Thursday, December 31, 2015

Investigating Ursus Part 2 (T.o.P. for Christmas)

Have a Happy New Year! This will be the last blog entry of the year, but I hope to get back to a few things I want to discuss in early 2016!

In part one in the previous blog I covered what I thought was important about the issue of bear attacks. A lot more can be said since whole books have been written on the subject. My concern is how the media and other people portray these animals as if they are always looking for humans to eat and always ready for the attack. Today I am going to go over my most recent bear encounter.

I've talked about bears in the past on this blog. I'd say in the past 10 years or so I have seen a bear almost every year in the High Sierra. What typically happens is they see me and then they go away quickly. I have lots of stories of me near a bear, and I would just happen to not have my camera along. Those stories are fun, but I'm going to go right to this one.

On this day I had just gotten home from a morning hike. I was resting in a chair looking toward the screen door. It was very quiet. Then I heard a quick sound like someone walking up just outside the door. Then looking through the screen door I saw the side face of a dog without the body just pausing there. I thought, "Oh someone is outside, but why are they letting there dog up here." The the "dog" moved in front of the door into the front of the porch. I realized it was a black bear. Surprised, I scrambled upstairs to get my camcorder. When I got back I hit the record button, and that is what you see that starts the video.

When the bear was in front of the door I wanted to test it to see what I was dealing with. So, I made a few noises and then said what I said to see how it would react (and partly to humor the viewer). As you see in the video the bear showed a sign of fear there which I knew was a good thing. It was associating a human's voice with danger. I knew that I could probably scare it off with my voice so that's why I kept very quiet throughout the rest of the video.

This is hard to describe without you knowing the area, but I will try. What you don't see in this video is it went behind my place then crossed down to some neighbors homes. My neighbor on the other side saw it as it headed down a different road. Meanwhile, I got my camera. Then, I went down that road, and I had thought I lost it. Eventually, it came back and was on my property again. That's where the video continues.

You see it knocking away that tree stump to get to the grubs and any other tasty things in it. That is a rather common thing for a bear to do in its search for food. It spent some time there doing that. It then ended up at another neighbors home that had the bird feeder hanging from the wire.

At this point I should mention I already knew about it being afraid of human voices, but I was curious about how close it would get to me. I found out it would allow me to get with about 15-20 feet, and it would start to groan if I was closer. I took that as its way of telling me that it didn't like me closer than that safety distance. I had experienced that type of groan before so I kind of knew. It was fine with me hanging out with it, but nothing closer than that. It wasn't really watching me that much. The pictures are only some of the few instances that it glanced at me.

It then made three attempts to get what was inside that bird feeder. Originally, it kept swinging at it, then would drop down, eat what had come out of it on the ground, and then get back up and try again. I was just about to leave because I thought I had spent enough time with the animal. So I started walking back, and looked back at different angle. That was the final shot where it actually got good leverage on the bird feeder to take it down. I left right after that final video take.

After I thought about it, I felt kind of bad for my neighbor that I kind of let it trash their bird feeder like that. I could have scared it off. Had it been doing something to the actual home or trashing something really valuable then I might have acted. The issue though in my mind was even if I had scared it off it probably would have come back eventually when I was not around.

I was just glad the circumstances worked out for this time to get some pictures and video of this animal. Deer, squirrels, chipmunks, and Steller's Jays are very common animals around there. Bears are little less common, but are around. We usually see trash knocked over at some of the local campgrounds. I was laughing because last month the snow was on the ground, and there were fresh bear tracks all over the place that I didn't think they would be during November. I was up high in the back country on Thanksgiving Day a few years ago. My brother and I heard that groaning sound I mentioned earlier in the distance. That I understand, but wandering around when you would think it is hibernating is something I didn't expect.

You do hear stories about black bears in December:

Black Bear Rides for 65 Miles

New Jersey Boy Scout Leader Attacked by Bear

My video:
Investigating Ursus