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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bear dens

I had a fascinating hike deep in the forest with a friend yesterday, exploring bear signs in our area. We found more "bear saplings", obviously freshly used, and contemplated new wildlife camera locations. Here was a dramatic sapling, whose top was snapped off at least a year ago but its branches were freshly snapped in the last month by a bear. Fur stuck to the recent wounds, showing us that it was the work of a back-scratching bear.
The top of the tree lay brittle dry on the ground at the base of the tree.
Black bear trail has been a haven for bears for a long time, based on the old claw marks on aspen trees and the many "bear saplings" that line it. We treaded softly hoping not to deter any bears from passing that way.

We wandered through a pine forest, noting a maze of animal trails and casually scanning for new den sites. We eventually made the arduous hike out of our way to visit the den that my cameras monitored last winter - we had a very hard time re-finding the den - it is SO well hidden. We discovered from the memory card on my wildlife camera that two bears, likely a female and male in hot pursuit, had visited more than a week ago. I believe that the "scarfaced" male is the same one who visited in April. Here's a short video of their visits and a bear traveling on Black Bear Trail.

This morning, we hiked/ran as a foursome, deep in a pine forest. K looked resplendent in the pine-filtered sunlight.
Her eyes glowed gold in the sun.
We briefly emerged from the forest, and saw a snowy mountain through a collage of green aspen leaves.
After the other three pack members headed home, I started on a very familiar trail that I'll never stop adoring.
But then, I explored, rolling my wheels over terrain that I've NEVER visited before. I love the feeling of being on the edge of lost... but still blindly trying to find my way. Do you see my trail here? The 12" wide path is deep in the foliage.
I crossed a spectacular meadow, so richly green that I almost couldn't believe it.
Then, I re-entered the forest, following next to a creek. I heard an animal crashing through the water-loving shrubs at one point, and I guessed that it was a bear but wasn't sure. Then, to my utter surprise, I found what I'm almost certain is a recently used bear den.

The hole under the boulders is about 24" wide and 18" tall, and the cave is deep. The ceiling never exceeds 18" (these dimensions are very similar to the active bear den that I monitored last winter). Moreover, the top of the entrance is well-rubbed by animals wriggling into the den. Moss and lichen cover every last inch of the boulders, except the inner walls of the den entrance - those have been rubbed clean. Wow, what a find!
Near the entrance, I found a well chewed and degraded humongous log. Just above the entrance, a bouquet of penstamons bloomed. I'm sure that the scene isn't so colorful in the winter!
This bear den is a fair distance from my house but I think that I'll visit with a wildlife camera after the world freezes this winter to see if the den is occupied. I absolutely cannot believe my luck, finding two dens in one year!

I finished my ride by plunging insanely straight into a forest in a direction where I had a vague notion that someone might have built a trail. After much bushwhacking, indeed, I found a buttery smooth and sinuous dirt trail heading down into a gulch. I connected it to a trail that I know, and VOILA - I have a new riding route. I love exploring!


  1. Beautiful! You are so lucky to live as you do!


  2. What a lucky day!

    How far apart do bears usually keep their dens, or is it more of an experience of opportunity? If they find a good spot they just make use of it? This winter should prove very interesting with videos!

    K is looking especially lovely today!

  3. I wanna bet there are not many people in this world who are going around crowing today because they found a SECOND Bear Den. You might be the only one!

    Your world is getting very pretty very fast it seems. All those lovely wildflowers and the green of greens. K looks happy and I love the first picture of her where she has something important to say!

    Jo and Stella

  4. What good fortune. Lovely photographs.

  5. You sure are brave. Aren't you scared of Smokey?
    Benny & Lily

  6. We can hear the joy of the day in your words and we can see it in the wonder of all of your photos.

  7. Ben and Lily,

    I have a lot of experience with meeting black bears in many different contexts. I've NEVER found one to be aggressive, even when I stumbled on a den with the family cornered in their cave.

    They always turn tail and run. And, based on my wildlife cams, I know that a lot run from me who *I never see* because they run so much sooner than I actually get to them.

    So, honestly, I'm not afraid. I respect them... and give them space if they don't run right away. But, I'm not afraid of them like I am of, let's say, mountain lions. They really scare me.

  8. Another magical day in the forest. I really like the looks of the new places you checked out. That meadow is truly spectacular!

    Within the next couple of weeks, I hope to finally take a nice hike with Marge and my sister. We haven't been to the woods since early in May.

  9. Looks as though summer has arrived in your neck of the woods at long last. Love K's photos today.

  10. It looks like a great day in your mountain environs, KB. Love that new bear den - it seems to be higher off the ground and not as surrounded by trees. Should be an interesting one to monitor!

  11. You are so bravely adventurous, KB! The new little deer paths I follow in the woods are nothing compared to your mountain bear trails in the forest!


  12. My adrenaline was soaring as I read about you connecting an unknown trail with a known trail to form a new loop. Man, the stuff dreams are made of!

    Your bear adventures continually amaze me. How fascinating that the mail followed almost precisely in the female's path, to the step!


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