Survival Information Presents :
Survival In A New Mexican Forest - Between A Bear and A
We can learn a great deal from the pioneers. This
story takes place well before the turn of the 20th
century. The narrator would have packed in and out with
horses and mules with not much more than beans, flour,
coffee, tobacco, and enough shells for his guns to hunt
Lately, we have been regaled with tales of monster
hogs. In reality, they aren't so fierce, really. You
can't get within a mile of them, if they so much as
smell you. Much more devilish foes are the wild peccary
of the southern most climes. When packed up the will
attack anything that walks, flies, or crawls, and their
maws are vicious. Any time you run across a herd of wily
and vicious peccary, you are most definitely in survival
By James Elverson
Ed Note: This tale of survival is
credited to James Elverson, the late owner of the
Philadelphia Enquirer. This tale, most possibly
penned by he or someone else in 1907, Elverson went to
the big newspaper in the sky in 1911. It seems obvious
that he may or may not have been the literal writer.
Whichever, he owned the story. True or not, it's a dandy
example of man against nature at its deadliest...and man
conquering that which is set to destroy him. As far as I
can determine, this thrilling story has not been seen
broadly since it was first printed in 1907. It was
evidently syndicated far and wide at that time.
The survival information incidents to be related
occurred some years ago, when I was prospecting for gold
along the western boundary of New Mexico, near the
head-waters of the Eio Puerco...
We had met with wretched luck, and getting
discouraged, had decided to break camp and cross over
into Arizona, to the Mollgoon Mountains, whence reports
had reached us of very valuable discoveries; but, as our
supply of provisions had become well nigh exhausted, we
concluded to lay in a small stock of meat before
starting, so that we should not be delayed on our
journey which would carry us through a rather barren and
desolate region; where water was scarce and game not to
be looked for.
Two parties accordingly left camp, a little
before noon, in quest of game, the smaller one being
composed of a trapper known by the sobriquet of
"Canadian Sam," an old army scout named Lige Henstock,
and myself, then a young man of twenty-six.
A range of wooded hills which we had often
observed, but had never visited, lying well to the
northeast, was the destination of our party, and by
following the stream upon which our camp had been
located we reached the edge of the timber in a couple of
hours where it was Sam's opinion we should be very
likely to find considerable game.
At this point we decided to separate, the
Canadian to follow the hills to the right Lige Henstock
to go to the left, while I, being the least experienced
of the three, was to follow the course of the stream, as
I would thus be less likely to lose my way. We
furthermore agreed to meet about sun down at the point
where the stream emerged from the great forest, and to
return to camp together.
So we parted, the others going their ways and I
pushing ahead into the wood, keeping near the creek,
which splashed and brawled and foamed over its narrow
and rocky bed. Aside from the noise of the waters,
perfect silence reigned in every direction, and, except
myself, there seemed to be no living creature astir.
All this did not look promising for game but I
walked briskly ahead until I was certain I had traveled
at least two miles, when I discovered some curious
footprints in the soil near the creek, which resembled
the track of a cow, only the mark of the hoof was much
While I was examining the impressions and
speculating upon what sort or an animal could have made
them, a gentle rustling of bushes to the left attracted
my attention and aroused my interest. I looked carefully
in that quarter, but could not discover anything. Sam
had kindly informed us before separating that we need
not be surprised to find bears, mountain lions, wild
hogs and a great variety of beasts prowling in the woods
or in the hills beyond, and so, recalling his speech. I
concluded it would be prudent on my part to keep quiet
until the creature should make itself known; and, with
this purpose in view, I slipped noiselessly behind a big
tree and peered cautiously around its trunk.
Suddenly, with a loud grunt, a wild hog, or
peccary, that would weigh at least a hundred pounds,
burst out of the bushes and disappeared into the
undergrowth beyond. It all happened so quickly that I
had no time to fire at the animal; but this did not
worry me, for I felt confident I could soon overtake
him. . .
Looking to see that my gun was in good order, I
at once took the trail and followed, until, after a
while, the ground became so hard that no trace was
visible, and I halted, at a loss what to do.
The forest seemed to be more open at this point,
and the ground rose gently into a range of low hills not
far ahead. On either side of the trail I had been
pursuing, the bushes were rather dense, but of low
growth so that I could easily see over them.
Again, I heard a noise and saw the tips of the
bushes violently agitated, as if some beast was moving
quite briskly in a line that diagonally crossed the path
I was pursuing. I supposed, of course that it was the
peccary and was getting my gun ready to give him a shot
the instant he should cross the path, when, not six rods
ahead, two brown bears emerged from the undergrowth and
made their way hastily up the moderate as cent, looking
back frequently, as if they were being pursued.
My curiosity was so much excited by this queer
conduct on the part of the bears that I forgot to fire a
shot till they had passed out of easy range.
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I was certain they had not seen me, for they had
not looked in my direction at all and I wondered greatly
what had put them into such a fright. The bears by this
time had halted and were sniffing the air suspiciously,
and it occurred to me that by going down through a
swale, well sheltered by bushes, I should be able to net
close enough to them to get a good shot without fear of
discovery. So I crept cautiously into the low spot, and
soon reached the point whence I was sure I should net a
view of the game, when, to my surprise, the bears had
Quite provoked, I now started to enter the
clearing at the foot of the ridge, determined to get a
shot at all hazards, when I heard a low growling noise
that I presently perceived came from the top of a flat
boulder which jutted out from the ledge, with which it
was connected by a narrow strip of rock that formed a
sort of bridge.
On top of this rock, which was nearly fifteen
feet high, sat the larger of the two bears, squatted on
his haunches, and whining in a most piteous manner, as
if suffering from intense fear. The second bear was not
to be seen.
As the rock was two hundred yards distant, I
concluded to get much nearer before I should fire, and
was only fairly in motion when there was a tremendous
crashing of branches, accompanied by wild grunts and
piercing cries, and the next instant, out of the
adjacent bushes, following the trail of the bears, there
burst forth a drove of more than two-score peccaries.
The creatures, all bristling with excitement,
made at once straight for the rock whereon the bear had
taken refuge, thus accounting for the terror which Bruin
had shown, and I never witnessed such a sight before or
since as followed.
In less than three minutes the whole drove of
peccaries was swarming about the base of the rock,
leaping madly against its steep sides, filling the air
with a series of peculiar cries and snorts, as they
ineffectually strove to scale the boulder and so get at
the huge bear.
These reckless dashes, however, did not continue
long, for presently some of the assailants, haying
discovered the narrow ledge that connected the rock with
the ridge, made a rush in that direction, and would soon
have effected a crossing had not the bear, with the
cunning of a. veteran, met the enemy in time to defend
the dangerous point.
A small peccary with an enormous tusk led the
advance, with bristles erect and uttering shrill aborts,
a half-dozen others following in single file, the
approach being too narrow to admit of two abreast.
Bruin awaited the assault, sitting on his
haunches, with his paws outstretched, and the instant
the peccary came within reach, he gave him a sharp,
sudden blow that tumbled the pig off the bridge into the
little chasm below.
Two others met a similar fate, when the fourth
animal, a big fellow, succeeded in encumbering the
bear's movements to such an extent that although he had
to succumb as did his predecessors, yet in the interval
two peccaries managed to get footing on the rock, when
they rushed furiously upon the bear.
In a moment I saw Bruin close in with his
adversaries, and, hugging them both in a savage grip,
down went all three, rolling wildly about, until,
approaching the edge, of the rock, the living mass went
tumbling down into the very midst of the frenzied drove
below. For a minute, it was a perfect bedlam.
The peccaries fell upon the bear with the utmost
fury. Bruin defended himself bravely tearing several of
his fierce enemies to pieces with I his ponderous claws
and knocking the life out of more than one. But the
contest was unequal one, the peccaries being so numerous
and active that at last Bruin succumbed, and then the
victors almost quarreling among themselves in their
greed to feed, upon the. remains of their victim, fell
vigorously to work to devour the great carcass, which
they did in an incredibly short time.
Having satisfied their vengeance and literally
annihilated the, bear, the pigs started to move across
the clearing, when it occurred to me that if I intended
to carry away any game of my own killing I must be up
and going, as the entire herd would soon be out of
sight. So, on the spur of the moment. I leveled my
rifle, and firing, brought to the ground a fine young
peccary from the midst of the drove.
The shot had scarcely been fired, when I
discovered that I had done a most foolish act, for the
death of their fellow threw the drove into a most
furious paroxysm of rage, and uttering their peculiar
snort of anger, they rushed upon me in a bristling mass,
quite as savagely as they had attacked the bear a little
alone was left me, and the way I dashed off toward a
large tree on the edge of the clearing would have done
credit to a race horse; and I had just time to swing my
feet clear of the ground when the horde swept about the
roots, of the tree, snapping and snorting and leaping
frantically into the air to get at me. It was a close
shave, and I had to drop my gun to get into the tree at
Presently, apparently grasping the situation and
recognizing that 1 was beyond their reach for the
moment, the peccaries quieted down, and lay about the
roots of the tree, exactly as if they proposed to remain
until I should conclude to descend. It is needless to
say that I did not relish the situation.
An hour passed, followed by a second and third:
the sun Bank into the western sky, and finally the
shadows of night hung over the great trees of the
forest, but cot a peccary showed the smallest symptom of
impatience or any disposition to depart.
I was literally treed, and at their mercy. It was
now too late to expect help from my companions, and as
it was plain that the night must be spent in my aerial
refuge, I adjusted myself as comfortably as possible in
the branches, and found very unsatisfactory occupation
in listening to the grunts of the enemy below and
speculating on what the morrow would be likely to bring
At last, toward morning, the idea occurred to me
that if I could conceal myself in the tree so that, when
daylight came, the animals could not see me, they might
conclude I had escaped during the night, and there upon
raise the siege and retire.
I had not a doubt but that the creatures would
remain as long as I was visible, and, unless I could
outwit them, the prospect was gloomy enough for, an
early escape, or, for that matter, for any at all.
Putting the idea into action, I crept noiselessly
toward the top, and was delighted to find a decayed spot
of some size, in a crotch, where a dead limb branched
off from the big trunk. Into this I endeavored to
squeeze myself, hoping that between the limb and the
cavity I might escape the prying eyes of the peccaries
I had not been settled more than five minutes
when I was much disturbed by hearing a scratching,
rasping sort of noise, at intervals, which seemed to
come from the extreme end of the large dead limb.
I could not account for the sounds, and my
imagination had full play till the streaks of coming
dawn revealed to my startled eyes the cause of it all,
by showing me a brown bear, doubtless the companion of
the one whose tragic end I had witnessed the. night
before, squatted on the dead, limb, about fifteen feet
from me. We had evidently sought safety in the same tree
from a common foe.
The moment the bear saw me he began to snarl and
show his teeth which was not pleasant, considering that
I. was totally unarmed and practically defenseless; but
he soon relieved me of all fear by beginning to back
away, going further out upon the branch, as if to avoid
Daylight was now fairly come, and I was
congratulating myself upon the happy thought of
concealment, and wondering whether the animals I below
would clear out when they failed to see me up in the
tree, for I was well hidden in the hollow place, aided
by the big branch, when a fresh thought filled me with
What about the bear? There he was in full view
from below, and of course the peccaries,seeing him would
never think more of me, but I would continue to wait for
their common enemy, and thus bring to naught my own
efforts to escape.
The very thought made me so desperate, that if I
had possessed my gun, I should then have opened fire on
the shaggy rascal perched on the limb before me.
Possibly Bruin read desperation in my eyes, for
he growled again and went on backing further out upon
the great dead limb, when all at once there was the
sound of a heavy
The branch, unable to stand the increasing strain
as the animal backed further toward the end, broke short
off, and down went limb and bear headlong to the ground
I heard a chorus of snorts and cries, and peering
cautiously downward, beheld a repetition of yesterday's
scene at the rock; for the peccaries were hotly engaged
with the bear, which in turn, though somewhat dazed by
his fall, was defending himself as best he could.
It was the old story and in ten minutes scarce a
remnant of the poor bear remained. Instantly I crouched
down out of sight and listened intently to every sound
from below but in a few minutes silence reigned in every
Waiting a good half-hour, I descended fearlessly,
for not a peccary was to be seen. They had either
forgotten me, or , had been satisfied with their triumph
over this second enemy.
I picked up my rifle and started briskly for the
creek, and in due time reached camp where all agreed
upon hearing my story, that all-things, considered, made
a most fortunate escape from a great peril.
is a good thing to have in your day pack when you
challenge the gruesome peccary.
is a fact that something as simple as a
bottle of water may one day save your life.
the inconvenience of becoming prepared
deprive you of all that you ever were or
ever hope to be. At the end, don't think, "I
should have paid more attention to
breathing." Don't let it be you. Don't feed
Darwin. Old whisker face is fat enough. Be
the survivor. Survival Information!