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Sunday, March 21, 2010

A walk through nature and more hibernating bears

The sun scorched our snow, as the spring solar heat does every year. By last evening, the morning's light powder had a hard crust on the top. Our hike this morning started as a fairly easy snowshoe trek because I didn't break through the crust. However, soon, the snow became like mashed potatoes, making every step a strenuous effort. I didn't want to follow the same route as yesterday so we broke new trail.
The pups led the way to our local vista and waited for me for a moment at the top.
We hung out on the summit, gazing at the snowy mountains and enjoying the warm sun on our faces.
On the horizon, our towering sentinels wore a new coat of snow and nary a cloud enshrouded them.
Since the storm, I'd seen the tracks of only squirrels, rabbits, and weasels. It seemed that everyone else fled ahead of the fury. I decided to descend by contouring downward through a dense forest to see if animals had hidden there. Moreover, I wondered whether the lion whose tracks I saw the other day on this slope had stayed in the area.

I gave the dogs the honor of breaking trail, recalling them if they stretched the elastic too far, and were leading me by too much.
Both of them have such good recalls, even R, making it a pleasure to hike with them.
I saw no tracks whatsoever on this hillside despite the slightly shallower snow cover. However, I noticed numerous trees marked by animals over the years. I've been working on learning how to recognize what animal made a particular mark on a tree.

The tree behind K in the photo caught my eye because the marks extended quite high, almost at the limits of my reach.
A closer look revealed fur stuck to the tree sap, up to about 4-5' off the ground. Based on the color, I suspected that an elk debarked this tree with teeth and antlers. Then, he rubbed his body against it, leaving fur all over the tree.A slightly subtler marking on a different tree suggested that an animal with claws had raked them down the tree many times. This tree also had fur stuck to it. Based on the height of the deep and sharp claw marks and the tawny colored fur stuck to the tree, I wondered if a lion had used this tree as a scratching post.
The only indication that any animals larger than a rabbit had traveled our area since the storm came from one wildlife camera. A coyote used our tire tracks as a packed trail for travel last night.
As I hike our trails, the vision of the bears sleeping in their cave rarely leaves my subconscious. I love that I know where they are and they seem to be having a safe winter. As you know from previous videos and photos, the mother bear is black, with a brown snout. The cub is chocolate with a white diamond on his chest.
I'm guessing that the biggest bear that we've seen in the past couple of years is the cub's father. Male black bears continue to grow throughout their lifetimes while females stop growing after they reach adulthood. Consequently, the dominant boar in a forest tends to be the biggest bear around. Here he is walking past a wildlife camera.
And, here he is again, reaching up, trying to defeat our bear-proof bird feeding system. This system has withstood the attempts of many bears over a number of years. They try once or twice in the spring and then don't return again. Sorry about the blur. I took the photo through the window. When I went out and stood in the same place, I found out that the bear and I are about the same height!
Ironically, even though this boar was likely the father of the cub shown in the video below, he probably posed the greatest threat to the cub's survival. Male bears kill cubs, without regard for whether those cubs are their own. Because I have wildlife camera footage that shows that this male bear roamed in the same area as the mama bear and her cub last spring, I'm betting that a deadly serious game of cat and mouse was underway, with mama bear carefully protecting her cub, both by sending the cub up a tree and then defending the base of the tree.

Finally, below, I've included a video of the hibernating bears' activities on March 13, a very warm (40 deg) sunny spring day. They spent a long time outside that day (about 40 min). I culled the video down to the most interesting activity... but if you are short of time, go straight to the end where I encapsulate the whole day in a series of still photos. I probably should have put the stills first in the video - but I don't have the energy to wrestle with iMovie for even one more instant!


  1. Grabbing my pop corn as usual. The heating pad is already plugged in...Start the movie, please.

    Oh, how cool your little details, like the fur in the sap.

  2. I'm not surprised that you know which animal scratched each tree! :)

    It looks like the Labraduo did a great job blazing trails for you today! They look really happy to be doing that job. I'm betting they sleep well tonight.

    You are great with those movies! Thanks for sharing!

  3. The mountains sure look pretty with that new snow, KB! Be careful walking in the mashed potatoes - it's hard even without a healing spine! That yearling is very photogenic.

  4. Oh my!

    What a face!

    As for the mashed potatoes, I recall how much fun the backyard here was as 40+" gave way -

    Please be careful!

  5. Hey there KB
    Your world still looks absolutely freezing. I admire your resolve to walk that amazing terrain daily and as usual I admire your great relationship with your doggies. I know you take care but I say it again...please be safe! Hope you are well and holding up.

  6. Those are great pictures! Up close and ursine-able!


  7. Fantastic K & R recalls!!! Loved seeing the trail blazing snow pictures.
    What a BIG bear! Wonder how big the males can become. Hmmmmm.

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose

  8. what a great series! i think the cub was stretching......?
    when will they leave the den for good? perfect camera placement!
    such beautiful pics of the dogs in the snow....all of our snow is gone!! :( and the lake is opening up....
    spring is here!
    have a great week! and careful on that bike...:)

  9. It's hard to believe it's 40 degrees in that video with those huge mountains of snow on the ground! Totally know how you feel about wrestling with iMovie, too - my "1 Year of Marge" video that I made on her 2nd birthday and 1st "Gotcha Day" took me literally weeks to make. I'm planning on making another one this year, and think I'm going to start in April!

    The cub is beautiful - they look so peaceful foraging through the snow. I wish more people would share your sentiments about enjoying and respecting wildlife rather than fearing and killing them.

  10. Again, beautiful photos and great info on your forest's creatures.

    Your blog has made me more excited about paying attention to the "small stuff" on my runs. I have a hard time with details in general, but you've shown me how the small stuff can lead to big finds! (Like those bears!)

    I wanted to post a picture for you on my blog today, but it fell out of theme. It was a KB-inspired find...Snake tracks! Don't think I would have noticed them pre-Romp-Roll-Rockies!

  11. Sierra Rose: I've heard of a 1000 lb male bear, but I found it hard to believe. I have NO idea how much our male weighs.

    AC: I love snake tracks. They're so cool, aren't they? We were going to the desert this week but a virus has hit our house. So, no snake tracks for me to peruse...

    kks: Thanks for the opinion that the cub was stretching... I'm hoping so. Because if he was peeing in yesterday's video, then he's definitely a male! I may include the photo in a post to get more opinions.

    Everyone: Thanks for your comments! Don't worry about me. My health advisors are no longer scared about me seriously damaging the surgical work on my spine. Any price that I pay will simply be because I push my muscles too far, and I can deal with that! I might whine for a few days but it won't be permanent!


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