Third day in camp, things are starting to slow down, just the habitual offenders and the occasional wandering bear coming thru.
I get a call to say there is a large male bear near the main gate area. I’ve been hearing things about this guy, standing his ground, woofing at people that stop their trucks to look at him and generally having a bad attitude. I’m excited to get a crack at him, while at the same time cautious for my dog’s safety.
I see him road side feeding on clover, he looks to be a solid 280lb with plenty of room to grow. We pull up about 50 meters from him; he raises his head, but couldn’t care less that I’m there. The wind is against us so no rigging / winding, which for some reason concerns me as I would have liked to have got some noise going and pre warned this guy and maybe got him going………..
Too late for second guessing, I cut Jack and Belle loose and then immediately make the decision to run Larry and Lexi as well.
All the dogs see him and are on, running silent until Larry opens up, not 15 meters from him.
This seems to wake him (the bear) from his feeding / day dreaming and off he goes, straight into the bush. I can’t see anything, but can hear a running battle as all four dogs are tight on him. Trees are being snapped, bush pushed, dogs are barking/ fighting/yelping, but no bay up.
I was expecting them to hold up somewhere, or tree him, but the noises grew distant as they took him due north into no-man’s land.
Once they hit the four hundred meter mark, I started toning collars and hitting the horn, trying to recall my dogs…………they had got out quite a ways by now and it was time they were heading back.
I watched on the GPS, as first Jack then Belle then Larry all returned to me, I loaded them up one at a time and waited for Lexi to return.
I could still get a good signal from both the GPS and the Telemetry transmitters, so I was more annoyed than concerned that she hadn’t returned.
I decided to head to camp, pick up my things (check out) and come back to pick her up. I won’t be more than 20 minutes that should give her time to get her ass back road side and we can load up and go home.
Half an hour later has me back roadside and checking my GPS. It shows Lexi has moved deeper 1 ½ kl north to be exact and even driving east and west on the only road in the area doesn’t get me any closer to the signal……………….there’s nothing for it but to walk in!
One and a half kilometers through some of the worst bush / swamp I’ve ever been in, no two steps in the same direction and by now, I’ve lost signal………………this was thick, thick, thick bush. All I can do is walk to the point of loss and hope I can reconnect………
I don’t want to remember let alone talk about the walk in, enough to say, once I got to where I’d lost signal, there was nothing. No GPS, no telemetry……..nothing.
Some of you guys know what I was thinking…………..either the collars have been chewed up or they have been buried…..neither option was going to be a good outcome for Lexi.
I walked out, tracking myself back to the truck with the spare collar that I leave turned on inside the vehicle.
Resigned to losing her, that this was the life of a big game dog, that this is what I knew could happen, every time I cut them loose, telling myself that she wasn’t the first dog I’d lost and probably wouldn’t be the last…………………………………………………….….but it sure felt crap.
I left instructions at the gate house, telling them what had happened and how to get hold of me. But even while I tried to sound optimistic I knew in my heart that I wasn’t getting her back.
Even after getting Scout back after 14 days, and Stretch coming home after 10 days this time felt final.
It was a long 3hour ride home. I call Matt (Lexi’s breeder) to let him know first. Then a couple of guys that run hounds lots……..looking for answers, something that I might have missed, some way to go back and reconnect to the collar. But they said what I was thinking……..two transmitters going down at the same time………..sounds like something violent happened.
The next day dragged by. I tried to focus on my “real” job, sitting in a meeting, listening to people going on about whatever……………all the time wondering what had happened, what could I have done differently? Is she lying somewhere, expecting me to find her? Did she just go so deep the collars couldn’t connect to the receiver? Now she’s lost, wandering in the vast nothingness we call the bush. Hurt, hungry, lost, dead………I didn’t really know which one would have been better……….
My cell phone vibrates (silent mode) it’s the camp administrations number from yesterday’s job, wanting an incident report no doubt. I excuse myself and take the call.
They have her!
30 hours after I cut her loose, she was found roadside, right where I’d unboxed her. The only concern of the guy that picked her up was that “the bears had been biting her feet”.
Lexi had stumbled out roadside, waiting were she had been sent in, waiting for the boss to show up, waiting for her ride.
Hardly able to walk on her front feet because all of her front toe nails had been ripped/ broken off. Leaving a nasty assortment of broken nails and blood nail quick’s, left her stumbling on, what looked like chewed up feet!
The black spruce that we have up here, will pull nails off the toes of any dog that trees for any length of time.
Needless to say it was a lot happier ride (6hr round trip) to go get her………………
30 hours in the most bear infested bush that I know of, who knows how long she had been treeing………..let’s just say, this cat doesn’t have many lives left!