Tom Reed's book, Great Wyoming Bear Stories, is a wonderful collection of stories about bears, bear encounters and bear attacks in Wyoming. If you live in this region, or you like exploring the backcountry, you should buy this book.
My husband and I have been on several backcountry camping trips in Yellowstone Park. Despite keeping an immaculate camp and doing everything by the book, we never slept soundly. The reason: the grizzly bear. Just knowing the great bruin inhabited the country we were camped in was enough to keep us on edge. We'd hear twigs snap near our tent and wonder if it was a big grizzly bear.
It's because of that very fear of and respect for the large carnivorous animal that places like Yellowstone are, and feel, wild. The grizzly's presence is what makes hiking down a trail in Yellowstone different from hiking down a trail in Utah.
So, while Great Wyoming Bear Stories might not be the best choice for books to read in the tent while camped in bear country, it's a great book to read anywhere else and one all backcountry users and wildlife fans will love.
Tom Reed is an an exceptional writer. He's also a phenomenal story-teller.
"It Was a Surgical Strike" starts out:
Imagine you are a park ranger in Yellowstone, the nation's first national park. It's a great job. The best job in the world. This is your ninth summer and the wild backcountry calls you. You know it well; you've even written a trail guide that can be purchased in the park's bookstores. Your experience is tapped for many things: searches, rescues, expertise. So you get this call. It's the last day of July 1984.
You talk to a man and his wife. They are very nice people. Very concerned. The man's sister failed to meet them at the Pelican Creek trailhead. Worry stitches across the man's face. In less than a month, his sister will be 26. She was backpacking alone on just a short overnight foray and was scheduled to meet her brother and his wife this afternoon. She's now two and a half hours overdue. You quietly interview the brother, asking all the right questions, asking about his sister's experience, about her gear, about where she's permitted to camp, everything that you can think of and everything you've been trained to ask.
Park protocol is to wait for 24 hours before activating a Search and Rescue operation, as missing people are often only temporarily lost due to confusion or to losing track of time.
Early the next morning, the ranger hits the trail on a horse in search for the missing woman. He rides in silence in Pelican Valley, home to some of the grizzly's best habitat.
Twenty yards from her tent, the ranger's horse stops, scared, setting the ranger on edge. The ranger dismounts to examine the camp area and sees a vertical rip in the tent's fly and another rip in the door. Looking inside, he sees a neat pile of clothing and gear, all undisturbed.
It looks like the ideal backcountry scene, as if the owner had gotten up at dawn, stretched and yawned into the morning, pulled her sleeping bag into the sun to rid it of dew, and then taken a stroll into the beautiful meadow.
But there are rips in the tent and your heart drums. You start looking around. Just beyond the sleeping bag you find something. It's a clump of human hair, blonde-brown, and then just beyond that is a bit of flesh…
Reed's complete account of the incident will leave you terrified, regardless of where you are when you read it. Your respect for the grizz will be fully intact!
Another great story is "The Cabin Buster."
The Greybull River drainage west of Meeteetse, Wyo., is void of people and is wild country. In 1992, most people didn't think grizzlies called this remote country home. The Venus Creek patrol cabin is situated in beautiful country about eight miles from a trailhead.
Wyoming Game Warden Jerry Longobardi and a fellow warden, following a week of riding through the area's most rugged country, approached the patrol cabin.
"We get about 100 yards away and holy smokes, the door was wide open and it looked like somebody had dropped the Pillsbury flour factory in there," said Longobardi. The destruction was colossal, as if a mini-Midwest tornado had touched down in Wyoming's Greybull River country with precision accuracy focused just on the Venus Creek cabin. Canned goods were strewn everywhere. Pancake mix, flour, pasta, macaroni noodles, dried soup mix, cocoa, coffee, white gasoline containers, tea bags … a huge treasure trove of backcountry supplies was scattered helter-skelter.
"It was all fresh." So fresh that the grizzly had left flour-outlined paw prints in and around the cabin. The tracks left no doubt the bear was a grizzly.
The bear had opened cabinet doors and yanked off others, pulled off mattresses and shredded them. Strewn feathers from down sleeping bags. Emptied a fifty-five gallon drum full of grain. Bitten open every can in the place.
The men, worn out from the long days of work in the mountains, craved a beer. Longobardi remembered that he had stashed beer in a stream earlier. But wait! The bear had walked to the creek and found those, too!
That incredible nose had found their beer beneath two feet of cold mountain stream. The bear had pulled out the feed sack, bitten into the entire twelve-pack one can at a time, and lapped up the suds."
It was determined that the last person to use the cabin had placed the padlock into the hasp but it hadn't been closed completely. The result was a hungry grizzly bear who pushed on a door only to have it open. What followed was a bear banquet… and months later, his death.
Stories like the above will make you laugh, cry, shiver in fear, and be awed by the grizz This book will shed light on bear behavior, provide precautions you should take in bear country, make you envious of wildlife managers, and more.
This book won't disappoint.