Tuesday, May 26, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week One

So here's the beginning of my weekly blog posts for my internship with the USFS in the White Mountains National Forest. This past week was filled with orientation and lots of training to prepare me for duties on the forest as a representative of the Forest Service. I gained a lot of insight to the upcoming weeks' projects such as grouse surveying, visitor information services, high elevation bird surveying, acoustic bat surveying, and campground food storage patrol. 
First day of the job (Mon 5/18) was orientation and everyone introduced themselves, went over the safety culture that has become predominant throughout the Forest Service, and us interns were given our first cubicle, keys, uniforms, and our fleet vehicle (the only minivan in the garage!) Because of my lack of license, I will be navigating my partner, Emily, around the forest. However, we have yet to be sent out on our own, besides to and from headquarters...                

Tuesday (5/19) morning we left for the Saco district and completed a CPR course (which I am already certified in) and a front country First-Aid course (I just took WFA with Nancy Zane, so that was not monotonous at all...). Upon returning to HQ, we completed a JHA (Job Hazard Analysis) for driving and for grouse surveying that we will be conducting on Thursday (5/21).  These JHA's will be a preliminary part before participating in any projects.  
Wednesday (5/20) we participated and completed a defensive driving course (even though I don't have a licence but it was actually quite helpful, and I think confidently prepared me for driving when I do attain the opportunity). 
Thursday (5/21) we reported to the office at 4am to get our fleet vehicle and drive to the grouse survey site (Tripoli Rd, Thorton). We were listening for individual drumming events and individuals gobblers within a 4 minute observation period every mile of the road. We heard a total of four drumming events, no turkeys, but it was a great learning experience! I will be conducting another study in a different location this upcoming Wednesday (5/27). 
We had Friday (5/22) off and Saturday (5/23) we shadowed one of the FPO's on routine rounds through a troublesome campground that has witnessed a few bear incidents. By doing so, we got a first hand understanding of how to strategically converse with visitors about proper food storage and met campground hosts.  
This past holiday (Sun 5/24 and Mon 5/25), we went back and forth between the White Mountain Visitor Information Center, Hancock Campground and Lincoln Woods Trail Head promoting bear canisters and directing hikers to the proper trail heads. We realized there were many disoriented visitors because of the lack of Trail Head signage and mentioned it to the FPO who would be speaking at the district briefing in the coming weeks. The pamphlet handouts also have some complications, so I mentioned that to Clara, our supervisor and district wildlife biologist. We might have a tedious "office day" fixing all of them so they're more explicit in their food storage directions and camp ground protocol. 
I'm excited to perform a second grouse survey and to be more independent with our routine visits to campsites. Now that we understand the FS approach to public interaction, I think we will effectively balance the needs of the public with the critical importance of keeping black bears wild. 
 Setting up signage for the beginning of the season and to help with promotion of bear canisters at Lincoln Woods..

Food Storage Boxes are usually available only at the backcountry areas. This one at Hancock Campground was installed because this specific campground had multiple bear encounters last year and FS wanted to make proper food storage even more accessible to visitors previously negligent.