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In September, the grizzly family begins another journey. They leave the high scree fields and start back north. At the head of the cutthroat trout stream, a long lake lies alongside the paved road. Tables and garbage cans occupy a picnic area just upstream. The bears will cross the road there.
The bears come to the head of the lake in the late morning. They hear traffic on the road. The mother grizzly can see the picnic tables; a couple of vehicles are parked in the area. The sow decides to bed. They can cross the road after dark, when the picnic area is deserted.
The bear can small the rich fetor of human foods emanating from the garbage cans and picnic fare laid out on the tables. She knows garbage is nutritious and she is aware of her own hyperphagia with the approaching winter. But people are monotonously tied to danger. The picnickers are linked to rangers with traps and guns. The mother grizzly balances the hazard with the puny reward; she sinks into her forest bed.
By midafternoon the cubs are fidgety. They wander a few yards from the day bed and start to wrestle, rolling over and over in the pine duff of the open forest. Mother lifts her drowsy head and sees her cubs in plain sight of the picnic area. Just beyond the cubs, a tall, pale human approaches rapidly. Behind the man ramble two children. The cubs now freeze with fright.
The man carries a video camera but doesn't seem interested in using it. He turns and shouts something at the children. The pale man comes to a stop four feet from the terrified cubs. He reaches out with one arm, as if to pat them on the head.
In an instant, the sow grizzly rises, standing on all fours, gnashing her teeth, her ears flat back, her carnivore nervous system overloaded with conflicting instructions. The protective maternal instinct takes command.
Mother bear charges, covering the short distance in seconds. The cubs jump out of the way as she flies by. Somehow, in the space of few feet, the sow slides to a halt, inches from the human. The man seems unperturbed, as if he were at the county zoo. The tall humans turns and hollers excitedly at the kids. The grizzly, unbelieving, approaches a step and sniffs at the human's pant leg. Then she issues a growl and, spinning, races off into the timber with her cubs.