Imagine walking through the woods and then you come across a print, not just any print, a HUGE print in fact a bear print. Knowing bears, wolves and lynx are in the woods you’re walking through, does add a certain frissant to your ramble. You become very much more alert to real danger, an instinct we don’t often use.
We spent 2 weeks tour cycling in May this year in Transylvania an area with vast unbroken woodland which is home to a large healthy population of brown bears, wolves and lynx. Much like Scotland used to be before we hunted these large mammals to extinction.
We booked onto a bear hide experience on the outskirts of Brasov. The hides have been installed by the forestry department and there’s no access for the public except with a guide. Hides and forests are off bounds.
Within the woods 5 areas have been used as feeding stations, 2 of these also have hides. Feeding stations serve as decoys to lure bears away from remote villages and the edge of towns where hungry bears can become a nuisance to people. Sweet corn, grain, pig skin and fish are left for the bears enough to lure them but not enough for them to become dependent on the food.
The forest ranger leaves the food in the tree trunks. While he was doing this, he was constantly checking over his shoulder. He also carried a rifle to scare bears if required.
We waited while the rain poured down and the thunder boomed, not ideal weather for bear watching. Once the rain cleared, one dominant male appeared followed by another 2 and then to our delight a mother and cub.We watched the bears for an hour. Their interaction, their inherent knowledge of the hierarchy, the cub’s alertness to every movement and sound was indicative of how truly wild animals behave. These very rare glimpses into how wild animals behave was memorable and touched something deep within all of us a connection with raw nature. These memories will stay with us forever.
How much more exciting would a walk in a Scottish woodland be if there were bears about. On our walk back from the hide to the vehicles we heard the bear cub roar, unforgettable.