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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sleepwalking bear

K and I rolled out for a peaceful ride on the snowy trails. She did some recalls, showing her polite tongue flick just before arriving at my feet, forewarning me that, although she was barging directly at me, she meant no harm.
The blue skies and snowy mountains awed me.
After riding with K, I heard a rumor that a north-facing remote trail had been packed down by an ATV. Sure enough, this usually impassable trail was ready for my snow bike!
I rolled easily along in the ATV tracks, enjoying the mountain views out to my west and scanning for animal tracks. This route is a favorite of cats, deer, and bear.

Suddenly, in the middle of the two tire tracks, I saw what initially looked like human boot tracks.
As I tried to ride while looking at the tracks, I noted that it looked like a four-legged animal had made them.
Then, the identity of the tracks became undeniable when I noticed claws protruding from some of the tracks.
No doubt, a very sleepy black bear walked this trail in the last few days. Bears do not truly hibernate. In other words, they don't allow their core body temperature to fall as low as the air temperature. Although they sleep for most of the winter, they awaken often, to toss and turn in the den or to go out for an amble. I suspect that this bear has already hibernated for at least a month but decided to go for a walk recently. Some scientists think that these short ambles play a key role in preventing the bear from losing too much muscle and bone mass despite lying still for close to 6 months.

Today, I followed the bear tracks for about a mile. No food, except an occasional rose hip, was available along the trail, and the bear left no scat. I doubt that he ate a thing. Rather, he just walked, enjoying a pretty winter day.

I've always thought that the north-facing slope that I traversed would be perfect for bear hibernation. It's rough and tumble terrain so it gets little traffic. Moreover, it builds up snow all winter long. Only a few sections of the trail ever see the sun from November through February. Building up a snow layer helps insulate a sleeping bear. Seeing those tracks today strengthens my view that it's a favorite denning spot for our ursines.

After exploring a snowy slope today, I'm heading off to the high desert for a camping trip. I'll be far from any internet connection so this blog will be on vacation!

Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. Wow!

    How cool was that?!?

    Thanks for sharing your ursine adventure!

    Stay safe and stuff!

    Happy Thanksgiving to all of you as well!

  2. Cool bear tracks!

    Have a great vacation, and happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

  3. Not sure if you'll get this before leaving, KB. I'm still in UT (near Park City now) and weather is cloudy but no snow. Much less snow here than by you! What!!!! A bear?
    Have a wonderful T-giving. We head to Nat'l Park on Mon.

  4. Awesome shot of the bear tracks! And pretty interesting info about the way they spend their winter - I thought they just packed themselves full of food in the fall and slept through the cold months. Shows how much I know.

    I'll miss your updates while you're gone! Have a great Thanksgiving, and look forward to hearing more adventures when you return.

  5. Have a fantastic vacation. Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. I didn't know that about the bears. How come we didn't learn that in school? I hope you have a great vacation. Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. We think that bear was enjoying that trail as much as you do:)

    Happy camping.

    Woos, the OP Pack

  8. I've only seen a bear once. Never any tracks. Great work!

    Have a nice trip. Hope to see you at class soon.

  9. Hey there KB
    Sorry we haven't been around for a while! Those bear tracks look hectic and scary, but we know that never puts you off.
    Hope you are ok (Since you haven't blogged for a coupla days?) Hope the sickies haven't hit either!
    We will be away for a week from Saturday, so won't be around during that time either.
    Keep well, stay warm and lots of love to the pooches too.

  10. Amazing photos - the Bobcat is quite spectacular.


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