Bears and Cold Winters
September 22, 2006
I saw a juvenile black bear on the Dickey Ridge trail at Shenandoah National Park on Monday (my flex). Seeing the bear spurred me to read up on bears some more and I learned that cold winters are actually good for bears. Deer die in large numbers during cold, snowy winters and the bears then wake up to a decent source of meat--dead deer.
Has anyone more knowledgeable than me about wildlife heard of this theory--i.e. that cold, snowy winters are good for the bear population.
A few years ago I took a guided backcountry trip in Rogers Pass, BC, which gets more snow than anyplace else in Canada, 800 inches average. It also has the most avalanches. A Canadian Army artillery unit is stationed there to shoot down potential avalanches before they start and there are massive concrete snowsheds over the trans-Canada Highway.
My guide kept pointing out places with names like Grizzly Peak, Bruin pass, Balu Pass. Finally I asked about bears and he said that the area has the highest concentration of grizzlies in Canada. The reason is that they have a feast waiting for them when they wake up in May. Hundreds of mountain goats are buried in avalanches every winter. An adult grizzly can dig through 20 feet of compacted icy avalanche debris in a few minutes. I don't want to meet a creature that can do that, especially if they haven't eaten all winter.
Trip pictures here;http://www.uvm.edu/skivt-l/?Page=./world/Bogan_in_BC/003.jpg&dir=./world/Bogan_in_BC
I don't want to meet a creature that can do that, especially if they haven't eaten all winter.
That's not all they haven't done all winter... I'm not quite as well-traveled as Denis, especially off the beaten paths, but I remember our snowmobile guide at Yellowstone explaining how bears will, right before napping for the winter, eat a whole bunch of pinecones and other large objects to, um, serve as a drain stop for, well, you know... I'm not sure which of nature's impulses is more important, eating or ... You may be safe for the first 20 minutes post-wakeup, provided the blast wave doesn't get you first.
they are very active now at the shoe...hitting on the impulse of loading up the fat layer for the long power nap.
they are always very active in the surrounding quiter complexes (the guy who frequents our complex dumpster has his own nickname and follows a normal schedule- the side doors are chained but he goes straight thru the top cover) but are getting very bold- last wknd at the brews/bbq fest there were several running b/w the village and south mountain around 5-6pm, probably on their normal route. the village was crowded with the end of the festival and the security patrol was going ballistic trying to herd them away from the village/crowds. the patrol estimates the big one at about 400 pounds and he has been giving them lots of action lately.
the bbq fest and the immigrants outside employee housing (behind wildcat) grilling fresh flesh all day was probably driving their olfactory glands senseless. i like to think they were coming for the microbrews. the patrol guys made the workers stop cooking (funny how they didnt stop the bbq fest).
mon eve was one of those classic shoe nights...cool damp air and tons of fog for limited visibility. i come stumbling out of f'fire about 11:30, down the steps and freeze- about 15 feet in front i saw something moving, the light colored snout. it was the big bugger who was just rounding the corner from the f'fire dumpster and luckily he hadnt noticed me. 2 sec later a guy comes rolling around the corner from 4848 heading right towards him. i yell freeze, bear in front. the bear hears my voice and starts bolting toward the guy. he naturally freaks, and bolts like hell around the corner and down the stairs to the bus stop with a bear in pursuit. i slowly drop back and follow the bear down to shavers where hes climbing up into another veritable dumpster buffet. my walk home on the pedestrian trail was the longest mile- every tree creek with the wind had me about to bolt.
Thanks for the insights guys. I guess what I read is correct. Flanary, is the DNT trying to trap bears at Shoe and move them?
At T-Line, they are causing some property damage. I was told by a local contractor that they are wandering around houses looking for the "dumpster special."
All I know is that something fairly big pushed down a couple sections of my split rail fence some time in the past couple of weeks.
unaware of any efforts to trap, relocate, and release.
not sure when bear season starts, but u sure as hell cant find a contractor anywhere around and i hear the student population drops dramatically, especially opening week.
look closely as u drive thru cass- check for dog crates in the yards and pickups, then scan the gutted bears hanging from the trees. a contractors wife told me she doesnt see him for about the entire season and customer calls are of no relevance.
a friend who owns a rental gig told me that their cleaning crew was on a w'ridge house two yrs ago and were chased upstairs to the 2nd level and had to lock themselves in a bedroom for 3+ hours with no phone to call for backup. they were rescued when the boss came looking for them. the departing guests and the c'crew had left the 'buffet bags' on the front porch and in the kitchen, just inside the open door.
i tell all my guests, and have to constantly remind myself, to clean out every scrap of food & related bags (which is hell now with kids) from the vehicle. if u've seen the claw marks on a steel dumpster, i dont want to even think of what would happen to my suv. u leave dc and think your car is safe on the mtn, then later only wish your radio was snatched after seeing the damage these guys can do. i also shut and lock my ground level windows when i bump out to the village, etc. as i dont want my garbage, dog, napping kids, or wife (well, maybe the wife) to be a tasty snack.
my neighbor had some biking buds visit last week and they left a 'treat bag' on the porch only to find it strewn all over creation in the yard 30 feet away. call ahead to get or check out the 'bear smart' visitor pamphlet next time u visit.
regarding the bears.... They usually don't bother you unless you are messing with their food source or they have a cub in tow. I have "shoed" them out of my yard at my home in SW Culpeper county on numerous occasions this summer. Consequently, I haven't had a problem of them discovering our trash cans but that can change in a heart beat. In the valley we used to have the bear issue when we had a dumpster at Northwoods. We then upscaled to a compactor which prevented them from having a smorgassboard feast everyday. We had to hire someone to make sure that all trash had been put into the compactor on a daily basis. The bears are back now due to Northface homeowners/renters who are leaving trash out on their decks and the t-line lodge's activity with the pub and the trash it produces. We have found trash on our common grounds which are remnants of bandits leaving their trash piled outside of the t-line compactor. It's my understanding that bears that cause problems in VA are being moved to the Sods which in turn has caused an increase in the bear issues around the valley. The problems at the shoe won't go away until they eliminate the dumpsters and go to compactors. This I know from our experiences. There is a reluctance to go to compactors because they are expensive and must have an electrical hook-up.
expensive?- that line item wont happen until someone gets mauled and the lawyers start simmering.
they definitely are easily 'shooed' away- every time i close my door at night(about 70+ yds away and up the hill) i can hear him bolting out of the buffet line with the kaboom of massive weight bending steel. my worst fear is opening the dumpster door and coming face 2 face with him. i dont ever go without my jack, who is small but fierce. check out this little kitty- u can google for the video; http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/06/09/national/main1697234.shtml
a neighbor in my complex was at her bedroom desk one night, got that feeling that someone was watching her, looked up and the bear is peepin in on her two feet away. naturally she freaked as she was alone in the house (this started my window closings).
ill always bow down to a wild animal, u just never know how they will act if u startle them. i always walk fast and quiet, not a good recipe if u stumble up on one- especially w/ that cub or the leftovers. just last week my jack was doing his daily bolt after the deer, which happened to be a doe- out of the corner of my eye i see her partner with antlers and he started charging my dog until i yelled and he bolted.
just that friday a r'fire owner from b'more came in as i was getting my s'pass and he was asking about bears in the village. i told him he had nothing to worry about, then had my incident on mon nite.
I think Kim hit the nail on the head about trash. If you solve the trash problem, you solve the bear problem. Also, for Pete's sake, no one should be grilling salmon. That really attracts these critters.