Anecdotal evidence — mostly what I hear from fellow hikers and read in the newspaper — has me thinking there are more bears out there this year, not to mention more venomous snakes. I have heard reports from several hikers detailing bear and snake sightings. I always breeze past black bears, thinking of them as little more than big dogs. (Grizzlies have always been a different matter altogether). I need to remember that a black bear has the speed, power, teeth, jaw strength and paws to make a real mess of a human being. Reports of black bear attacks are rare, and when they do occur they are normally provoked by idiotic human behavior. Still we owe it to them and ourselves to give them a wide berth and respect their well-earned place in nature. Stay vertical, watch for snakes and keep walkin’!