Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All About Bears and Living With Them


Bear Attacks Campground Closures in Yellowstone Country
I read this story from a link on RVnetwork
about bears attacking people in a campground near Yellowstone national Park. The following was my reply to concerns about bears eating people and how to act in bear country.

Being from black bear country, one has only a false sense of security in a hard side camper, a determined bear can open any structure it wishes to. I have seen houses, trailers and cars opened up like cheap cans.

Case in point: Bear eats car on Youtube and another. these bears had no respect for a locked hard shell.

The best advice is to avoid bear areas that have become used to people being careless with food. Wild areas with little human contact don't present the problems places like Yellowstone has, where the bears have become used to handouts. I recommend avoiding camping in these areas.

Knowing this is not entirely practical, keep your camp and garbage policed for trash of any sort, keep food odors down in your camper by venting well and cleaning the inside walls and ceilings with bleach compounds when entering bear areas for extended stays. This kills the food odor trail. Never keep your trash inside. A loud pet, (inside), is often enough to scare off even the most curious of bears.

I used to cook at a lumber camp as a girl, Fall was the worst time as bears were stoking up for Winter and would even eat canvas tarps suspended over cooking fires. Adolescent males bears who have just been chased off by mom are the most bold and dangerous. Early Spring has it's challenges too as bears emerge and forage.

We cooked outside the Dining Hall under canvas, (which the bears ate one year), and I scrubbed the floors of the barracks and dining hall daily with Lime and bleach, some of the boys wouldn't listen and stashed a bun or two in their bedrolls, only to be awakened to a face to face with a hungry juvenile. One bachelor lumberjack cooked in his log cabin for the Summer, late Fall he found his entire back wall of his kitchen area chewed off, bacon grease being the culprit here....

Use common sense. If there are bear warnings, regard them seriously and move on...guns are a last resort and the chance of someone being seriously injured trying to use a firearm with little practice can cause a lifetime of regret, I never felt the need to use one in bear country because I followed the "no scent" rule, but it doesn't mean I didn't have a gun and the training it takes to use one effectively. Pepper spray is a joke as far as I'm concerned, I've heard many a story about the bear wanting more...the operative rule here is to just avoid close encounters entirely, then you wont have to play dead.

Just a note to add about bear repellent, I had several large bird feeders in my yard for several years that one day the young male bears discovered and for a short while I fought a vain battle in driving them off before just giving up on the bird feeders. It was effective for short term bear removal.

I lived way out in the woods where the only human contact you have with bears is the occasional bear rambling across your property, true wild bears aren't interested in your garbage or other foods, therefore they had no interest in me or my feeders until there was a lean year for forage, (the blueberry crop failed and the patch was in my front yard, we peacefully coexisted even during picking time until the year the berries just failed altogether).

My effective non lethal weapon of choice was a roman candle. This is one of those fireworks you hold in your hand, while it shoots several fireballs out the end. You can direct these fireballs at any given target, in my case, the butt of the retreating bear with my $80.00 bird feeder tucked neatly under it's arm. The fireballs strike the bears in the rump, singes some hair and sends them scurrying in great haste, (yet not enough to get them to drop the bird feeder, which I never found).

If I was to be foolish enough to wander bear country without a weapon, I would carry at least two roman candles and a sure way to light them. One for Shock & Awe, the second for reinforcement as needed. I would also by several in a batch and pretest a few to make sure I didn't have a dud bunch. I also would not use this weapon in a fire danger area, starting a forest fire may drive bears away, but it could have worse consequences.

Again, I say just pass up bear country where they have become accustomed to human food, but if you really need something that works, the roman candle can be your best friend.
Another note, honey is not a bears favorite food, despite what Winnie the Pooh says, since bears have discovered peanut butter there is no going back. If all else fails, toss an opened jar of Skippy's at them and they will forget all about you, you will have several hours to get away as they go for it like catnip and spend ages licking every trace of it out of the jar.

Oh, and one more note, clanging pans and shouting just amuses them.

After making these posts I reread the article and a few others I googled, it seems incredible to me that after a lifetime of communing with bears, (essentially leaving them alone), that these attacks were possible, these are not the bruins I know....
Well, it didn't take long to find out that there are two such horrific attacks on campers in the Yellowstone area where the bears run through camp attacking any and all.

Both involved bears who had been captured and relocated.

It seems to me that the bears were acclimated to humans and their food, then were enough of a threat to be shot full of tranquilizer, caged, examined and then transported to an area and released.

Could it be that once used to being "Beggar Bears",(as we called the dumpster diving bears in our day), that they forget how to forage in a wilderness environment and then return to human encampments seeking food only to be rebuffed and then enraged?

Could it be Payback? Tests have been done on mammals where one animal is given consistently more food in the presence of another. It doesn't take long for the slighted to feel neglected and for them to take retribution on the one who receives special treatment. Even rodents have a sense of justice and fairness.

These are questions that must be addressed.

Until then be smart about bear behavior and stay off their turf, there are plenty of places to go without intruding on their very limited habitat.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...