Are you ready for your daily dose of adrenaline?

We know Nature Conservancy members love outdoor adventures, so we decided to ask you to share your stories of when Mother Nature got a little too close for comfort. Think: run-ins with hungry black bears, deafening thunderstorms and nerve-wracking rattlesnakes. Our community did not disappoint!

Below are three close encounters with animals that will leave you on the edge of your seat. They are a reminder of the true wonders of the natural world and the importance of protecting it.

45-Second Showdown

American black bear

Julia Pietruszewski and her husband were hiking the Appalachian Trail and had just crossed the border into New York, when they came across a startling surprise. Julia shares their story:

“As we progressed down the trail, my husband who is always ahead of me by about fifty paces, began backing up. I figured it was some sort of animal so I warned him not to panic and run and not to turn his back on it. (He is a city kid).

As I came closer to him I saw mama bear and two little ones. She was teaching them how to find termites in a rotten tree next to the trail. She immediately shooed the little guys into the woods and began to look around. She was sniffing the air.

I took to making some noise with my mouth and banging my hiking poles. She responded by posturing and stomping her feet. Then as quickly as she began, she got down and took off into the woods in the same direction as her kids had gone. Most exciting forty-five seconds of my life so far.”

Wild Wonderment

Wild Wonderment

Jeff Rose shared his unexpected moment with us via Flickr — this incredible photo (above) is a reminder that if you’re not careful, unplanned moments in nature can sometimes melt your heart. Jeff writes:

“On a chilly March morning after a few days of rain I made my way to the Upper Buffalo Wilderness of Arkansas. I was eager to photograph a few of the many waterfalls in the state; however, one of the wonderful things about photography and exploring the outdoors in general is that you never know what nature may present to you.

In this case it was a herd of nearly 70 elk in the fields of Boxley Valley. At that moment my plans went out the window and I spent the morning photographing these incredible animals. The highlight shown here was seeing this precious interaction between a spike yearling and majestic bull.”

Hawaii Heart Attack

A male humpback whale

Shortly after moving to Hawaii, Chuck Arthur decided to explore the east side of Oahu by kayak. A routine kayak trip suddenly turned scary when he found himself alongside massive humpback whales. Chuck shares his thrilling story:

“I spotted a pod of whales in an obvious play mode another thousand yards or so beyond me. I paused to watch one of the greatest shows in the ocean form a “safe” distance. My next sensory input was sound — the sound of wind blowing from a cave very close (turned out to be about 3 kayak lengths behind me). This was followed closely by a very strong, unpleasant “oceany” smell and then fine sea mist blowing across me.

Without any intelligent thought I scrambled to turn my kayak to see what turned out to be a humpback not 30 feet away gliding back into the water after a breathing blow. I remember thinking that the part of its back that I saw was bigger than the roof of my house.

This slick maneuver put me perfectly parallel to the whale and its wake, creating a balance requirement that I did not posses. Having followed the advise of the rental shop, I was tied to the kayak and began to follow the rope back to the surface and the boat. I was vaguely aware of a larger form circling me and as I neared the bottom of the kayak, I was moved with great hydraulic force as the whale passed behind me very close. I turned to see a large eye on the side of a large building pass by.

By the time I got into the kayak and moved my heart back down out of my throat, two fishermen were beside me in a power boat very excitedly asking if I was OK and Holy Cow and did it hit me? I told them I was OK as cooly as I could and then paddled back to shore where I proceeded to fall face first into the sand. There are no words to describe how big this wonderful creature is. I was fascinated with them before and now am even more in awe. I feel beyond lucky to have met a humpback so up close and personal.”

Do you have a thrilling close encounter with nature? We’d love to hear more of your exciting stories. Please post a comment below and you can share your photos here.

Responses have been edited down for space.

[Image: American black bear. Image source: Kent Mason. Image: Elk. Image source: Jeff Rose via Flickr. Image: A male humpback whale. Image source: Carlos Aguilera Calderón]

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  1. Last February some friends and I went out on a Whale Watch while in Puerta Villarta. Four hours seemed like a long time, until I realized the whales don’t always hang out where you want them to. We had some sightings, and after lingering an hour or so we started to head back toward shore. I remember thinking “wow, since we can’t see them approaching, if they were feeling frisky enough they could come up under the boat and REALLY give us a memory.” With no more activity we headed back. Suddenly there was a roar in the water behind us, the water broiled and UP come two whales, a female and escort we had been watching from afar earlier. They were just behind the boat, close enough to make the boat rise at the aft end, and all I could think of was the “show” was entirely on their terms, and what a show it ended up being! It was like they were saying “Adios Amigos…and DO come back for more!”

  2. I had a similarly exciting adventure in the mountains of Wyoming, I was mhiking down a nature taking in the sites & fresh air when I came upon a moose & her calf, I suddenly started wlking backward so I was not spotted. my heart was racing & I was exhilated @ the same time my heart was about to come out of my chest. I said a prayer to god to spare me if I was spotted, and I guess my prayers were answered as I was not, and I walked back about a quarter of a mile & took another route (thanking god the whole time.

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