Bears: Awesomest Animals In The Universe

Maybe you haven’t spent much time lately thinking about how awesome bears are. That’s OK, if that’s the way you want to live your life — but I don’t think it is.

I am sure you are familiar with bears. They live in many places in the world, and come in many colors and sizes. These are not the most important things about bears. The most important thing to know about bears is that they can kill you very easily if you piss them off. The second most important thing to know about bears is that they are adorable, in all shapes and sizes, especially when they act like humans. There is no other animal in the world that all of us want to both hug and run from at the same time. Of course, sharks are scary as shit too, but no one wants to hug a shark. In that respect, bears are kind of like a big dude at the bar — might be a fun guy to party with, but also might love to drink lots of whiskey and throw people through windows after 11 p.m.

But oh, are bears majestic. The first time I ever saw a grizzly, I was in the Tetons on a short backpacking trip, coming down the Cascade Canyon trail, when we popped around a corner and saw a cub descending a talus field. As soon as I realized it was a bear and not a giant marmot, I froze on the trail. He (or she) ambled up to a tree, looked up, and in half a second, was four feet up the tree, claws stuck in the bark. We waited for its mom to show up, and when she didn’t, we continued on our way down the trail. A few months later, my dad bought me a print of this photo Tom Mangelsen took, called Teton Teddy. I like to think it’s the same grizzly I saw.

Here’s a bear joke:

Polar bear walks into a bar. He goes up to the bartender, says, “I’ll have a …


Bartender says, “What’s with the big paws?”

Bears are so rad, I have more then once cited them as the reason I don’t eat any other animals. There is nothing more awesome than bears. I mean, in nature. Of course there are things more awesome than bears, like coffee, talking to beautiful interesting women, and several passages of A River Runs Through It and Other Stories — but that’s apples to oranges. When it comes to other things on the food chain, bears are the awesomest. Studies have shown that Brad Pitt’s character in Legends of the Fall derives 65% of his sexiness from the fact that he has a mystical bond with a bear that attacked him when he was a teenager. The other 35% comes from the fact he is Brad Pitt.

I think a lot of people buy dogs because what they really want is a pet bear, but that wouldn’t work out so well, so they get a dog. Here is a photo of my friend Shannon’s dog, who is named Bear, which I think is aspirational and appropriate.


And here is another photo of a dog named Oso, who makes his home in Portland with my friends Rick and Staj. Oso is espanol for “bear.”

Sometimes people talk about being afraid of bears in the wilderness. This is a healthy fear. Obviously no one wants to get attacked by a bear. But all things considered, it’s not a bad way to go, when you think that most of us are going to die in a hospital or something similar. If I were attacked by a bear and died, I would like on my tombstone the words “He died doing what he loved: Hanging out with a bear.”

Consider your own personal relationship with bears. Perhaps you had a teddy bear as a child. Perhaps you don’t have a teddy bear anymore, and your distance from bears has increased over the years. That’s OK. There are a number of things you can do. You can like Bears on Facebook, along with 26,000+ other people. (Fun fact: more people like Bears on Facebook than like Burritos. And burritos are pretty awesome, so what does that tell you?) You can eat at the Black Bear Diner, which, lucky for you, now has 52 locations in eight western states. Some people say the food isn’t that great there, and instead is just large. I don’t care. When I eat there, I am too busy looking at the walls, every square inch of which is covered in bear paraphernalia. If you’re at the right place at the right time, you can get your photo taken with Smokey Bear.

If nothing else, when you see friends you haven’t seen in a while, maybe consider giving them a bear hug instead of a regular hug. Because hugs are great, and maybe the only thing that can make them better is channeling the spirit of the awesomest animal in the universe.


Semi-Rad is brought to you by Outdoor Research.


P.S. Because this post contains more photos of dogs named after bears than photos of bears, here is one of myself and Sen. Mark Udall. I am on the left.

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21 replies on “Bears: Awesomest Animals In The Universe”
  1. says: Dave Sandel

    There is a bar called “Black Bear” in the town I grew up in. I realize ending a sentence with a preposition is a faux pas, but I don’t like pulling the “in which” phrase in unnecessary situations. But back to bears, I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with black bears, and they always seem like the cuddly creatures you portray above (while filling my pants during the encounters). However, I have no desire to see a grizzly in the backcountry. The mere sight of one will assuredly give my extremely healthy, 29 year old heart an attack. And I’d fill my pants. I’ll stick to watching them on Discovery, thank you.

  2. says: KatieSue

    The Bear Paw in St. George Utah makes the best breakfast ever. I once knew a giant rottweiler named Pea (pronounced Pay-uh, Hawaiian for bear), the new Polar Bear at the Salt Lake zoo is amazing to watch swim underwater, I still have my stuffed bear from a kid, my ex-in-laws were obsessed with bears even going to far as to greet you with Grrrr instead of hello. So, I related to this topic and loved it! Except seeing a bear in the wild still eludes me. Last year one walked through my Tetons camp while I was in the bathroom even. I can’t get a break. Yellowstone, Yosemite, Tetons, BC …where are the bears?

    1. says: Hillary Ogg

      Head eastward. We have lots of bears throughout the Adirondacks (NY), Green Mtns (VT) & White Mountains (NH). I used to work on a park crew in the Adirondacks and we would see bears rather frequently. There was a little black bear (not a cub but not huge either) wandering around our neighborhood, in VT, a few weeks ago. Thankfully he didn’t stay but moved on to a more remote area. I love to see them but only in the wilderness. It’s sad when they get accustomed to humans. One of my dreams was to become an Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitator for black bears…I love my current life (stay-at-home-mom) but there is a part of me that would still love to do something along those lines. There’s a guy in New Hampshire, Ben Kilham, who helps the black bears that way. So awesome.

      I like the theory about dogs…perhaps that’s why I gravitate to adopting black dogs 🙂

  3. says: Jillian

    I haven’t had any close encounters with bears (been a couple hundred feet away), but I definitely have a huge dog I unofficially call “Bear” (his name is Yuri, but he seems to prefer Bear). I don’t actually know why we call him bear since he’s a husky…

    I wonder what other wild animals the general public thinks are cuddly. Seals? Penguins (vicious beasts)?

  4. says: James

    Seriously, long overdue post about bears. Bears are probably the most legit animals on the Earth. I decided just now that If I make it to 80 years old, and there are still bears around (meaning we haven’t destroyed the planet in <50 years) I'm going out by bear. Tombstone idea is great. Mine reads "He wrestled a bear once… and lost". Cheers!

    1. says: Brian

      Maybe you could be fly fishing in the middle of a stream like in “A River…” and a bear tries to wrestle the trout away from you. That would be most awesome.

  5. says: Jill

    Love this post nearly as much as I love bears Brendan! I got to observe a polar bear just doing it’s thing, hanging out on some sea ice looking for seals last summer and it was (at risk of sounding cheesy) an amazing moment of connection with wilderness. Also, I was on a boat so I wasn’t consumed with thoughts of running away. Polar bears are definitely the most bad-ass type of bear. Actually, I just read a great book about bears: Shadow of the bear: travels in vanishing wilderness, by Brian Payton. Highly recommended for all you bear fans!

  6. says: Staj Pace

    Thanks for including Oso in your post! I think you are totally right… I have always loved bears and really wanted to hug and squeeze them, but couldn’t. Now I can with Oso. 🙂

  7. says: Bob D

    I like the idea that bears are omnivores. I’d rather meet a bear than a mountain lion.

    But then there are polar bears. It doesn’t matter what or who you are. It wants to eat your face off.

    But yeah, bears are awesome. And they’re distant cousins to dogs, so it’s no wonder so many bear fans love dogs too!

  8. says: Markia

    I would totally hug a shark!
    But I’d also enjoy being attacked and have a rad shark scar too, so that may just be me….

    Bears are pretty rad. I live in Yosemite, and the bears here are very cute and cuddly. Found one up in a tree eating apples the other day!

  9. says: Rick O

    “Sharks ain’t no big deal mate, just don’t go swimming. But bears can run, they can swim, they can climb… if a bear wants to kill you mate, you’re fucked!”

  10. says: Bryce

    Thanks for knowing it’s “Smokey Bear” and not “Smokey the Bear”. That means a lot to me, really it does.

  11. says: David

    There’s a restaurant in Morgantown, WV called Black Bear Burritos. Some of the best food in town. Bears, Beers, Burritos, can’t beat it.

  12. Dude, I love bears. And I love this post. Rock on.

    I’ve told many a-person that one of my biggest dreams would be if bears were kind to people who had good intentions. Then I’d own a big ol’ bear and I’d ride on his back into town and whatnot and he’d keep me warm on camping trips. Bearz 4 lyfe.

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