The Scare BearThe Inside Passage from the U.S. border wends north along the Canadian coast to Alaska, some 1,000 miles of cold sea water, islands, wilderness, isolation. . .and bears. Bears and elephants are among my favorite wild animals—but I don’t want either getting into my sleeping bag with me.

I spotted and had encounters with a number of bears while solo-paddling my sea kayak through the Passage. Nights when I made camp I often heard them nearby rooting and grunting about, sometimes approaching my tent. Imagine darkness in the conifer forest, you’re exhausted from a day’s paddling, you’re in dreamland—and then, from outside the tent, not six feet away, noises. Sniffing and grunting.

Several years previously, I had solo-canoed across Canada’s Yukon Territory and coped with bear intrusions by stockpiling rocks to hurl at them when they ventured too near. However, I wasn’t sure that was a good idea with Passage bears which tend to be larger and more aggressive than the sissy bears further north.

After a week or so wearing and sweating in my diving wetsuit against the cold, it began to ripen and emit a strong, rather unpleasant odor. It stunk. Bears continued to snoop about, cutting into my beauty sleep. There’s an old saying: Necessity is the mother of invention.

I therefore devised a Scare Bear

Nights when I removed my smelly dive wetsuit, I constructed a Scare Bear by stretching it between trees in front of my tent so that in the wane moonlight it resembled a giant human being in silhouette. A giant human being that stunk.

I knotted a line to its leg and ran it into my tent so that when I manipulated the line, the giant out front did a rumba, or a jig, or even a waltz. Bears who at first were drawn to the stench stopped a few paces away to sniff and grunt, undecided about what was going on and whether or not to continue exploration and confront a creature who smelled that foul.

That was when I brought my Scare Bear into action, and it began to dance and gyrate.

Intruding bruins yelped and fled to escape it. My laughter added to their incentive to reach Alaska before the Scare Bear did.

Charles W. Sasser is author of over 60 books and thousands of magazine articles. His most recent book is Crushing the Collective: The Last Chance to Keep America Free and Self-Governing.