Monday, August 3, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Ten

Headed back to patrol on Wednesday (07/29) we filed some incident reports to cover the specific happenings at Hancock from the previous Thursday. In office, we took inventory of hazing equipment and refilled hazing kits complete with bird banger, cartridges, blanks, eyewash bottle, bear pepper spray, safety glasses, rock bottle, whistle, and air horns.

We drove through Hancock and spoke with the Host to make certain there were no more incidents that happened while we were off. Then we headed over to follow up with Fourth Iron Tentsite. About 1/5th of a mile walk in we came in with all of our hazing gear in a backpack and began checking in with the occupied sites at 1415 hrs. As we made it to the backside sites, a young gentlemen approached us running and asked if we worked here, there was a bear in his campsite. We ran over to tentsite 8 saw a juvenile bear (~1.5 years old) pulling a garbage bag towards a tree. With intial intensity we began shouting at him "Go away bear!", arms in the air, advancing on him to push him into the woods. He immediately took defense climbing up an double-trunked Maple and ricocheted between the two trunks 'til he was about 20 feet up. We were still yelling at him throwing rock bottles at the tree to scare him down. He stayed there for a good five minutes, so we got our vests on and suited up with all of the aforementioned equipment.

We finally got a hold of the air horns and the bird banger. I sounded off the air horn, still yelling, while Emily loaded the bird banger. He descended from the tree and walked into the woodline, looking back at us every couple of feet. We followed him into the forest and shot off three rounds of the pyrotechnics. We planned to stay at the site until 1730 or until the Saco district biologist showed up. The second time a bear entered the site it appeared smaller and quickly ran away directly after I sounded off the airhorn. I approached the bear trying to pressure it deeper into the woods. Lost sight of the smaller bear but saw a larger bear following the small one towards the river, through the raspberry thickets. Emily loaded and cocked her gun and shot off two rounds. Where she was at the other corner of the campsite, she saw the juvenile. We hazed what appeared to be three individuals into the woods. The adult bear and probably this years cub headed towards the river and the juvenile went deeper into the forest. The juvenile returned another 3 times after the first deterrence, alternating his entrance at each side of campsite 8. 
He was a very stubborn and opportunistic bear, definitely triggered by the opening and closing of the bear box and the aroma of cooking food. Because this lack of fear and conditioned behavior is generational, the juvenile must have learned from his mother. Seeing this year's cub with the adult, but the juvenile on a solo mission to forage, I suspect that the mother has pushed out the juvenile from her care, as the juvenile has matured enough to fend for himself. The cubs only stay with their mother for the first year of their lives. His persistent, bold behavior communicates that he is trying to claim his dominance in the hierarchy. We will keep priority on Fourth Iron Tentsite throughout this last week of our patrol. 

Thursday (07/30) we visited Fourth Iron again and stayed for about two hours. checking all the sites for proper food storage, speaking to a lot of occupants and visitors about the juvenile bear from the day before, and walking perimeters of the site and woodlines. The bear did not return. We drove back towards the Kanc and made contact with Passaconway, Jigger Johnson, and Hancock, leaving food storage notices at unoccupied sites that had coolers visible. 

Friday (07/31) we did the same patrol/drive-thrus around Hancock and Passaconway and then headed up to Fourth Iron. Upon entering we found a problem site with five coolers out in the open, bear box not secured, cans/trash everywhere and food left out on the table. 


The occupants were across the beach sunbathing, so we called them over to take care of the mess. They were compliant but were spoken to by us the day before and also by a Saco Forest Protection Officer that same morning. We made contact with five out of the eight sites about food storage and the bear issue. We spent about 2 hours there and didn't encounter the juvenile bear, so we started walking back to the vehicle. Along the trail we stopped to have lunch on the rocks near the river. Sure enough, as soon as we opened our lunchboxes, the juvenile was crossing the river. We threw on our gear and tried to block him off from the trail. We warned people to stay where they were on the beach so as not to get in the path of the bear. I shot off a pyrotechnic and he retreated to the other side of the ridge. We tried to pressure him back across the river so he was not near the campsites, yelling and sounding the air horn the whole time. We lost sight of him for a moment and about 50 yards away from us he crossed the trail into the woods. We followed him but ceased fire and the air horns. We wanted to get closer so we would have a good distance to pepper spray him but we never got close enough. He took off into the forest line on the other side of the campsites, so we stayed around because we knew he would be back. We made contact with Saco district station and they informed us that the camp would be closed the next morning. We let the occupants know that night was camp at your own risk and everyone must leave tomorrow. We made it back to headquarters a little later than expected and made contact with Saco biologist about the whereabouts of the bear.

Saturday (08/01) was our last day of patrol through the Kanc and we ended at the northern campgrounds, Zealand and Sugarloaf I&II, where there were only a small number of food storage violations. We went back to head quarters to clean out the vehicle, laminate signs, and get our equipment for the following Tuesday (08/04) when we will be electrofishing!

1 comment:

Nicole Collins said...

Sounds like an exciting day!