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Thar be bears

 
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Black bears get pretty big and heavy, but leave surprisingly little by way of tracks.  Their pads are broad, and unless the ground is vey soft, the claws don't seem to dig into the soil.  On occasion after a good rain, I see tracks left behind in the wet clay.  Have only come across bears in the woods one time, on a trail along the creek.  I saw a big black bear bound across the trail and head up the hill.  I froze, trying to decide if it was gone, and thus safe to proceed, or if I should return from where I came, which could potentially take me toward the direction the bear was heading.  As I pondered, I saw a fuzzy little head half way up a cedar tree just ahead of me peek around at me, and that made the decision easy - no way was I getting between Momma and baby!  I quickly turned around and backtracked.  Just glad my indecision paid off for a change!

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Tracks
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More tracks
 
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Oh my!!
I found bear scat on my place, haven't seen the bear yet, don't live there yet. Neighbors took a picture of a black bear eating out of their bird feeder, it made the newspaper, apparently they aren't common around here, at least not these days.  Part of me looks forward to seeing it, part of me thinks that part is insane! :D
 
pollinator
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Bear Etiquette: as a general rule, bears have no desire to be in contact with humans, and will avoid people given the opportunity. The key with bears is to NOT startle them and, as the original poster noted, don't get between a Mum (sow) and her cubs.

Bears have lousy eyesight, but great hearing and a fantastic sense of smell.

The trick is to "make noise" whether it is talking, singing, the use of bear bells etc., to ensure the bear(s) know you are coming. IF you end up face to face with a bear DO NOT challenge the bear in any way: no eye contact, no quick movements, no yelling. Just slowly, and quietly back away. Treat them like that grumpy relative you run into at family gatherings - be respectful, but do not engage, and remove yourself from the situation as quickly, quietly and politely as possible.  

IF a bear is startled or feels threatened, it may charge, DO NOT RUN (no human can out run a bear, and even more important, this will incite their prey drive), or try to "climb a tree" (all bears climb much better than humans or will simply push the tree over). Hard (or insane) as it sounds, you must stand your ground, this is almost always a "mock charge" and will stop before it gets to you.

On the very rare instance that the bear is "not right" (sick, injured, mentally deranged) and an attack did occur there are two options. Initially, roll into a ball and protect head and belly, often after a few swats with no resistance they will back off; if this is an attack of deadly intent, GO FOR THE EYES, jab, poke, throw dirt, ANYTHING TO BLIND THEM OR CAUSE PAIN TO DISTRACT THEM...fight for your life.

Personally, I am not a fan of bear spray.  I just can't see myself a) successfully grabbing it and in a panic, trying to deploy it; or b) remember to first assess which way the wind was blowing to ensure I didn't spray myself!

THE ABOVE WILL NOT WORK FOR COUGARS. Cougars are stalkers, and attracted by both erratic movement and high pitched voices (children/dogs), once locked on, just like a house cat, they will pounce. If sighted, instantly pick up any child (put on your shoulders to make you look large) or pet.

Treat a cougar like the obnoxious, mouthy, teenager at the mall: BE aggressive, yell (not scream), advance, grab sticks to throw or make your raised, waving arms look bigger. NEVER RUN (just remember what a house cat does when it spies a moving target or tossed toy!), do NOT incite it's prey drive. Remember that mocking childhood phrase "Fraidy Cat", and scare the crap out of the cougar.

IF ATTACKED, AS WITH A BEAR, FIGHT (again, go for the eyes and attempt to blind or cause pain) YOUR LIFE LITERALLY DEPENDS ON IT!

Generally, though, serious bear attacks are VERY rare, and cougar attacks even more rare. The key to a safe bear encounter is to simply remain calm, retreat slowly, quietly and respectfully. The key to a safe cougar encounter is to be aggressive and scary.

Respect a bear. Bully a cougar.
 
Artie Scott
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Great advice, Lorinne!  The most surprising thing to me in the whole encounter was just how quick, agile and athletic the rather large bear was - had always heard how fast they could run, so I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, but it was impressive.  A funny story related to one of your points - I was discussing with a neighbor, and mentioned that maybe I should wear a bell out in the woods.  He laughed and said "You know what we call that around here, don;t you? A dinner bell!"  But you are right, when it comes to back bears, they are very shy, and always best to let them know well in advance that you are coming so they can move off.  

Pearl, have been here 5 years, and that was the only sighting, despite finding bear scat as well and prints from time to time.  They truly are very shy, and I think it was just a fluke that I came upon them that day.  
 
Posts: 101
Location: California Zone 10b / Wyoming Zone 3b
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I am a big advocate for bear spray (though I'm in Grizzly country) as the research has shown its really effective.  There have been multiple maulings in Park Country Wyoming in recent years so when we go fishing we go out literally loaded for bear; everybody caries bear spray and my buddy and I are both armed with large revolvers.  

Bear spray is more effective than guns but given the high winds we get I'd rather have the option.
 
pollinator
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I've spent many nights in the bush over the years, and a fair number of those in Algonquin Park.  Oddly enough, I've only actually seen a bear in Algonquin Park once, and that was 3 years ago as we drove through the park on the way home from a trip.  I've had them come through the camp site several times, but I keep a clean site and I generally canoe trip well off the beaten path, so the bears don't associate people with easy food like they do at the car camp sites.  I've also seen lots of scat in Algonquin, but only that one bear.

I've seen them on other trips, though.  Around Temagami they are bolder as most lakes are open to motor boats and the bears there have learned that people have food.  On one trip in Killarney, I went for a hike and found a patch of raspberries.  I was picking them for about half an hour, mostly bent over.  I stood up tall (well, as tall as I can) to stretch and, about 50 yards away, a bear did the same just after I did.  We stared at each other for several seconds, then both crouched down at the same time.  I stayed down for about five minutes, then stood back up to see if the coast was clear.  The bear did the same thing, and we both crouched down again.  That was enough for me, so I slinked off while still crouched down.  I don't know which one of us was more surprised, but it was an awesome encounter.

I take food cautions seriously, but I don't really worry about bears, even when they're in the camp when I'm in the tent.  When I was camping out in BC I had a cougar sniffing around the tent, and that scared the hell out of me.  I stayed quiet and it left after a couple of minutes, but I was ready to make a lot of noise.  The animal I'm most worried about is moose.  I've had several encounters with them including getting between a cow and her calf and having to climb a tree to get away from a bull.  Mostly they're pretty chill, but they can do a lot of damage if so inclined.  I've also had a pack of coyotes shadow me on both sides of the portage at dusk, which is disconcerting, to say the least.  One of the weirdest encounters I've had was getting dive-bombed by two seagulls when our canoe got too close to the nest they'd made on about a square foot of rock that was maybe 6" above the water.  They kept it up for about 10 minutes until we were far enough away for comfort.  
 
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There's a sow on the farm here-- she has twins this year. She has lived here for years so to accommodate her, good quality habitat and natural food sources are important. I have bees, so the hives are located inside a fenced area that my dogs frequent. So far, she hasn't felt the need to raid the hives in the last 10 years. Just love my bears!
 
Lorinne Anderson
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"getting dive-bombed by two seagulls "...most birds do this, Crows and Owls can be particularly threatening. In a lot of urban areas they have to post warning signs to ensure they are given a wide berth.

When folks have them on their property I recommend the use of umbrellas to shield the humans! It is not just the nest either, these larger birds spend weeks (2-4) out of the nest, often on the ground, while their flight feathers grow in and the muscles develop sufficiently for sustained flight.
 
Timothy Markus
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When I was a kid I used to golf.  On one hole I hit a ball that landed about 20 feet away from a Canada Goose nest.  When I tried to get close to it, I was chased away by the geese, so I left it.  After a few weeks there were about a dozen balls near the nest and the pro shop had put up a sign about a penalty-free drop around the nest.  

I made some money finding and selling balls to the adults, so I had my eyes on them for a while, but one of the other kids was the first to find the nest unguarded as the geese and goslings hit the water for the first time.

The seagulls were a surprise because the nest was about 100 yards from shore and we didn't know about it until they'd attacked.
 
pollinator
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Barbara Martin wrote:There's a sow on the farm here-- she has twins this year. She has lived here for years so to accommodate her, good quality habitat and natural food sources are important. I have bees, so the hives are located inside a fenced area that my dogs frequent. So far, she hasn't felt the need to raid the hives in the last 10 years. Just love my bears!



I generally see having bear as a great sign of a of thriving ecosystem. For a omnivore like a bear to live in an area, it shows the ecosystem is doing well and providing enough calories for the animal. having a bear on your property to me is a way to help judge the health and prosperity of your place. For you Barbara, that the hives haven't even been raided is a great sign of how supportive the land is, the momma bear feels no need to look for food at your place.

I have bears in my area, and a young bear and I had a nice conversation about not eating the brown trout I put into my pond last year. He came up to me within 5 ft before I told him to stop and we just just hung out for about 5 min checking eachother out. I think it was his 1st year away from mom, and he was a little lonely. Here is a video I of him a couple days later.



I then saw the bear on my place the next day, but it seemed to have had a bad experience with humans and ran off as fast as it could up hill. I suspect it got the bad experience down in the orchards bellow my property.

I suspect the bear has a den on my property, and I give it a wide berth generally as he has yet to invite me over for tea.

Thankfully a neighbor who let his dogs run the mountain moved off the hill last fall, and now the wild game is coming back in force without the dogs running them away. Hopefully this will benefit my bear friend a lot.

A lot of people seem to get scared and worried about bear, but in general I find them a wonderful part of nature and one to be happy to have in your area. Yes respect them, but generally bear follow normal behaviors that are predicable. It is humans and wild dogs I find the scariest out in the wild. They tend to behave weird and unpredictable.
 
pollinator
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I finally captured our local bears on our game cam. The spring of 2018. They wander through now and then but haven't really seen any sign of them for about three years.
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Gamecam pic of sow and three cubs 2018
 
Artie Scott
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Great pic Miles!  Bears on parade!  Definitely need to get a game cam set up, maybe put out a salt/mineral block in front of it.
 
Devin Lavign
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So I put together a video of some game cam vids. Caught some bear, a cougar, and lots of turkey.



I had another game cam that caught a mamma black bear and her cub, but most of the shots were mamma adjusting the cam and pretty much blocking the view most of the time.
 
pollinator
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I got quite a few bear pictures on my land this year.  Here are a few.
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Artie Scott
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Awesome video, Devin!  Not sure why, but the mountain lion seems scarier to me than the bears!  Just the way they can stalk, and pounce from above... They seem to eat a California jogger every so often.

Trace, great bear pics - you figure they are all the same bear, or more than one?
 
Trace Oswald
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Artie Scott wrote:Awesome video, Devin!  Not sure why, but the mountain lion seems scarier to me than the bears!  Just the way they can stalk, and pounce from above... They seem to eat a California jogger every so often.

Trace, great bear pics - you figure they are all the same bear, or more than one?



I believe I have two. In some pictures, one seems much larger than the other, and one seems to have a lighter colored face, but lighting, distance, shadows could just be making it look that way.
 
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Over my time doing work in remote forests and hiking for fun I have run across bears a few times. Most of the time they just run away but once I got to get real close to 3 bears--a momma with 2 cubs.

I was hiking a trail by myself and right as I came around a bend in the trail that curved around a rock formation I heard some sounds off to my left. I turned my head to look and looking back at me from only 20 feet away was a momma bear with 2 small cubs.

The mom was just watching me so I turned my head back towards the trail and just kept on walking. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her watching me. But she never made any warning sounds or motions so I just kept going.

Soon my back was turned to her but I was not worried since I could hear that she had gone back to looking for bugs in a log. I kept going up the trail a ways and eventually slowly turned back to see what the bear family was up to.

They were still going for bugs in the log and not paying me any attention so I sat down and using my binoculars I watched them for a while. It was really fun watching them play and get bugs. They never looked back towards me. I think I had shown the mom through my actions that I was not a threat.

I have had a lot of training on how to deal with bears due to my work which often takes me into remote areas by myself. So I knew what signs to watch for and how to be safe around bears and other large predators. I also made sure to keep my body relaxed through it all so that my body language would say I'm no threat and I'm not worried or even interested in you.

That moment with the 3 bears has stayed with me and is one of my best memories from my time in remote areas. But none of my experiences with predators have ever made me worried. I view each as a glimpse into the life of animals I rarely get to see.

I do carry bear spray and I have practiced using it so I can be quick on the draw and know how to us it correctly. But I have never even needed to pull it off of my belt.

I really enjoy the times I get to see large predators out in the wild. Those moments really are not that common.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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I SO agree with Daron - these animals should not be feared, but treated with respect and awe.

I get a lot of calls from folks "reporting" seeing a bear or cougar - I always assess how the animal reacted to the encounter (aggressive, indifferent, ran away) - but rarely recommend notifying the game warden. Around here a reported bear/cougar means a very high chance of a dead animal. If someone reports an encounter it is generally deemed to be a "danger" and must be "removed".

I will go through predator safety, ensure they feel safe, and then congratulate them on their good fortune, having the honor of seeing one of these apex predators.
 
Trace Oswald
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Daron Williams wrote:

That moment with the 3 bears has stayed with me and is one of my best memories from my time in remote areas. But none of my experiences with predators have ever made me worried. I view each as a glimpse into the life of animals I rarely get to see. ...


I really enjoy the times I get to see large predators out in the wild. Those moments really are not that common.



I feel very much the same way.  I have seen one of "my" bears once in person.  It was about 15 feet off the driveway as I was driving out.  I rolled down my window and watched for a while until the bear stopped looking at me and then just turned around and ambled off.  It was beautiful.
 
Devin Lavign
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Artie Scott wrote:Awesome video, Devin!  Not sure why, but the mountain lion seems scarier to me than the bears!  Just the way they can stalk, and pounce from above... They seem to eat a California jogger every so often.

Trace, great bear pics - you figure they are all the same bear, or more than one?



Only animals that scare me in the wilderness are humans and dogs, as they will often behave irrationally.

Cougar go after joggers as it is a natural instinct for them to chase anything moving fast. They just can't help but chase something running away. We humans are not their normal prey though, and they would prefer to avoid us rather than hunt us. They are stealthy though, which is why I was excited to finally catch one in that video. I knew they were around, but had not seen one or even any sign of one.

As for bear, the one in my first video I had up on my place and within 5 feet of me. Just hanging out and chatting. No fear or aggression. It was it's first year alone and I think it just liked having a friend.
 
Devin Lavign
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Something I don't see mentioned enough, is how seeing large predators is a positive sign of a healthy ecosystem.

When you see predators it means everything (animals and plants) under that apex predator is in good numbers to support that predator.

These predators then help the ecosystem by culling the sick, injured, and elderly. Keeping the prey species healthier. They also in the case of wolves effect prey behavior, with prey forming a herd rather than spreading out separately. This dramatically changes for the positive how the prey impact the ecosystem, as was seen in Yellowstone with the return of wolves.

A lot of good is done by a healthy predator presence. Sadly humans have this insane idea they must remove predators instead of learning how to coexists with them.
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