Never before in the history of ever have we done so much walking outside.

Walking in the woods. Walking on trails. Walking laps around our respective backyards which, while boring, is at least free from people bearing COVID-19/overly loud opinions about COVID-19/overly loud opinions about people with COVID-19 opinions.

It’s been fabulous to pop on a podcast — Shopping Siren’s been staying sexy and not getting murdered with “My Favorite Murder” for weeks now — and abandon our four walls, even for a few minutes a day.

However, outside has something shopping malls never did: Bears. Well, and black flies and ticks, but those critters can be swatted and/or DEETed into submission. Bears, not so much.

In the past 10 days, they’ve been spotted by a woman walking her dog in Norway, roaming the streets in Portland and killing goats and destroying beehives around western Maine.

Sure, Maine’s black bears aren’t as aggressive as grizzly bears or polar bears. And wildlife experts say they’re pretty much always going to run away when they see you unless they think you’re going to hurt a cub. And Maine Huts and Trails, citing Wikipedia, says there hasn’t been a fatal wild bear attack in Maine for at least 190 years. And, OK, one person on Reddit called them the Labrador retriever of bears when giving advice to an out-of-state hiker.

Still, outside has bears! And maybe murderers, based on Shopping Siren’s podcast. Protect yourself.

Here are some things that might help.

Apple Cider Vinegar Finishing Rinse by NaturalFirstHair, Etsy, $10.95

Apple cider vinegar is supposed to be a good black bear deterrent, so maybe this hair treatment is too! (The makers, from Bangor, make no claims about their product’s defense against wildlife. We’re just putting two and two together here and coming up bear.) Give it a try and see what happens. Worst case, the bear compliments you on how healthy and shiny your hair looks.

Safety bell/bear bell, New England Bells, $13.30

Word is that black bears in Maine will hightail it out of the area if they hear you coming. So make sure they hear you coming! This bell can attach to a walking stick, backpack or other hiking gear. Good for warning off bashful bears or for keeping your kids within earshot when you’re hiking as a family.

• Hand-carved walking stick by NorthWindCarvings, Etsy, $70-$75

Carved by an artist in Orono, these walking sticks are So. Cool. They’re whimsical art pieces you get to carry around and maybe wave angrily to warn off a bear or brain an attacker! Huzzah! NorthWindCarvings’ artist mostly carves faces into his or her walking sticks, but Shopping Siren was partial to the one that features a happy cat perched on top. Take him with you on your adventure and you’ll never walk alone.

L.L.Bean Trailblazer Walk-Safe Flashlight, L.L.Bean, $24.95

Fall-resistant to one meter, waterproof to three meters and the wrist lanyard for carrying it even ends in a little plastic fob that doubles as a whistle. For when a bear drop-kicks you off a cliff, into the river, leaving you no choice but to tread water, blind the bear with the power of 100 lumens and tweet your lungs out for help because this stuff can happen and you are so prepared!*

* Dibs on the movie options when it does.

Counter Assault Trailrunner Neoprene Bear Spray Holster, REI, $18.95

Sling around your waist for easy side-reach access, freeing your hands so you can run, run, run away after you’ve successfully scared him or her along. It also holds water bottles when you’re in zero-bear territory, like, the moon.

Best find: UDAP Pepper Power Safety Orange Bear Spray, 7.9 oz., Cabela’s, $39.99 (online or limited supply in the Scarborough store)

Produces a 30-foot nonlethal fog using a “formula that’s been proven effective in dozens of bear attacks,” according to the website. Sounds like the mack daddy of stay-the-heck-away.

Think twice: About taking Ricker Hill baked goods on the trail with you.

Bears, like most of us, like doughnuts. And probably cookies and whoopie pies, we’re just guessing. So maybe don’t grab a Ricker Hill Orchards bakery box to go ($15) to munch while you wander through the woods. Do grab a box for later. You’ll be hungry after all that exercise.

Bag Lady and Shopping Siren’s true identities are protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who aren’t scared of bears but are scared of spiders) and the Customer Service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected]


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