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Trails Talk: Bear noises bring out one’s character on trails

Noises from a bear like this one startled a group of trail workers with Bear Yuba Land Trust.
Submitted photo |

As a trails coordinator for Bear Yuba Land Trust, I often have the opportunity to go out in nature and explore our county.

I organize and host volunteer work parties covering a range of activities­ — from trail layout, to building trails, to hanging signs and even cleaning up a drug cartel grow site.

The activities are as diverse as the people that join me on these adventures.



I want to tell you a story of one recent adventure that brought out some characters’ true colors.

Earlier this month, we were out on the Yuba Rim Trail working on building the last segment near the outlook, about two miles from the nearest road. This is a 2,700-acre parcel that is truly wild.




It was a hot day and we had just eaten lunch. We were heading back down the trail to pick up where we left off when we heard a loud noise.

It sounded like a giant creature rolling rocks around and playing a game of marbles on a large scale.

It was a black bear. As the sounds moved farther away, we forgot about it. After a time, though, the sounds returned.

We heard grunting below us. It was like nothing I had heard before.

Every few minutes, we’d hear the series of grunting noises again. Soon, the sounds came from behind us, giving us the feeling that the animal was circling. It was unnerving.

The bear could hear us but did not seem to care.

We continued our work, making as much noise as possible. Sure enough, every so often, the bear would continue its unintelligible way of communicating. We don’t know what it was saying, none of us spoke bear.

Maybe it had babies or a rival nearby. We never saw it. I didn’t need to.

After some time we all came together to discuss what to do. That is when our true colors came out.

One gentleman said he was going to fight the bear with his Pulaski (trail building tool) and that we should keep working and not be concerned.

Another guy said he was going to blow his whistle.

“If that thing comes near us, you won’t have any air in your lungs to blow a whistle,” I said.

With all honesty, I told the volunteers, if the bear came near me I would promptly destroy my underpants and would most likely pass out.

In that moment of crisis our true colors came out. Everyone responded to the threat and situation differently — with courage, alarm and fear.

I realized then that the bear probably uses the trail, too, and that if I lived there, in peace and quiet, and someone started to make noise, I would probably grunt at them, too.

That’s when I decided that we should all leave. The volunteers agreed and we quit our day of work while we were still ahead.

Let this serve as a reminder to us all, never hike alone and always bring a change of clothes.

If you do encounter a threatening or suspicious bear or mountain lion on the trail, contact 911 and later file a report with California Department of Fish and Wildlife at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/, click on the button “Problems with Wildlife?” and follow the prompts.

Learn more about Bear Yuba Land Trust trails at http://www.bylt.org

Trails Talk appears regularly in the Outdoors section of The Union and is supplied by staff and volunteers at Bear Yuba Land Trust.


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