You don’t need to fear Maine bears

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife estimates that we now have 45,000 bears, and they’re trying to come up with a way to reduce the population. Several people in Mount Vernon and Vienna have told me that they’ve seen a bear in their yard.

I told everyone that they do not need to fear bears, which are actually very timid around humans. Over the years we saw lots of bears up to our camp on the edge of Baxter Park. And as soon as those bears spotted us, they turned and ran the other way.

One time when our kids were little, we were walking up our camp driveway when we spotted a bear in the driveway headed our way. He saw us and turned into the woods and continued walking through the woods in our direction.

We actually heard him walk by us and about 50 yards further he popped back out into the driveway and continued on his way.

I often had bears pop out of the woods in front of me while I was walking on the park’s perimeter road or hiking it’s mountains. But as soon as a bear saw me, he would take off in the other direction.

One time I was walking on the perimeter road and I spotted a bear coming through the woods in my direction. I thought he would cross the road about 20 yards beyond me so I waited to watch him do that. But when he got near the road he turned and headed my way. I quickly figured out that he’d be crossing the road right where I was standing, so I hollered at him and he turned around and ran back into the woods.

One time at camp, a friend who owned a camp down front of us on the lake, came up and said he’d seen a bear swimming across the lake in our direction. So we gathered up the kids and sprinted down to the edge of the lake to watch the bear. When she got closer to us, we saw a cub on the bear’s back and another one swimming behind it.

The bear and her two cubs got out of the lake about 20 yards beyond us, just the other side of a small brook that flows into the lake. The bear and cubs gave us a glance and then sauntered away into the bushes while we all took photographs. Those cubs were so cute. And we never felt we needed to be worried.

It’s going to be difficult for DIFW to come up with a way to reduce the bear population, and in the meantime, if you see a bear, enjoy it!

In my October 21 column, I’ll tell you about some of the bears that surrounded me in Alaska.

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,, 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.