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Old 09-10-2022, 12:57 PM   #1
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Recent personal black bear learnings

Although this is a non-AS experience, I thought it might be good to share.

I just completed my 27th wilderness canoe trip yesterday. So not a newbie to the wilderness, black bears nor the lifestyle. We have seen many bears from a distance and two...up close and personal. First was 2 years ago when he and us surprised each other when arriving at the end of a portage. That one was a non-event, as it was a 150# adolescent who ran from us as fast as he could when we yelled and waved our arms.

This one was different. Three days ago we were in our tent and the usual squirrel territorial disputes awakened us at sunrise. This time, however, the whole community was screaming furiously. No other sounds were noted. I got up and found the squirrels dropping pine cones in great numbers. I didn't think much of it and made my morning trek up the trail to the latrine. Upon finishing my business, I returned to the site and decided it was time for coffee. WAIT! "Tom, there is a bear barrel missing!"

We began the search and after a few minutes I spotted the largest male black bear I have ever seen...about 30 yards behind the latrine having his breakfast, with the barrel ripped apart and the contents all over the ground.

We stared at each other for a few minutes while Tom and I assessed his behavior. We made ourselves appear larger by getting on a log and shouting at him. (we each did have a can of bear spray and I had a large trench knife, if things went really wrong) He seemed unimpressed with our display at first, but slowly backed away into the brush. We approached the scene of the crime, but before we could make a clean-up attempt, we sensed that he was flanking us. Sooooo, it was time to back out, pack up hurriedly and leave the area....leaving the mess behind in the wilderness area. I just then realized i had been "sitting", with my back to him for about 10 minutes, just 20 minutes earlier....with him making ZERO noise.

Notes about this particular bear:

It was a male, due to the short fat neck, ear shape, snout and facial features
It was HUGE...well over 300#s
BEAUTIFUL animal.
Gray muzzle, indicating he has been around some 15 - 20 years.

AND SMART!!

He was absolutely stealthy. No noise at all in camp. Not a single thing disturbed....just a missing barrel. Barrel had a large bell on it. It is a mystery how he didn't ring it. We figure he must of had the bell and handle inside his mouth as he lifted the barrel and stole away.

He was like a cat burglar, identifying the target jewel, getting in and out in the least time.

Upon returning to Grand Marais, we went to the Forest Service office to make a report, knowing full well that we faced a stiff littering fine, at a minimum. But it was the responsible thing to do.

We have made bear sighting reports before and all they wanted to know was if it was afraid, a nuisance bear or a threat.

This time was different. The Ranger took out a legal pad and made a full page of copious notes. Seems this bear has been an issue since July and they were monitoring his behavior very carefully. In the words of Henry Fonda in "On Golden Pond", "He's a crafty son-of-a-b**ch."

Sooo, even as an experienced wilderness traveler, here are the take-aways.

Mistake #1
We almost always obtain our permit from the FS office. This time, due to timing and logistics, we picked up at a lodge close to our put-in. As always, we specifically ask about ANY bear activity in his (and our) area of travel. We were told all is quiet and well. Upon telling the Ranger this and who the lodge was, one said to the other, "***them*** again". So, it wasn't their first failure. ALWAYS check in with the governing agency before departure.

Mistake #2
Trusting a bell noisemaker alone isn't enough. This guy defeated that alarm.
The majority of the BWCA campsites have, at best inadequate trees for hanging all your items needing protection. Strange but true. We utilize a combination of hanging and barrels on the ground. I am looking into "backpacking electric fences" which seem to prove effective.

There are lots of holes to fill in here, but I'll await the usual point/counterpoint of members with experience.

BTW, The FS Ranger did not fine us and said we did exactly the right thing in all our actions. We gave them the coordinates of the mess and they said they would handle on the next officer deployment. I suspect we'll see our barrel mounted on the wall in HQ next time we're there!

Oh....what does the FS look for in behavior in a bear evolving from "nuisance" to "threat"? Did he make any noises...grunting, snorting? Did he open his mouth? Did he bare his teeth? Did he chatter his teeth, as if chilled or cold? Answer to all these was no....so he'll live to steal another day. He's a nuisance.
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Old 09-10-2022, 02:59 PM   #2
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Large, toothed animals.

This is why I do not hike trails nor otherwise venture into the woods.

Maggie
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Old 09-10-2022, 03:10 PM   #3
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Large, toothed animals.



This is why I do not hike trails nor otherwise venture into the woods.



Maggie
While I understand, there are many differences in large toothed animals. Black bears are not carnivors, and don't hunt meat. Less than 10% of their diet is flesh, and then it is just what they find dead already. Now having said that, the wolf packs up there are a bit unnerving. They usually won't even approach humans in summer while food is plentiful, but in winter, all bets are off.
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Old 09-10-2022, 05:00 PM   #4
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Interesting story. Bear behavior is predictable most of the time, just like many other species. That said, there are certain times of year when things can get dicey. Autumn and Spring weather come to mind.

Black bears almost never attack humans. However, when they do attack humans it’s because they intend to kill and eat them. Playing dead with a black bear isn’t the right strategy, even though this may be the case for a brown bear. If a black bear attacks, then you should fight back, make yourself look big and scary, etc.

I’m very cautious in bear country (basically everywhere that I camp), wolf country, etc. This time of year, elk and moose are also quite dangerous. You need to be aware of your surroundings when you’re out in the wilderness.

This photo is from my backyard a couple of years ago, less than 20 feet from my house. I’ve always got wildlife on my mind when I’m outside.
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Old 09-10-2022, 07:55 PM   #5
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We have a friend who was chased across the Boundary Waters on his honeymoon—it did like shampoo and he scared it off when he woke early one morning. The newlyweds packed up fast and started out for another canoe day, but after a while they saw the bear swimming along behind them. The portages were especially worrisome, but eventually beat gave up, but they were anxious the entire trip because they didn’t know if he waiting behind a bush.

The background is that he should never have married that woman—but he never would listen to me about it. They did return home, but several more times in the next few years they were camping and had bears visit. I at least was his divorce lawyer after being his best man—I was also there the night they met and suspected he was making a really bad mistake. This was around 30 years ago. Last marriage, they essentially eloped and maybe they thought I was bad luck.

His much better present wife does not seem the camping type. He visited us a few days ago so we put a cartoon on his pillow—“a tent is a burrito for a bear”.
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Old 09-10-2022, 10:02 PM   #6
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We have a friend who was chased across the Boundary Waters on his honeymoon—it did like shampoo and he scared it off when he woke early one morning. The newlyweds packed up fast and started out for another canoe day, but after a while they saw the bear swimming along behind them. The portages were especially worrisome, but eventually beat gave up, but they were anxious the entire trip because they didn’t know if he waiting behind a bush.

The background is that he should never have married that woman—but he never would listen to me about it. They did return home, but several more times in the next few years they were camping and had bears visit. I at least was his divorce lawyer after being his best man—I was also there the night they met and suspected he was making a really bad mistake. This was around 30 years ago. Last marriage, they essentially eloped and maybe they thought I was bad luck.

His much better present wife does not seem the camping type. He visited us a few days ago so we put a cartoon on his pillow—“a tent is a burrito for a bear”.
Strange story. But first rule is no shampoo, no soap, no colone, no deodorant, no nuttin. Camp suds for dishes is all. The rest is just calling them in.
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Old 09-11-2022, 06:47 AM   #7
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dznf0g, thanks for sharing that experience. We’ve encountered several bears over the years, including a grizzly at very close range in Yellowstone 30 yrs ago. But none have ever concerned themselves with us. Indeed, it’s very unnerving to encounter something in the woods that is stronger, quicker, and more deadly than ourselves.
I’ve been on those throwns in the boundary waters area. You’re pretty vulnerable there. The only bear we saw there was a small one, and he ran like the wind when he saw us.
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Old 09-11-2022, 07:16 AM   #8
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Oh....what does the FS look for in behavior in a bear evolving from "nuisance" to "threat"? Did he make any noises...grunting, snorting? Did he open his mouth? Did he bare his teeth? Did he chatter his teeth, as if chilled or cold? Answer to all these was no....so he'll live to steal another day. He's a nuisance.[/QUOTE]

I enjoyed the read however IMO we must remember we are invading his home land and if a wild animal becomes a nuisance it is because of us, humans, not respecting their environment.
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Old 09-11-2022, 07:50 AM   #9
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Oh....what does the FS look for in behavior in a bear evolving from "nuisance" to "threat"? Did he make any noises...grunting, snorting? Did he open his mouth? Did he bare his teeth? Did he chatter his teeth, as if chilled or cold? Answer to all these was no....so he'll live to steal another day. He's a nuisance.


I enjoyed the read however IMO we must remember we are invading his home land and if a wild animal becomes a nuisance it is because of us, humans, not respecting their environment.[/QUOTE]

No doubt. That's what I said to Tom when he started circling, "it's his yard, time to go." And, he was on an active feeding site. I feel bad that he got human food. We had done all that we could to secure it. It had worked for over 20 years. He obviously had some prior "training". I am now looking for new methodology.
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Old 09-11-2022, 07:54 AM   #10
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dznf0g, thanks for sharing that experience. We’ve encountered several bears over the years, including a grizzly at very close range in Yellowstone 30 yrs ago. But none have ever concerned themselves with us. Indeed, it’s very unnerving to encounter something in the woods that is stronger, quicker, and more deadly than ourselves.
I’ve been on those throwns in the boundary waters area. You’re pretty vulnerable there. The only bear we saw there was a small one, and he ran like the wind when he saw us.
Yup, but don't anyone here confuse the behavior of a black with a grizzly. Two completely different behavior sets and diets. Grizzly bears are full blown apex predators.
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Old 09-11-2022, 08:05 AM   #11
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https://youtu.be/Sv2G-aRDvyY

This is what I am considering. Anyone have experience?
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Old 09-11-2022, 08:49 AM   #12
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Yup, but don't anyone here confuse the behavior of a black with a grizzly. Two completely different behavior sets and diets. Grizzly bears are full blown apex predators.
Yup. Somebody (the Craigheads, during their Yellowstone research?) described the Grizzly as an even-tempered animal: angry all the time.
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Old 09-11-2022, 08:56 AM   #13
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Electric fences do work. I use one to protect our crab apple tree in the fall from the bears. Also, bush pilots will use the portable battery fences to protect their airplanes when parked in the back country. Coming back to a destroyed Piper Cub can ruin your day.
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Old 09-11-2022, 09:03 AM   #14
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Recent personal black bear learnings

We see many black bear, mothers n’ cubs. The bears have established territory based upon the availability of food and water. The refuse containers provided by the carting companies are not bear proof, add to that overflowing containers of plastic bags of aromatic discarded scraps of last evening dinners, no wonder the opportunistic wildlife are attracted including raccoon and coy wolf etc. On isolated occasion a black bear will try and enter a home, ultimately and mostly due to people carelessness the bear is blamed and pays with its life. I have seen some who will want to take a photo of a bear cub not realizing that mama isn’t far off, that can be a big mistake. Best advice let them be.
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Old 09-11-2022, 12:24 PM   #15
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Excellent story and a good reminder for all of us.

I’m curious what they of near barrel you were using.

Mike
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Old 09-11-2022, 12:25 PM   #16
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Sorry…autocorrect.

What type of bear barrel were you using?
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Old 09-11-2022, 12:36 PM   #17
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Sorry…autocorrect.

What type of bear barrel were you using?
We use a combination of hanging packs and the blue 30.liter barrel(s). They are not bear proof, but bear resistant....for inexperienced bears. All of the bear proof barrels are too small, and bear proof coolers, like yeti and some others don't work for canoe trips.
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Old 09-11-2022, 12:50 PM   #18
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We see many black bear, mothers n’ cubs. The bears have established territory based upon the availability of food and water. The refuse containers provided by the carting companies are not bear proof, add to that overflowing containers of plastic bags of aromatic discarded scraps of last evening dinners, no wonder the opportunistic wildlife are attracted including raccoon and coy wolf etc. On isolated occasion a black bear will try and enter a home, ultimately and mostly due to people carelessness the bear is blamed and pays with its life. I have seen some who will want to take a photo of a bear cub not realizing that mama isn’t far off, that can be a big mistake. Best advice let them be.
Absolutely! Mother's will go on offense and attack. One time we had a cub cross a portage about 20 yards ahead of us at a running pace. We froze, listening, but making noise. Never saw momma, she was probably ahead of the cub and he was running to her. You don't ever want to be in between the two.
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Old 09-11-2022, 01:09 PM   #19
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https://youtu.be/Sv2G-aRDvyY

This is what I am considering. Anyone have experience?
Yes. About 15 years ago I was camping alongside an Alaskan river about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle on a caribou hunt. One of the group built a battery-powered bear fence that broke down and could be packed in a duffle bag. It worked. We know there was at least 1 Alaskan Brown Bear in the area. Saw prints, droppings and you could smell him. Never had an issue with him trying to come through that fence.

BTW, the video you linked to was part of the research my friend did in building his fence. He now uses it to keep critters out of the orchard at their place in No. Idaho.
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Old 09-11-2022, 02:14 PM   #20
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As the saying goes, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” The general rule of thumb is that if a bear manages to access human sourced food, they will become more confident and aggressive around humans. Eventually the only recourse is killing the offending bear.

Up here in BC, we always carry bear spray when camping and hiking in the wilderness. Fortunately I haven’t come close to needing it yet.
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