To the Editor:

Now, here’s the question I know you, I, and many other Review readers ask themselves every day. Do bears still live in and around Champlain Township? Some say yes, others no, but most would have no idea at all. I believe this state of not knowing for sure, the constant uncertainty, the anxiety, the sleepless nights, has gone on long enough. It is high time someone looked into this burning issue. The good people of this township deserve to know the truth!

I was always told that there were no bears around here anymore – the last one disappeared decades ago most would say. Then in 2017, a young one appeared in downtown L’Orignal. Big surprise. Of course, I thought the same thing about wild boar and then one gets seen in September of 2020 on a dashcam over by Parc Voyageur. And the MNR website assures me that the nearest possible grey wolf lives in Quebec – at least 40 kilometers or more north and east of here – until I saw one dead beside the 148 just outside Grenville. But back to bears.

I myself have had a couple of encounters with what might have been a bear. Over at McAlpine on the Pearl Road was the first. Having parked our car on the road, our dog Mungo and I were returning from a stroll on the nearby Prescott-Russell Recreational Trail. We were almost at the car when I glanced back up the trail and, perhaps 400 meters or so behind us, saw a large dark shape come out of the woods. It seemed far too big to be a dog. It also appeared to pause, possibly sniffing where we had walked, and then it started to move quickly down the trail in our direction. Not exactly running, more like lumbering. I still could not make out exactly what it was but, whatever it was, it was very dark, very big and coming on quickly. Accordingly, Mungo and I decided to make a tactical redeployment to inside our vehicle and there we waited. But nothing appeared. And cautiously checking the trail again, there was nothing there either. A bear? Well, I could not say it was for sure. But this was no dog and so….

The second possible encounter was also on the trail – this time about three kilometers east of Caledonia Springs in a patch of bush. This patch of bush I had nicknamed the Spooky Woods and here’s why. Mungo and I had come face to face with all sorts of critters over the years: moose, deer, coyotes, foxes, fishers, racoons, etc. He knew all their smells and while always interested, he was never concerned. Except in the Spooky Woods. There, his ears and tail would be down, his nose going furiously. He would walk as close to me as he could, glancing fearfully with big eyes to each side. Whether it was a smell or a sound or another sense altogether I don’t know, but he was very much aware that something, something very different, was out there. And this display only ever occurred there, in the Spooky Woods. Hence the name. I myself never, saw, heard or smelled anything there, but the dog’s apparent worry was, I’ll admit, cause for some serious thinking.

One day we were just approaching the Spooky Woods – perhaps 150 meters away – when, in the woods, something very large and dark came out of the bush on one side of the trail, quickly crossed and disappeared into the trees on the other side. What it was exactly I could not tell. I saw it only for a second or two but again, this was no dog and no moose. It was very black and as big as a small cow. Mungo was transfixed. Dogs will often race off after something unusual like this and Mungo usually would too. But not this time. He was rigid. So, he and I talked it over briefly, decided to call it a day and turn around. He was waiting for me at the car. And he was probably not behind the wheel and gone only because I had the keys.

So, are there bears in Champlain Township? Well, maybe. What do you think Mr. Editor? And what do your readers think? Are there any other bear stories out there? I’d love to know.


Colin Affleck
Champlain Township