PCT thru-hiker avoids surprise bear attack thanks to comedy podcast

American black bear in defensive posture showing teeth
(Image credit: Getty)

A hiker has credited a Scottish comedian's distinctive voice with scaring away a bear after a close encounter on the Pacific Coast Trail.

Bears generally prefer to avoid contact with people, and one of the best ways to avoid a close call is to ensure they know you're coming in advance by making noise and talking to your hiking buddies. Iain McAllister, a retired vet from Edinburgh, was hiking alone and listening to BBC Scotland's Breaking the News podcast on a Bluetooth speaker as an alternative solution.

As the BBC reports, a bear appeared on the trail just ahead of McAllister, but was seemingly spooked by the disembodied voice of comic Raymond Mearns.

"I wasn't using headphones as I listened to the 7 July episode and it was at a point in the show where Raymond was chatting away in his inimitably brilliant Scots brogue," McAllister said. "At that exact moment, a bear jumped onto the trail about 50 yards in front of me, took one look at me, heard Raymond's voice and ran away at high speed. Thank you Raymond for saving my life."

McAllister send Mearns an email to express his gratitude, which the comedian originally took for a prank.

"If I saved the guy's life that's amazing, unbelievable – and I wasn't even in the same country," Mears said. "It's just one of these things. But there is nothing like a Scots accent – you know that way when you hear a Scots accent in full flow – that would intimidate anybody."

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The Pacific Crest Trail Association warns hikers that bears on the PCT are notoriously good at accessing human food, which can lead to them losing their natural wariness around people and increase the odds of a close encounter. This can ultimately result in them being euthanized for public safety.

"The number of black bears has increased steadily in recent years. In California, the bear population has grown from about 10,000 in the 1980s to around 35,000 now," the association says. "Their range has also expanded. In places where you didn’t use to worry about bears getting your food, there are now bears. Bears are at home in the mountains of the PCT from the southern deserts to the northern border."

For more advice on how to keep yourself and your hiking buddies safe, see our guide what to do if you meet a bear.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.