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A grizzly mother and her cub

Glacier Bears: My, and hundreds of others’, first grizzly encounter

by Harrison Sky

Since I was a little kid, I wished to be here. Now, I was amongst the awesome
landscape of Glacier National Park. However, the ice-sculpted mountains weren’t the
only thing here I wanted to see in this park. Like many, I have a bucket list, and one of
the items on said list was to see a grizzly bear. While driving the infamous
Going-to-the-Sun road, I would find that dream to come true.

The car stopped. I immediately knew it wasn’t for any traffic accident. All the cars ahead
were inching along, with heads and cameras out the windows or through the skylights.

“What do you think they’re looking at?” my sister asked.

“It might be a moose,” said my mother.

“I’m betting it’s a pack of wolves,” replied my father.

Secretly, I hoped they were grizzly bears.

All our speculation ended when a man in a passing vehicle shouted: “Bear!”
We pulled ahead and scoured the brushy meadow. A few hundred meters up the slope,
amongst the huckleberry shrubs and tundra foliage, we finally saw movement. The gray
and brown fur, the bulky body, the waddling strut, and the muscular shoulder hump: it
was indeed a grizzly bear. Her head was low, foraging as much as she could before
winter. However, she was not feasting alone. The mother bear was closely
accompanied by her two-year-old cub. Her cub was constantly nagging for their
mother’s attention, though the mother bear usually only reciprocated by pushing the cub
off her back.

The bears’ human-like actions, their visible energy, and relatable emotions is probably
why bears are and have always been among my favorite animals. The way the mother
bear and her cub acted reminded me much of a busy, human mom trying to deal with
her energetic child.

It was the first time many, including myself, had ever seen grizzly bears in the wild and,
to put it mildly, I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. I was nine when I first
obsessed over seeing a grizzly bear, and now, at the age of twenty-two, I saw not only
one, but two. After so long of imagining seeing a grizzly bear, it felt surreal that I was
actually witnessing these incredible animals.

However, I was not the only one jumping up-and-down with jubilee. Almost everyone I
saw was gasping and swooning over the sight of these animals. The passengers of the
car ahead of us, a red SUV with Florida license plates, were probably more ecstatic
than I was. The parents and three adolescents had probably never seen a strong beast
such as a grizzly bear. They were just one example of everyone’s delight.

There were hundreds of people from different walks of life. Every other car had a
different state license plate, yet everyone in them had the same reaction. Most of these
people never had an encounter like this before; in fact, many won’t see another bear for
the rest of their lives. Everyone was happy, and with their excitement, their world was no
longer centered on their stressed lives back home. We were living in a better world
compared to the divided, money driven one we were all accustomed to.

We had to keep driving along, as the park ranger instructed, but even if the encounter
was brief, it opened my eyes. Before the time of this grizzly encounter, I was rather
pessimistic about the future of our planet. I often thought: people don’t care about
nature, we are doomed to destroy entire ecosystems and cripple the world due to our
carbon emissions. At least, that’s what I used to think. How wrong I was. People do
care, especially for the magnificent wildlife living on the North American continent.

To me, seeing these grizzly bears was not only a childhood wish that came true, but
they brought me hope when I needed it. The sight of mighty wildlife was what I sought,
and what I found, and others found as well. Everyone who saw those bears will
remember that experience forever. It’s not everyday one can see an awe-inspiring
animal like a grizzly bear, at least, not in these times. People were connected to nature
by nature. We were in awe, not in a rush. We were viewing wildlife, not shopping
catalogs. We were all on the same page.

Harrison Sky is an avid lover of nature. He is from Sisters Oregon, where he works as a
sustainable gardener and freelance writer for outdoor related blogs. He graduated from Quest
University Canada in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences.