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Natural HistoryMammals - LargeGrizzly Bear - Ursus arctos horribilisJournals
Narrow Escape
A Frolick?
 

Gratifyed

eriwether Lewis had his own close call with a grizzly on June 14, 1805. He had found the Great Falls of the Missouri River on the previous day, and now set out alone to explore the river above--where he was to find four more falls and rapids. In the vicinity of today's Riverfront Park in the city of Great Falls, Montana, and since it was late in the day he decided to kill some meat and make camp--whereupon he had what he was later to characterize modestly as "a curious adventure."

Under this impression I scelected a fat buffaloe and shot him very well, through the lungs. While I was gazeing attentively on the poor anamal discharging blood in streams from his mouth and nostrils, expecting him to fall every instant, and having entirely forgotton to reload my rifle, a large white, or reather brown bear, had perceived and crept on me within 20 steps before I discovered him.

In the first moment I drew up my gun to shoot, but at the same instant recolected that she was not loaded and that he was too near for me to hope to perform this opperation before he reached me, as he was then briskly advancing on me. It was an open level plain, not a bush within miles nor a tree within less than three hundred yards of me. The river bank was sloping and not more than three feet above the level of the water. In short there was no place by means of which I could conceal myself from this monster untill I could charge my rifle.

In this situation I thought of retreating in a brisk walk as fast as he was advancing untill I could reach a tree about 300 yards below me, but I had no sooner terned myself about but he pitched at me, open mouthed and full speed. I ran about 80 yards and found he gained on me fast....The idea struk me to get into the water to such debth that I could stand and he would be obliged to swim, and that I could in that situation defend myself with my espontoon. Accordingly I ran haistily into the water about waist deep, and faced about and presented the point of my espontoon.

At this instant he arrived at the edge of the water within about 20 feet of me. The moment I put myself in this attitude of defence he sudonly wheeled about as if frightened, ? retreated with quite as great precipitation as he had just before pursued me. &the cause of his allarm still remains with me misterious and unaccountable.

So it was, and I feelt myself not a little gratifyed that he had declined the combat.

--Joseph Mussulman, 1999

Narrow Escape
A Frolick?


 
From Discovering Lewis & Clark ®, http://www.lewis-clark.org © 1998-2014
by The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, Washburn, North Dakota.
Journal excerpts are from The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary E. Moulton
13 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983-2001)