Read The Hunted Online

Authors: Gloria Skurzynski

The Hunted




To Carrie Hunt—

who taught us to believe in the magic of her dreams—
and to her canine partners
Rio, Tuffy, Oso, Eilu, Blaze, Carmen, Yoki, Jewel,
Fancy, Usko, and especially Cassie.
Each day they demonstrate courage, faithfulness, and above all, love.

Text copyright © 2000 Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson
Cover illustration copyright © 2007 Jeffrey Mangiat

All rights reserved.
Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents is prohibited without written permission from the National Geographic Society, 1145 17th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

Maps by Carl Mehler, Director of Maps;
Thomas L. Gray, Martin S. Walz, Map Research and Production
Bear paw art by Stuart Armstrong

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to living persons or events other than descriptions of natural phenomena is purely coincidental.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Skurzynski, Gloria
The hunted / Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson. p. cm.—(National parks mystery: #5)
Summary: The Landon family travels to Glacier National Park to investigate why grizzly bear cubs are disappearing and becomes involved with a ten-year-old Mexican runaway boy.
ISBN: 978-1-4263-0968-7
1. Glacier National Park (Mont.)—Juvenile fiction. [1. Glacier National Park (Mont.)—Fiction. 2. National parks and reserves—Fiction. 3. Grizzly bear—Fiction. 4. Bears—Fiction. 5. Runaways—Fiction. 6. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Ferguson, Alane. II. Title. III. Series.
PZ7.S6282Hu 2000 99-048124


The authors are most grateful to the following
staff personnel at Glacier National Park who
so generously shared their expertise:
USGS researcher Kate Kendall;
wildlife biologist Steve Gniadek;
ranger Alison Disque;
chief interpretive ranger Larry Frederick;
ranger Reggie Altop; and
Carrie Hunt of the Wind River Bear Institute.
Carrie's Web site is:


eavy metal blared through the cab of the van, so loud it rattled the coffee cup sitting on the dashboard. “Hey, Max, shut off that radio,” the driver shouted.


“Just do it. We ought to be getting sounds from back there about now, but I can't hear anything over all that music.”

“Yeah, well….” Max looked uncomfortable. “Maybe they shoulda been awake even before this. See, Terry, I…uh…kinda took it easy on the drug.”

“You what?” With a squeal of tires, the van screeched to a halt along the edge of the highway.

“I didn't want to overdose them. You know, 'cause they're pretty young,” Max apologized.

“You idiot!” Terry raged, tearing off his dark glasses to shoot murderous glances at Max. “Go back there and check how they're doing.”

Quickly, Max kicked open the passenger door and ran to the back of the delivery van. Unlocking the double doors, he swung them wide. Then he yelled. “Holy—! You won't believe this, Terry. You better get back here.”


as it happening? Was that what he felt—the first stirring of the earth beneath his hands and feet? Crouched under the hide of a dead buffalo calf, he commanded his tense body to remain still. No movement. Not until the right moment.

Now he was sure he felt it. He began to hear it, too. First a murmur, a muted pounding of thousands of hoofs. Then, like the swelling of ceremonial drums, a growing rumble. Did he dare turn his head to see how close the buffalo were? Better not: One movement too soon might send his own scent, the smell of 12-year-old boy, toward the big bull leading the stampeding herd to the cliff.

Now? The roar of hoofs, the lowing and snorting of the huge animals, the cries of frightened calves—all of it stabbed his hearing and took away his breath.

Now! First scrambling on all fours, then sprinting in a crouch, he bellowed like a lost calf, praying that the lead cow would think he was a calf and turn toward him. Straight for the edge of the cliff he ran, terrified but at the same time exhilarated.

To the shortsighted buffalo dashing at full speed behind him, the ground ahead would appear to rise gently, like a low hill. By the time the buffalo herd finally saw the cliff, saw that the surface dropped off into nothingness, it would be too late. The lead bull and the lead cow would plunge over the edge, with most of the herd following, each animal plummeting through emptiness until they all lay smashed on the rocks beneath.

Just ahead of the panic-stricken animals, the boy himself would leap over the cliff. But he would be safe. If he had great skill, and if the Buffalo Spirit guided him, he would land on a ledge beneath the rim of the cliff.

How many times had he practiced his dash to the precipice? He knew where the ledge was, the jutting tongue of rock that would save him. Yet what if he stumbled, or rolled away from the right spot? He would die, too, broken on the bloody ground far below, next to the dead buffalo.

They were only inches behind him now. The ground's violent shaking nearly knocked him off his feet. It was the moment—he leaped! Flew over the edge! Landed hard. Clawed with fingers and moccasins to secure his hold on the jagged jut of rock. The hide of the dead calf flew away from him, revealing his own tangle of black hair….

“Hey, who left the door of the camper open?”

“What?” His daydream shattered, Jack Landon pulled himself back to the present. His fantasy of being a buffalo runner faded quickly, like a switched-off TV program.

“Jack, are you listening to me? Close the trailer door and make sure it latches. We don't want it flying open while we're driving.”

“OK, Dad.”

The Landons had just spent an hour at the visitor center of Ulm Pishkun State Park, in Montana, learning about the Great Buffalo Jump. A thousand years earlier, buffalo had been stampeded by Native American hunters. Then, after a chase of a mile or more, they were lured to their death by a brave buffalo runner who led them over the same cliff the Landons could see clearly from the visitor center.

Jack had listened to stories about boys no older than he was, boys who disguised themselves under buffalo hides and brought the herd to its destruction. Would he have been brave enough to try that? To plunge off a cliff and risk his life clinging to a ledge while those big buffalo hurtled over his head?

“Hop in the Jeep,” his father called again. “We have a long drive ahead if we're going to make it to Glacier National Park before dark.”

Jack and his sister climbed into the backseat, each closing the door gently on the side where they sat. It had turned into a contest to see who could close a door more quietly and still make it latch. The game had started earlier on this trip after their parents told them to stop slamming the doors.

Jumping into the front seat, Olivia said, “I'm glad we stopped to find out about the buffalo jump. Now—let's take off for grizzly bear country.”

“Yahoo!” Jack cried, excited at the prospect of actually seeing a grizzly. He knew the powerful animals were shy, and that he probably wouldn't see any more than a picture of them in the Glacier visitor center. Still, he could hope. “Mom,” he asked, “how many grizzlies do they have at Glacier?”

“Probably about 200. With this new DNA program in the park, they should get an accurate count pretty soon. Look,” Olivia said, turning in her seat and holding up a newspaper. “There's an article on page 3 about the bear-identification project. I'm going to meet with the woman heading the research—Kate Kendall. I think she's quoted in here.”

Jack took the paper, slumped back into his seat, and began to read the Missoula [Montana]
. It had been published June 24, just the day before. As he opened it to the third page, he tried to fold the pages neatly, but newspapers are like road maps—they always fight back. Soon he grew absorbed in the article.

It was about a U.S. Geological Survey team setting traps throughout the park—not dangerous traps, just barbed wire strung about two feet high. A bear, drawn by a scent lure, would step over the wire to reach the scent. When the bear pulled back, hair from under its neck would catch on the barbs. Project scientists were collecting the bear hair and taking DNA readings of it, using complicated lab techniques to get each bear's DNA “fingerprint.”

“Will this be part of what you're doing at Glacier?” Jack asked his mother. Olivia Landon was a wildlife veterinarian who traveled to U.S. national parks when there was a problem with animals.

“I think so,” she answered. “But mostly I'm supposed to figure out why there's such a shortage of grizzly cubs—one-and-a-half-year-olds, the ones in their second summer. Their numbers are way down, and nobody can figure out why. The whole thing is a real mystery.”

The skin between her eyebrows furrowed as she added, “I just hope I can help find the answer.”

“You will,” Steven assured her, reaching over to rub the back of her neck. “With you, Glacier National Park will get the best help there is.”

Ashley tugged Jack's arm impatiently. “Hey, are you done with the paper?”

“In a second. I'll give you the page that tells about the bear DNA project, though.”

Her face clouding, Ashley shook her head, then looked out the window at the open plains rolling by.

The colors were a mix of soft yellows and dusty greens, which stretched endlessly across hills that looked as soft as pillows. Blue sky reached down and touched the tops of the hills, but Jack knew his sister wasn't interested in all of this quiet beauty. For some reason she didn't want to look at the article he was trying to hand her.

“What? You don't want to learn about bears?” Jack prodded.

“No. It's just—there's more going on than stuff with grizzlies. All you guys can talk about are bears, bears, bears. I want to think about something else for once.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“If you let me have the paper—”

“What's wrong, Ashley? Are you scared? Are you afraid a big grizzly's going to come into the tent and eat you?”

“Stop it, Jack. Don't be dumb.” Ashley scowled at him, moving as far to her side of the Jeep as she could. For once they had plenty of room. Most often when the Landons drove to the different national parks, they had one or more foster children with them; Olivia and Steven were certified emergency-care foster parents. But on this trip the Landons were alone, and Jack liked it that way.

“OK, Ashley wants us to talk about stuff besides bears. Let's see, what else is in the paper? Hmmm. What can I find…?” Jack knew Ashley was getting mad, but he couldn't help teasing. It was in his job description as a big brother. Besides, Ashley had been acting kind of edgy toward him.

“This article says the government is going to dust for tree beetles. Wow, that's interesting.”

“Knock it off,” his sister told him.

“I'm trying to be helpful.” He gave her one of his biggest smiles, but she just rolled her eyes.

“Mom, will you tell Jack to give me the paper?”

“Hey, here's something really interesting on the back page,” he commented, still holding the newspaper out of Ashley's reach. “A Mexican kid, ten years old—that's the same as you, Ashley—sneaked across the border into the United States three times. Twice he got caught and was sent back to Mexico, but he's made it across again, and they think he might have come all the way up here to Montana. Uh-oh.”

“What?” Ashley asked, eyeing him suspiciously.

“He made it all the way up here, and then…a bear ate him.”

“He was eaten? Are you serious?” Olivia asked, turning in her seat.

“Just kidding, Mom. At least about the bear part. I like to bug Ashley.”

“Well, you're doing a good job of it,” Steven said.

“Can't you two share the newspaper?” their mother asked.

“Never mind, she can have it.” Jack tossed the paper at Ashley. “When are we going to stop for lunch, Dad?” he asked. “I'm starving.”

“Jack, we just got started on this leg of the trip,” Steven answered impatiently. “I don't want to stop for a couple more hours.”

“You're hungry because you didn't finish your breakfast,” Olivia told him. “You wasted half your scrambled eggs.”

“I wasn't in the mood for them.”

Sighing, Olivia said, “Fine. There's trail mix and bottled water in the tailgate.”

As Jack unzipped a baggie and poured a handful of trail mix, he started to think again about the buffalo, how the tribes used every part of it—the meat for food, the hides for clothes and teepees and moccasins, the horns for bows. Nothing went to waste. Everything had a use, even the tail was used for chasing flies. The buffalo had become the very heartbeat of the tribes.

Jack thought about the buffalo runner, the brave boy who risked his life to help his people. Would he, Jack, have the same kind of raw courage? As the tires purred softly on the smooth highway, he put his head back and drifted once again into his daydream.

Other books

The Mermaid's Knight by Myles, Jill
Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace
El señor del Cero by María Isabel Molina
Frostborn: The Broken Mage by Jonathan Moeller
The Ranger's Rodeo Rebel by Pamela Britton
Dark Ink Tattoo: Ep 3 by Cassie Alexander
The Thorne Maze by Karen Harper