Monday, June 30, 2008

Mount Rainier recollections

Submitted by Pete Sabin, Fremont Lookout Summer of 1963, now a Meadow Rover. Pete sent this after the Rover training on Saturday, which included a presentation by wildlife biologist Alyssa Herr, saying, "Thanks for the training. The presentations gave us good tool to help explain why people should stay off the flowers and avoid feeding the animals. The story is my "A fed bear is a dead bear" personal experience. The squirrel was on duty at Sunrise."

Bear Hunt at Sunrise

In the summer of 1963, I worked as a Fire Control Aide at Mt. Fremont Lookout near the Sunrise Ranger Station in Mount Rainier National Park. In those days, there were still car campgrounds on Mount Rainier at Paradise and Sunrise. Bears were more prevalent too.
With a little mutual respect, bears and people were able to share the same space. There would be an occasional bear who became aggressive and had to be killed but these bears were usually too old to survive much longer on their own.

One evening Gil, the Sunrise ranger, returned from park headquarters with a pickup full of weapons. He explained that the bear, who had already been trapped once, was back, was "raising hell in the campground," and would have to be destroyed.

Of course I eagerly volunteered for the hunt. In addition to Gil and myself, our party included his summer assistant Bill, a teacher from Southern California. I doubt that Bill had ever seen a rifle before except on TV. It turned out that Gil didn’t have much experience with firearms either but he looked impressive with a 38 revolver strapped to his hip.

Our plan was to drive around the campground in the evening and wait for the bear who usually made her visit at dusk. All the campers were in their cars. They were afraid of the bear but the real danger was probably the three of us.

Gil decided I should shoot the bear since I was in ROTC at the University. Of course, I didn’t tell him they only taught us how to march. He said, "wait until the bear reaches the road and aim for the head." "She’s too heavy to carry very far and I don’t want a wounded bear running around the campground." For safety’s sake, I could shoot from the bed of the pickup. This all sounded like a good plan to me but the bear wouldn’t co-operate.

Since the bear wouldn’t approach the truck, Gil suggested I stand in the road between her and the campground. Bill would back me up with the shotgun while he kept the motor running for a quick getaway.

Soon enough, the bear decided it was time for dinner and headed for the campground. Bill and I were in her way but she had learned people would run. She stood on her hind legs to look us over then gave a growl. Suddenly, Bill shouted, "Look out, she’s going to charge," and he dashed for the pickup.

Fortunately, I was too surprised to be nervous and I my first shot hit the mark. Looking back now, I realize my luck was much better than my shooting.

We need a new ranger, Alyssa says we can't eat candy.

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