A Scary Encounter With Mating Bears

I’ve added a scary Camp Phoenix story of an encounter with mating bears, to this column I posted last week, plus three photos of the sow that swam across the lake with two cubs and came ashore right in front of us.


The bear almost trampled me!

Our camp on Sourdnahunk Lake on the edge of Baxter Park is the best thing Linda and I ever purchased. Our kids grew up here and our grandchildren are now enjoying the camp, which is part of an old sporting camp, Camp Phoenix.

Reading through our camp journal recently, I decided there are a lot of good stories to be shared, so today I’m starting to write those in a new series I’ll call True Tales of Camp Phoenix. And yes, these are all true!

Today, we’ll start with bear tales

Walking Baxter Park’s perimeter road one morning, I noticed a big black bear coming up through the woods, headed my way. I watched him for a bit, then decided he was going to cross the road about 20 yards from me so I backed up and picked up a rock.

Well, when the bear got near the road, he turned and headed my way, just inside the roadside brush. It happened so fast that he was only about 20 feet from me when I shouted out to him. Luckily, he looked my way, swiveled around, and took off back into the woods.

Kids and Bears

Linda and I were walking our camp driveway one time with our young kids, and saw a bear coming down the driveway towards us. The bear stopped, glanced our way, then turned to its left and entered the woods.

We could hear the bear walking our way, through the woods. It went by us and re-entered the driveway about 200 feet behind us, sauntering on its way. The kids got quite a kick out of it.

Swimming Bears

Dr. Bill Bromley raced up the hill from his camp to ours to alert us to a bear swimming across Sourdnahunk Lake with two cubs, headed our way. I grabbed the camera and we ran down to the shore.

As the bear approached, we saw that one cub was on her back and another was swimming behind her. And they were indeed swimming right towards us.

There is a small stream that enters the lake in front of our cabins, and we were standing beside it on our side when the bear and cubs came ashore on the other side of the stream, about 15 yards away. They stood there for a moment, shaking off the water, and giving us a chance to take some great photos, one of which now hangs in our camp.

Mating Bears

One day I was fishing a remote stream in Baxter Park when I rounded a bend and heard growling and shrieking up ahead in the alders which were swaying this way and that. I thought it was a bear killing a moose calf or deer. So I moved onto a small island in the stream and tried to see them.

I couldn’t do that, but the racket when on for some time, when they suddenly left. They crossed the stream around the next bend, out of my sight, then started back upstream in the woods toward me. And that’s when I beat a hasty retreat, heading back up stream and returning to camp.

When I got home, I called a wildlife biologist at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and after I described what happened, he told me it was mating bears – and that I was very wise to have retreated!

Bear on a Stump

We were driving south on the park’s perimeter road one day, kids in the back, when two bears crossed in front of us. We stopped quickly on a knoll to watch them. One was huge, and it stopped just on the other side of the road and put its front feet up on a tree stump, standing tall and looking soooo big!

It stood there for quite a while staring at us while we stared at it. And then it dropped down and walked off.

Baxter Park is a great place to see wildlife, including bears. We’ve had other sightings – one time a bear was in a field of wild blueberries picking along with us – but the stories above are my favorites.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.