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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lions and tigers and bears

All of our hikes and bike rides near our house are taking on a hint of peril. Our neighbors have repeatedly seen the mother bear with young cubs, and the sow has chased off other people's dogs. On almost every evening hike, the dogs give their 'bear signals'. So, we do recall after recall, practicing for that inevitable day when we meet a bear snout-to-snout.

K sprinted to me on a recall through the Horsemint bedecked meadow after 'telling' me that a bear roamed nearby with body language.And, R did his trademark insanely intense recall.The good news is that no one has seen the bear family exploring near homes. Rather, the black giants of our forest seem focused on berries. While the bushes sang with flowers a month ago, they're all laden with berries now. Ruby red Buffalo berries are tiny but so numerous that the shrub branches stoop under their weight. These bushes flourish in the midst of pine forests, unlike many other berry bushes. When I found bear scat a little while ago, I mentioned that it contained 'seeds'. Since then, I've dissected a Buffalo berry, and without a doubt, its seeds were prominant in the scat.
The other peril is more mountain lion signs. A trail-running neighbor's dog pack of seven found a second deer carcass cached in close proximity to a trail. I'm forming the opinion that we have a female mountain lion hunting nearby. A female patrols a territory about half the size of a male's territory because, as far as I can tell from my research, females spend their entire lives either pregnant or with cubs. Thus burdened, they can't afford to expend the energy to roam far and wide searching for prey. Instead, they focus on a prey-rich small area - which describes our neck of the woods perfectly. Surrounded by prey, they kill deer up to twice as often as a solitary male. When a series of carcasses appear rapid-fire in a smallish area, it's usually a sign of a female lion hunting in the area.

Today, during our mountain bike ride, K went on high alert near the latest carcass (which I wasn't yet aware of - a neighbor later alerted me to it). K sprinted off while snarling.But, she turned as soon as I called her, and I had her remain in a heel next to my bike until she looked relaxed. I can't tell you how often I thank my lucky stars that my dogs have strong recalls!
After I dropped off K, I took a mellow and relaxed ride, enjoying the new wave of wildflowers. A sea of purple met me in some meadows dominated by horsemint and mariposa lilies. Horsemint (Agastache urticifolia) smells strongly like mint, and its zany shape reminds me of Albert Einstein's hair. A flower consists of a bevy of flowers projecting out from the head, crazily sticking straight up in the air.With Horsemint next to Mariposa Lilies, the purples overwhelm the senses.
Time to head out into the wild woods again for our evening short hike. I love living in the woods with my dogs but sometimes I wish that we could simply walk without constantly scanning for animals!


  1. I appreciate all the information you give about how you train your dogs. Java seems to be getting better at coming when called. I'm learning to not panic and call her so often, to look around first. That seems to be helping her pay more attention and not get so desensitized by my constant calling.

  2. You and I both! Fox came to visit this weekend when we were outside with Grandchildren - way too close for a wild animal. They are too acclimated to humans - I just know someone is feeding them. Lovely flower pics, KB. Stay safe on your trails.

  3. The bears are one thing - mountain lions are totally different. Some of the old-timers and hunters in this area swear that some exist and the park service has even acknowledged that they MIGHT exist, but the bets are that they really are not out there. Never seen a sign of one.

  4. very interesting.....i love reading about your adventures in the mountains, and those beautiful flowers, and good dogs for such good recall!!!
    the only thing i have to be on the lookout for on our walks are mosquitoes....


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