Tuesday, June 9, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Three

We anticipated some lousy weather for the beginning of this week and planned to take rest days on Sunday (5/31) and Tuesday (6/02). Monday which is one of our usual rest days was the formal bear hazing training with Forest Biologist, Leighlan Prout. It was a great opportunity for networking as Leighlan is a highly revered individual in the wildlife field. She's done work with the Bicknell's thrush, a species listed as vulnerable because of habitat loss. They are ground foragers and summer in montane fir forests. The monitoring that has been conducted has led to minimal evidence of their presence in parts of the Whites... Along with Clara, she has also had input on the status of the Northern long-eared bat, a species now listed as threatened due to White Nose Syndrome (WNS).

So Monday (6/01) we had bear hazing training. The term 'hazing' seemed comical to me at first, like we were going to perform rituals to revert the bear back into the wilderness... But its much more professional and, actually, an acceptable form of conditioning wildlife to stay, well, wild. It's a type on non-lethal bear management that keeps bears from becoming habituated to humans. Only certain individuals are put on the 'Hazing List' and are allowed to participate in these hazing events if the opportunity ever arises. Our job as wildlife interns is to patrol campgrounds and promote proper food storage, which the negligence of causes these unnatural behaviors of habituated bears.
Wednesday (06/03) we worked from home since we don't have access to the network at HQ. It's a pain but it also means we can comfortably work on our portfolios without having to get out of our PJ's! 

Thursday (06/04) we attended the rec meeting for the Pemi district at Lincoln Woods Trail Head. This experience was helpful for identifying who to report issues to and who has authority in which shop. After lunch, we helped clean up the trails at the beginning East/West Fork and spruce up the landscaping around the kiosks at the bridge to Lincoln Woods Trail.                            

Friday (06/05) we returned back to usual campground patrol starting at Hancock. We always stop in to the host site before attempting rounds in case the hosts know of any incidents that might be of our concern. Just our luck, there was a bear incident the night before because coolers were left out. We confronted the campsite and informed a group of older gentlemen, uncooperative and cement in their ways, that they needed to keep their 5 coolers away at any time they are not actively eating. When asked for descriptions of the bear and the incident they were very short and didn't give much detail. We took what little notes we obtained and wrote up an incident report. We traveled to the other campgrounds along the Kank; Big Rock, Passaconway, Jigger Johnson, Blackberry Crossing, and Covered Bridge and patrolled there without conflicts or food storage negligence. We returned later to Hancock in the afternoon before we returned back to HQ and found that the gentlemen at the same campsite had not put their food away. We radioed an LEO and he came to give them a citation. They also were ignorant towards him and left the campground. If we hadn't been there to patrol the camps, the first bear incident of the season would have been lately assessed or the campers may have left the area.

Saturday (06/06) we patrolled again, as the weekends are the target times for influx of campers. We stopped by Hancock and spoke to the host. That morning he found evidence of a bear incident. A car was not locked and an animal (most likely a bear) opened the doors and strew out a pack and grocery bags. An empty bread bag was found on the ground. We wrote this up in another incident report, but the party had left the camp before we got there. The second incident of the season.

Sunday (06/07) was the greatest day of the job thus far. We had a 0330 report time at Old Bridle Path to conduct a High Elevation Bird survey with Clara on Mt. Lafayette. We climbed the ridge about 1.5 hours in before we got to our first survey point at about 3000 ft up. At each waypoint, we documented % canopy closure, sky, wind, temp, moisture descriptions and listened for bird calls to identify the species heard within a 50ft radius of the marker tree. Before making it to the peak at survey point 9, where the AMC Greenleaf hut was located, we heard 3 Bicknell's Thrush. A total of 15 waypoints, with about 660ft between each point, we had to finish by 11. We finished at 1030 and were out of the trail at exactly 1200. A little over 4000 ft elevation at the top of the ridge and a total of 5.6 miles of trail. Some species that we were able to identify were the American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Winter Wren, Bicknell's Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Blue Jay, and Boreal Chickadee.

I'm glad the way the season is turning out. I feel I'm making a lot of progress for the Forest Service and doing my part to minimize the nuisance bear problem. I can't wait to go on more high elevation bird surveys and ride the tramway up Cannon Mtn. I'm learning to manage other people's stress along with my own...and am really testing my ability to tolerate crew dynamics for the sake of an awesome experience.

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