Last week was our vacation time so I spent my time back in Unity, ME to catch up with friends. While we were away, we heard nothing of bear incidents which we were really happy about! This week heading back into the routine (7/22) we started out at Russell Pond Campground since that was where the last bear incident occurred. The campground was about half full and didn't have many problem sites, which was a good change from the last time we visited. The large male bear had returned the night before around 2200 hrs. He entered further into the campground from his game trail but did not receive food rewards or perform unnatural behaviors. A group of campers with flashlights were looking for him in the woods after he was shooed away, and the hosts reminded them to keep their distance. It was good for them to deter the bear away from the campsites but to agitate it more in his already unstable condition would be dangerous. We spoke with some folks about the food storage policy and many had already been informed by the hosts so we went to Hancock and Big Rock Campground. There were no sightings or incidents.
Around lunch time, we had a meeting with the other Unity interns, Nicole, Justin, and one of the supervisors to discuss changes and highlights of the program. Our feedback would provide parameters for next years interns. That went well and we had some great food at Sweet Maple Cafe in North Conway. Afterwards, the two backcountry recreation interns shadowed us on our afternoon patrol around Covered Bridge and Blackberry Crossing Campgrounds.
Thursday (7/23) we had an intern from Puerto Rico join us on patrol through the Kanc Campgrounds and Russell Pond Campground. We did not encounter many problem sites but spoke to a good amount of people; some inquisitive about the bears and others that could care less if they lived or died... When educating the public, both sides of the extreme are met. It's a great test of my patience to understand and enlighten these apathetic people. Educating is first priority when it comes to bear safety and proper food storage. Written citations follow when federal encouragement to properly store food is not acted upon.
Friday (7/24) the forecast didn't give us much to work with as scatter showers surprised us throughout the day and held their ground after lunch. We patrolled the campgrounds starting at Hancock where the host informed us that two bears had been seen. One was described as a juvenile and the other an adult. The larger bear entered a campsite from the river side around 2200 hrs, where a family was cooking. The family deterred the bear, who was obviously attracted by the scent of food, into the campground. While the family cleaned everything up, the bear meandered around the inner loop road of the camp near the woodline and returned twice to the riverside campsite to check up on the original attractant. Campers on the loop road saw both bears at the same time so we were convinced there were two separate bears. Multiple campsites vocally deterred the bear away. They assume both bears exited the campground on the road side.
Over at Big Rock campground, there had been no sightings from the previous night. However, a small group of Eagle scouts mentioned they witnessed a bear opening a dumpster at the Dunkin Donuts on Main St in Lincoln, just west of the Kanc Highway. Their descriptions and pictures identified the bear as a juvenile female, which could very well have been one that had entered Hancock that same night.
Saturday (7/25) we followed up with food storage at Hancock and heard over the radio that a bear had entered some of the dispersed sites at Fourth Iron Tentsite that moment, approximately 1000 hrs. We finished up at Hancock where a lot of people were eating breakfast and made our way over to the Saco district. The biologist there said they hadn't send in an incident report so we went over the Fourth Iron Tentsite to follow up. The large adult sized bear had entered the backside campsites while the occupants where eating breakfast. The bear climbed on their table and began eating their food. The occupants of the site called Saco district ranger station at the time of the incident. When we got out to the backside sites it began to downpour and only one group of campers were on the campground. At the site where the incident occurred, no one was there. The site next to this one had three coolers out and a food scraps (banana peels, grape stems) in their fire pit. Each of these dispersed campsites conveniently have a backcountry bear box where they should be properly storing their food. Because this was an unattended risk site, we put the coolers in the bear box, collected/properly disposed of the food scraps, and left them a food storage notice. Blackberry Crossing also had some food storage issues, so we called an FPO over from the Saco to issue a warning.
Sunday (7/26) was a very foggy and wet day. We started on the Kanc at Hancock Campground and made sure the bears had not returned. Many people leave the campgrounds on Sunday morning before noon so a lot of people had coolers out because they were packing up. We worked our way down the Kanc finding this same situation at the other campgrounds. Along the way we found an FPO who need some assistance with graffiti removal. It, of course, began to downpour. So afterwards we went back to the office to laminate some Bear Alert signs and Picnic Table signs.