Unaware he was stalked by a grizzly

G. Sam Piatt - PDT Columnist

The late Dr. Miller Toombs of Portsmouth once shared a story with me about an elk hunt he and some friends took to Montana about 25 years ago, a hunt from which he feels lucky to have come back from alive.

He was out with his rifle hunting, miles from camp, when he saw a grizzly bear up ahead. It looked at him before disappearing into some bushes.

“I kept going and when I got down to just about that spot, all of a sudden I heard something screeching. I looked up into a tree and saw an orange/yellowish bear cub yelling down at me,” Toombs said.

Knowing he had gotten himself into a dangerous situation, he backtracked, made his way through the snow down to the creek, and followed the creek back to camp.

His buddies were in that area the next day and saw Toombs’ footprints in the snow.

And something else. For about two miles, huge bear tracks followed right behind his tracks.

Though he never saw the bear again after spotting the cub, it had stalked him all that distance – for some reason choosing not to attack.

His wife, Jennie, said, “He called me that night and –from the tone of his voice – I thought somebody had died. His voice was shaky. I guess he was just glad to be alive.”

One of Tombs’ friends had reloaded some .30/06 shells for him.

“I didn’t find out until later that they did not fit my rifle,” he said. “I was armed also with a .44-caliber sidearm, but I would have hated to take on a grizzly with a pistol.”


Everyone knows dogs don’t climb trees.

And neither does a four-legged creature akin to them, the red fox. Right”

Well, probably so.

But what was that fox doing in a tree on Wilson Creek in Carter County? How did he get there, and what caused his demise?

Yes, the fox was dead – wedged in the fork where a small limb grows from the trunk, its head, shoulders and forepaws on one side of the fork and the rest of its body and long shaggy tail hanging straight down the trunk.

The first thing we might think of when we see the photo is a hoax – somebody killed the fox, or found it dead, and placed it up there.

But Lee Wright, who made the report, said he’s certain none of his friends, or anyone else, for that matter, placed the fox in a tree in his woods as a joke.

A fox might climb a live oak with big friendly limbs inviting a leap up from one to another, or one that grew – most unlikely – at, say, a 60 degree angle to the ground.

But this fox was 15 to 20 feet up a small tree perhaps no bigger than 10 or 12 inches in diameter. It was a straight line tree with small branches.

Wright said there was not a wound or mark of any kind on the animal.

So how did it wind up in the tree?

Sorry, we’ll probably never know.


G. Sam Piatt

PDT Columnist

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.

Reach G. SAM PIATT at [email protected] or (606) 932-3619.