I’ve had plenty of encounters with wildlife and I value everyone of them that I’ve had. There are “encounters” and then there are those special moments that you will never forget. Ones that stick with you and years later you can recount the entire moment second by second. Those kinds of encounters are the ones that will change your life and sadly they don’t happen as often as some of us wish they would.
I thought I saw something on the way back to town, the night before there had been a gorgeous cinnamon black bear in that area and I was hoping that I might see him again. I was scanning the hillside, driving slowly and I thought I saw something so I stopped. I was actually in disbelief; there you were starring right at me, down at me, right into my eyes. You didn’t move and neither did I. I wasn’t even sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing because you were backlit by the sun and were actually glowing. The sun through your coat was on fire and outlining your body. I was afraid to breath much less move for fear you would vanish or I would wake myself up and I wasn’t sure I wanted to wake up. The girls in the car with me kept asking what I saw and I was afraid to say anything because if they didn’t see you then I would know that I was dreaming. I finally whispered to them that you were there and they both saw you at the same time. I was on the wrong side of the vehicle to do anything and told them it was up to them to get the photos because I knew the moment I moved you would disappear. Sure enough you did but the girls managed to get a few images, none of them were ones to brag about but we could see you in them and that was all that mattered.
You were gone. I tried to follow you but you had vanished just as quick as I saw you and not even a print left behind. I heard your message, it was clear, but at the time I wasn’t sure what it meant. There was no urgency in your movements, your eyes never left mine until you turned to walk away. The moment was familiar.
We quickly discussed that this moment was ours and we wouldn’t share specifics with anyone. We didn’t want you pursued and hounded like the others. Once we got more information we found that you weren’t listed so we decided the next day if given the opportunity we would ask an expert; although the images weren’t the best the expert said they didn’t know you, hadn’t seen you. That was enough for us.
Your message still didn’t become clear until talking to a friend of mine a few weeks later. She reminded me of a few things from before and it made sense. I’ve thought about that moment over and over again since then especially when things start to fall into place. Your right, things are going to be okay, your still here.
I should be excited as there is good news coming from the valley. Most of my heart is very excited however I’m also concerned. Part of the reason I hesitate to talk about this special encounter is because I want her to have peace. I want her to be allowed to live wild, be herself without being pursued and followed. Do I want to know she is okay, how she is and where? More than anything, but at what cost? It’s not worth the price. I also know that we, as photographers and advocates, set examples. If onlookers with less experience and a lot of excitement witness our behavior or hear about something we do because we wanted a closer look and even if we are granted permission it now sets an example that it is okay for them to do so as well. Eventually all the attempts to catch a glimpse, get an image, causes these animals to change their behavior, causes them to move away. Where will they move to? Possibly in a direction that can bring them great harm. Or even worse, we habituate them, we leave footprints on them because they are young and either it costs them their lives because they approach people and it’s threatening, or worse, they become trusting and allow the wrong person in too close because they have lost the natural fear they were born with.
I have been following you since 1995 and in 2009 my dreams finally came true. I have planned numerous trips around you because I would love to have the opportunity to see you again however in 2010 I learned how destructive people’s love of you can be. It puts you in a very dangerous situation in many different ways. Those are situations that I do not want to be responsible for nor a part of. I decided if I were blessed enough to be chosen by you that you would present yourself to me and then I would cherish that moment forever. I’ve been chosen twice now and I remember every second of these moments and I’m happy to say they were on your terms without incident and un-noticed. I’ve had plenty of other encounters with you that have torn at my heart because of the behavior of others, people who care about you too but don’t realize how much influence their behavior has on you and those encounters only bring me sorrow.
I learned long ago to trust you, the messages you have delivered have come to be each time. I trust it will be this way again.
Your still here.