Monday, July 13, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Eight

Monday (7/6) through Wednesday (7/8) I was not feeling so great so I took Wednesday off as a sick day. Was lucky enough that Mon/Tues were already my days off after the busy weekend. 

Thursday (7/9) we were patrolling the Kanc all day, got into many in depth conversations with multiple sites of older folks at Covered Bridge, previously experienced backpackers but were well retired. They had a lot to say and we had a good time talking about bear and moose encounters they've experienced. When arriving at Hancock, we caught wind that a bear had walked through the campground just an hour earlier. Starting to think this whole thing is a hoax... However, I am confident I will see at least one bear before I leave this internship! 

Friday (7/10) we followed up with Covered Bridge and Blackberry Crossing area. Covered Bridge had a sighting of a bear reported by the host at his own site. The host had a box with their Cornhole game in it. Unfortunately, the bags contained corn and were left out overnight. The wife mentioned she saw the bear through the woods that night. In the morning the bags were found ripped open and a few were missing from the box. They also stated they saw the fox that night. We are certain it was the bear that took the corn bags and ran. We patrolled the Kanc until 1630 and realized we didn't have time to stop at Russell Pond which was going to be our last routine visit. After we returned home we found an email of an incident report that occurred at Russell Pond campground that morning and the night before (7/9) A large ~450lb male bear came through two campsites between the hours of 2300 and 0200 hrs. The first site (C9) had all food properly secured. However, their storage container holding tools, lamps, etc which resembled a cooler was torn into. The party yelled at the bear and it left but kept returning to the site throughout the night. 

Saturday (7/11) we returned to Russell Pond with Clara to follow up on the second incident and also brought a Bear Alert Sign with us to post up at the front entrance. This second site that was approached by the bear (F3) was where the bear received the food reward. It had rained the night of 7/9 and the occupant's daughters decided to have smores after their he (father) went to bed. The rain started and they retreated to their tents, leaving out the marshmellows and cookies. The bear came into their site and ate the marshmellows. The father, an experienced hunter, did all he could to scare it away made loud noises, set off his car alarm. The bear was persistent and stayed near. The bear was weaving his head and apparently bluff charged at the guy. It took the neighbor's revving of a motorcycle to get the bear to leave. The bear returned in the morning when the occupant of site F3 went to retrieve his cooler from his truck cab where it was properly stored. The bear came down again into his site at ~0730 hrs and flipped open his cooler the guy tried to scare it away but it maintained the same boldness as to claim his territory and his food. The bear would not leave the site again until about 15 min of deterring from the occupant (throwing rocks at other boulders to make loud noises) the bear stayed within the woods and meandered up his usual route. These two sites are along a wooded ridge line on the western side of the campground. Apparently this is the normal route for the bear to travel. After re-interviewing the occupant we understood the behavior from this bear, though persistent, was more of a defensive behavior than an aggressive behavior. There was no intent on harming the humans (ears laid back, snapping or teeth clacking, intense staring), it was purely an action towards the food he was so conditioned to. This bear has a very comfortable association with humans and their food, meaning he has lost his natural fear. Clara is thinking that this is the same large bear from Hancock that was deterred from that area last year.

We spent the rest of the day on hazing patrol around Russell Pond with our vests and gear (15mm bird banger, bear pepper spray, safety glasses, whistle, cans of rocks) and hoped to be able to deter the bear if sighted. We did not see the bear that day but left our sent along his game trail behind site F3 where he frequented. We didn't have ammonia with us to put down around the area (their noses are quite sensitive to it) so we sprayed some bear pepper spray on a rock away from the campsite and in the direction of wind. Hopefully leaving our scent will keep him out of the wooded area. 

Sunday (7/12) we continued to patrol the area of Russell Pond and found some problem sites from yesterday that didn't seem to get the hint. We brought in some FPOs that were in the area so they could write up citations for unattended coolers. A lot of people were packing up so most had their belongings out but it was good to hear that there were no other bear incidents the night before. 

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