Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the year 1852 / by Randolph B. Marcy ; assisted by George B. McClellan. Page: 73 of 368
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INSTINCTS OF THE BEAR.
We have seen numerous bear tracks within the past two days; and
occasionally the animals themselves, two of which we killed. Several
that we saw, however, escaped; and we had frequent occasions to regret
the loss of our bear-dog, as we might have killed many more with his
John Bull, who still continued to ride the same fractious horse which
he had in the buffalo hunt, made a brush with a large bear to-day, but
did not succeed in getting alongside of him, as the horse became perfectly
mad and unmanageable the moment he got sight of the bear.
This is often the case; and there are but few horses that can be made
to approach one of these animals.
Several anecdotes, which were related to me by our guide, concerning
the habits of the black bear, would seem to entitle him to a higher
position in the scale of animal instinct and sagacity than that of
almost any other quadruped. For instance, he says that before making
his bed to lie down, the animal invariably goes several hundred yards
with the wind, at a distance from his track. Should an enemy now
come upon his track, he must approach him with the wind; and with
the bear's keen sense of smell, he is almost certain to be made aware of
his presence, and has time to escape before he is himself seen.
He also states that when pursued, the bear sometimes takes refuge in
caves in the earth or rocks, where the hunter often endeavors, by making
a smoke at the entrance, to force him out; but it not unfrequently happens,
that instead of coming out when the smoke becomes too oppressive,
he very deliberately advances to the fire, and with his fore feet beats
upon it until it is extinguished, then retreats into the cave. This he
assured me he had often seen. Although these statements would seem
to endow bruin with something more than mere animal instinct, and
evince a conception of the connexion between cause and effect, yet
another anecdote which was related to me would go to prove this curious
quadruped one of the most stupid fellows in the brute creation.
My informant says, that when the bear cannot be driven out of
the cave by smoke, it sometimes becomes necessary for the hunter to
take his rifle, and with a torch to enter the cavern in search of him.
One would suppose this a very hazardous undertaking, and that the
animal would soon eject the presumptuous intruder; but, on the contrary,
as soon as he sees the light approaching, he sits upright on his
haunches, and with his fore paws covers his face and eyes, and remains
in this position until the light is removed. Thus the hunter is enabled
to approach as close as he desires without danger, and taking deadly
aim with his faithful rifle, poor bruin is slain. These facts have been
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Marcy, Randolph Barnes. Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the year 1852 / by Randolph B. Marcy ; assisted by George B. McClellan., book, 1854; Washington, DC. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6105/m1/73/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .