A Lacey woman is sharing her family’s heart-pounding encounter with a bear with hopes of getting all hikers to be more aware of their surroundings.
Jasmine Bartley and her family were hiking on a trail not far from Myrtle Falls at Mount Rainier National Park on Sunday when a bear wandered right up to her teenage brother. They had only been hiking for approximately 20 minutes and didn’t have any food with them, she said.
Bartley says she heard a woman gasp behind her.
Bartley turned around and saw a bear a few feet away from her brother. Everyone behind him ran up the hill, she said. Everyone else hid behind Bartley.
She started freaking out when the bear wandered up to her brother, checked him out for a few seconds, then continued down the hillside.
It was something she and her family had never experienced before, Bartley said. They didn’t know how to react in that situation.
“I couldn’t even breathe. I was terrified,” Bartley said. “I didn’t know what to do. It was the first time seeing huge wildlife. And I was just scared. Gut-wrenching, honestly.”
Bartley posted a video clip, which was captured by a woman visiting from the United Kingdom, to a popular hiking page on Facebook to show others how important it is to be vigilant out in the wilderness.
Bartley got a variety of responses to her post, including some trying to educate her on what to do in that situation, she said. Others explained how well she and her family did.
“I had a lot of people educate me,” Bartley said. “They immediately thought we were doing something wrong by trying to put ourselves in harms way, but we didn’t even notice the bear. And there’s other people who were just explaining how well we did and maybe to further protect ourselves – be more aware.”
Bartley has since bought some bear spray.
Capt. Jeff Wickersham with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Police said her family’s encounter was very unusual.
“I can’t say I’ve ever seen a video of that happening in that type of location before,” he told KOMO News after looking at the video clip. “They didn’t try to approach the animal. When the bear walked up to the one hiker and got right at their feet, there’s not much you can do at that range and that proximity. You know, in that circumstance – you could have done many things. But I don’t think they did anything wrong.”
Generally, if you ever come in contact with a bear, you should try to make yourself appear bigger than you are, Wickersham said. Also, try to get some distance between you and the bear, carry a can of bear spray, and have something like a walking stick with you that can be used to defend yourself, he added.
Most importantly, do not run.
“Sometimes animals will just start following you when you start running away,” Wickersham told KOMO News. “And they didn’t. They stood their ground. And I think that was probably a wise choice.”
Bears during this time of year are typically trying to find food in preparation for winter, Wickersham said.
If you see wildlife, don’t feed it, he said. And keep your distance, if possible.