The Mercantile where I worked sold bear bells. Folks who’ve never hiked in bear country may have never seen these large jingle bells that attach to a backpack or a belt. They jingle as the hiker moves and are meant to warn bears of the human’s approach. In theory, the foreign sound tells a bear that a hiker is approaching so the bear can amble off and avoid a confrontation it probably doesn’t want any more than the human does.
Some experts don’t believe bear bells work. Some sources say hikers are better of talking or singing or clapping their hands when moving through ursine territory. However, since the store I worked in sold bear bells, I tried not to discourage customers from buying them. When customers straight out asked me if the things really worked, I told them I’d never used one (truth) and different people have different ideas about their effectiveness (also truth). I mentioned clapping and singing and talking as bear deterrents too.
The company that manufactures the bear bells takes precautions to cover their corporate ass. Upon the cardboard the bells are attached to for display are printed the words “Alerts bears of your presence and sometimes sounds can cause bears to run and hide.” I love the word “sometimes” in that statement. I can imagine the company lawyer saying, Add “sometimes” in there so we don’t get sued if a bear doesn’t run and hide when it hears the bell.
Each bell came in a little black mesh bag. A magnet is sewn into the bottom of the mesh bag. When the owner of the bell doesn’t want it jingle jangling, the magnet is placed at the bottom of the bell so the little metal ball inside that otherwise bounces around in there and makes noise is held in place and the bell is silenced.
One day a couple of young women in bikini tops and short shorts were browsing in the Mercantile. One of them saw the display of bear bells and decided to examine them carefully. She picked up one of the bells and gave it a little shake. The magnet must have been in the perfect position to hold the inner metal ball in place because the bell made not a sound. She held the bell up and said, Does this make a sound only bears can hear?
I suppose it’s a reasonable question if one encounters one’s first bear bell and it produces no noise.