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Thursday, April 1, 2010

A hike through wildlands and bear activity

What a day I had! It started with a bike ride on the roads, a tiny bit further than yesterday, as prescribed by the slow recovery from my neck fusion surgery 11 weeks ago. I saw views of the mountains that I haven't seen in months due to my ban from bike riding.During my short ride, I spotted a coyote in a field hunting. He stood stock still and then suddenly pounced onto the snow's crust. The crust collapsed, and a rodent emerged. It was dark colored and big enough that I could see it from 75 yards away - perhaps a vole. The coyote seemed to toy with it. He chased it around on the strong snow crust, occasionally grabbing it in his mouth. One time, he tossed it about 6 ft into the air. Then, he noticed me watching, quickly dispatched the rodent, and trotted away to eat in privacy. While I felt badly for the prolonged terror of the rodent, I was fascinated by watching a coyote hunt completely naturally. I didn't know that they played with their prey after puppyhood - perhaps this coyote is a young one.
Last night, for the first time ever, we had FOUR coyotes under our birdfeeder at one time. I think that they eat fallen seeds when they're very hungry and hunt the mice and other rodents who are attracted to the seed.
After my short bike ride, I took my Labraduo out for a hike/snowshoe. We started on a sun-baked slope where the several feet of snow has melted down to patches.
Soon, however, we dove into the dense pine forest of a north-facing slope. We followed a boulder-choked gulch down a canyon wall. I climbed one boulder pile, precariously balanced on snowshoes, to view the mountains.
And, of course, to take a photo of the Labraduo. R rested his chin on K's back. Perhaps he was covering her back in this wildlife nirvana.
We hit a trail that contoured along the canyon wall, and a bobcat had walked atop the snow ahead of us. Because we were now in sensitive wildlife habitat, I leashed both dogs. R wasn't happy - he has a 'thing' about cats and fired up his turbo engines to follow the bobcat's tracks. Eventually, the bobcat left the trail to climb up a line of boulders, leaving a blank slate of deep and soft snow for us to traverse.
Most of our trail had feet of snow piled on it like where the pups sat in the photo below.
Tall and stout aspens lined much of the trail. Many bore 'bear art' or, in other words, claw marks from bears climbing them. This trail is a favorite travel alley for ursines after the snow melts to a manageable depth.
Just before we turned off the trail, we passed through a south-facing section where the sun had melted the bottomless snow to patches. The Labraduo's body language hit high alert. They stared up the slope silently, with noses and muscles quivering with tension. I imagine that wildlife love this slope right now. Due to its southern exposure, it feels like spring, with bare dirt and sprigs of green on this slope. That spring picture was a clanging contrast from the snowy miles that we'd already hiked along the north-facing parts of the slope.Once we climbed out of "wildlife alley", the dogs romped free again. I found an overlook for a photo of the pair.
Today, I worked on my 1200 photos taken recently by remote wildlife cameras posted outside a bear den. A pair reared up on their hind legs to play.
I put together the first of several video montages of the bear trio's behavior outside their den. I have several remote wildlife cameras posted to capture their images whenever they emerge. In the video here, the bears are just emerging after a stormy couple of weeks and move slowly at first. I'm working the next videos from the same afternoon that include lots of wild playing but I wanted to present the images chronologically. Enjoy!


  1. Oh, KB, this was just loads of fun to watch and I am more than eager to see the next exciting installment!

    The picture of K with R's head across her was wonderful too.

    Jo and Stella

  2. I loved this presentation of bear images! I think the transitions you used were awesome - made me feel like I was looking through a photo album!

    I'm really amazed at all of the interesting things you have to blog about, day after day. Your wildlife makes for great stories.

    I'm also glad you're getting back on your bike. It feels like your surgery was so long ago - I hope that you are starting to feel the same way and are no longer bogged down with as many post-op aches and pains.

  3. Wonderful photos, as usual. I especially loved the bears playing and can't wait to see the video.

    This morning on our news there was a Bobcat story and I instantly thought of you! Here's the link :)

    Have a great day!

    Emma Rose and the Duchess

  4. Those bears are fascinating! Will the mother return to the same den next year, or do they always seek out a new one?

    I love the K and R picture! You should enter some of those in a calendar!

  5. The bear images are wonderful and the picture of the head resting duo quite superb. The photos serve as a reminder that America is a country of such amazing contrasts and diversity.

  6. Lots of great photos! I especially like the one of R resting head on K, K doing infamous stand on rock, and the bear cubs standing. Enjoyed the video too of course.

    I received a flyer from Cabellas sports store and was a little disturbed to see a coyote decoy with "hair that moves in the breeze". What the heck?! Is that even legal? Does it actually fool a coyote?

    Glad to hear you've been out on your bike again. Bike and walk - I wish I had your energy and stamina.

  7. What a sweet catch you made with R resting his head on K's back - very nice. And those bears are too funny - looks a lot like TD and Ciara duking it out here.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  8. So much in one post! You had a day of adventures. I'm glad you were able to get out a little further on the road. I can't wait for your first trail ride with K.

    The coyote hunting was really interesting. I've only seen a coyote pounce its prey once and I swear, it was the same pounce Kona does when she's after something.

    I never thought there would be so much going on at that den. I laughed at the thought of trying to climb a tree after being pent up and sleeping for so long.

  9. Khyra says to tell R she understands the cat 'thing' -

    The paw slaps were a hoot - I can't wait to see more!

  10. How fun to see the cub climb the tree! So much snow has melted on your south-facing slopes, KB! How high do you estimate your ridge to be? (The high-point of your hike?)

  11. Oh, I did indeed enjoy the video. What a wonderful treat. Two great Labs, beautiful scenery, and now the bears!!!

  12. I loved the KR photo :) What a coyote filled day. Eating time on both occasions. So cool. My momma, not me, wishes she lived where you live. I prefer it here. I get to enjoy everything including the bear video, through your eyes.

  13. Kia ora KB,
    Ah, to be in those mountains with knowing companions, to be amongst the wild creatures whom live there, to regain your health and vilality in such a place brings a huge smile to my face thinking of you roaming there.
    This is the first easter weekend in 10 years that I have not roamed the mountains on my own for 4-5 days, and thoughts of them run strongly through me. The beautiful blue sky days like we have today, followed by a crisp cold evening hinting of the approaching winter. Or even cold wet or snowy days when I simply throw another log on the hut fire and count my blessings. You are indeed blessed KB. Kia kaha.

  14. Maery: Yes, that's legal (at least in Co). Basically, coyotes have no protections here. They can be shot on sight at any time of year for almost any reason. It's awful.

    Barb: That ridge was about 8300' but was south facing. When I hit the north side of the same ridge, I found an average of about 3' of snow. It's amazing how much difference the exposure makes.

    Emma Rose: thanks for the link! That's amazing!

  15. Holy GRIZZLY ADAMS! KB, you scare me MORE than those bears cuz you're couragous enough to go near them. Hey i forgot to tell you, i used to carry that bear spray too. i should again. not for the bears, but for attacking dogs, pigs or mt. lions...


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