Monday, June 29, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Six

Tuesday (06/23) I chose to go into work solo, as my partner in crime was out of town. I prepared to be in the office all day working on my portfolio, as it was pouring in Campton. David, one of the bio techs, found me and asked for some help building a nest box. I looked through the construction manual at the many different types of nest boxes that could be made; small bat, regular bat, small bird, duck, bee, and butterfly. I chose to make a small bird box since the required materials were available. Over in the woodshop, we found some rough cut boards 1"x 8'x 8" and cut them using the skill saw into appropriate lengths for two sides, front, back, three interior dividers, roof, and door for the floor. Because bats need shelter that traps heat up to 80 degrees F during the daytime, sometimes bat boxes can be painted black or covered in tarpaper. However, we agreed that painting these boxes wasn't a necessary step, as the fumes or chemicals of the paint when heated could have negative effects on the animal. The floor needed to be able to open so that guano could be cleaned out every so often. We used drill and driver bits to drive in the screws where we thought necessary and used a nail to hold the floor door shut. The nail could be easily removed for cleaning. These bat boxes would be mounted onto a tree 12-15' above the ground. We also completed a large butterfly box that was unfinished. Using a router 1" in diameter we carved through the slot openings 1/4" at a time to ensure the wood wouldn't split. Butterfly boxes are mounted on PVC piping  not far from the ground where butterflies most commonly travel.

Wednesday (06/24) Emily and I traveled around on campground patrol with Samuel, an intern from Quebec. He speaks both French and English and was actually pretty helpful when at Hancock, we ran into a family of 5 from Canada whose children did not speak English. We visited Russell Pond, Covered Bridge, Blackberry Crossing, Jigger Johnson, Passaconway, Big Rock, and Hancock. Nothing out of the ordinary happened but we made good contact with visitors as well as hosts. 

Thursday (06/25) we ventured out for more campground patrolling across the Kanc Highway. We made it through all of those previously mentioned and then decided to stop over at the Saco Ranger District for the Bear Alert sign that was accidentally printed there last week. Upon arrival, we discovered that the sign had been picked up already by a Pemi employee. Jessie, Saco Wildlife Biologist, asked us to follow up on the Champney Falls incident with AMC trail crew. My last post included the limited description of the incident report. After speaking with Jessie, we understood that the first incident resulted in a stolen pack which had hand sanitizer in it.Goes to show how severe this storage issue is and what great lengths bears will go to discover unfamiliar scents. The second incident at Champney Falls also happened in the AMC trail crew camp. This time parmesan cheese, olive oil, and a candy bar was left out in the camp.  A bear entered, ripped through a Yeti "bear-resistant" backcountry cooler (~$400), and stole a steel bear box that contained a camp stove. The bear box should have been tied up to a tree, which it wasn't and the cooler was unknowingly an attractant. The trail crew was moved to Ennis field, where we went to check up on their campsite. The campsite was clear of attractants. We then went to check on vehicles at the Champney Falls trail head. Both vehicles were locked and the windows were rolled up which was good. However, peanut butter container and granola bars could be seen on the dashboard and the back of the cab cover was only a twist latch window that could easily be opened by a bear. Because they were now without a cooler, they had cheese, yogurt, bagels and breakfast bars in a cardboard box in the back of their truck... The food was completely visible in all windows. 

Friday (06/26) I was again solo and so I tagged along with one of the bio techs, Keith, to set up and collect bat detectors on the Androscoggin district. About a 2 hr drive towards Berlin, we stopped by the roadside and had to hike in to where the GPS point was within its 360 meter zone known as a stand and approximately .5 mi from the road. We found a suitable area with a low canopy and downhill corridor towards which we direct the Petterson mic. Low canopy will encourage low flight paths from the Northern long-eared bats. The area has a stream in the distance which is a good source of insects for the bats. The second detector was set up 200 meters away from the first, closer to the river but far enough away so the mic would have low disturbance from the sound of the water current. We also set up a game camera to monitor if any person or animal messes with the equipment. Bears used to steal the battery cases because forest service would put them in garbage bags. Moose are also commonly seen in this area. After mounting each mic apparatus (2 steel staffs, 1 rebar, mallet, rope, research sign, duct tape, mic and battery in waterproof case), we drove down the road about 2 miles to the Andro Fish and Game hatchery where we collected data from the Pemi's weather station. 

Then we went back towards the first skidroad but stopped short to collect the old detectors that had been out for a while. It was about half a mile of the mile in hike and there was a large black silhouette a couple hundred yards in front of us. We realized it was a moose! A large bull, at that. We saw his dulap and it registered within us that we needed to give him space. He was browsing right around the area of our detectors so we weren't able to collect them but it was a tremendous sight and my first moose sighting ever! I returned to the office to work on my portfolio, completely satisfied. 

Saturday (06/27) was more campground patrol. We started with Wildwood, which didn't have many visitors but we spoke with about 5 campers who were keen on the proper food storage protocol. Then we headed to the Kanc Highway and stopped at the usual spots. We stopped by Hancock first and last hoping to catch people coming in the late evening. When stopping at Hancock before noon, there were only 6 sites occupied. Around 1500 hrs, Hancock was full and so was Big Rock. There were a lot of college kids at both sites for some reason, and Hancock was even preparing for some sort of wedding after party. There were some returning usuals to Hancock that had an awesome display set up. We were really grateful to have people putting effort in to spreading awareness of the bear issue. 

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