps it had been a friendly warning. I needed to leave before the train was gone.

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