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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bears in Autumn

The nose knows.
Some of my first moments of becoming fascinated with our wildlife were when I watched my dogs so seriously examining scraped spots on the ground, voraciously sniffing trees that looked ordinary to me, or sniffing the breeze as they stared off into the distance. I wondered what animals they were smelling. Was it elk, deer, mountain lions, coyotes, or bear?
Bear activity is decreasing fast as winter is taking over. Every year, around September, the number of bears that are roaming our forest decreases precipitously. I suspect they walk down to lower elevations because there's still food, like berries and other fruit, in the forest down there. In our region, a five mile walk can take a bear down by 3000' in elevation, where summer lingers much longer than up here in the mountains.

Then, at about this time every year, my trail cameras capture glimpses of the bears as they waddle back toward the mountains to find dens. They are fat and moving slowly.

Just the other night, a very fat bear walked past one trail camera. Based on the girth of this bear, I'd guess that s/he is healthy.
 Look at the size of the bear's butt as s/he stopped to sniff a bear tree.
But, the tan looking part of the bear's body worries me. I'm not certain what it is. It could be mange. However, I've read that mange often starts on the face and then moves elsewhere. None of the images of the face are terrific but it certainly doesn't look devoid of fur.
I know that bears get mange but it usually sets in when they are in their dens. When a bear's metabolism is so slow during the winter, a bear's immune system also slows down, letting mange gain a foothold.

But that story doesn't seem to fit for this bear, who obviously isn't hibernating yet. This is a big, fat, and apparently healthy bear - all except for that tan section on the side.

I hope that I get more photos of this bear so we can figure out what's up. The bear left the "bear trail" just after this camera and headed in the direction of the den that I have staked out with a trail camera. Perhaps I captured another view there. I won't find out until January, when I am next planning to check that camera (I fear that I might scare off bears from using the den if I visit at any other time than when they are asleep).

A few weeks ago, another bear walked through our neck of the woods, and I put together all the bits of footage into a video. It almost seems as if the video is playing in slow motion because the bear is moving at half-speed, like most bears who are heading for a den. You can watch the video here or at Youtube.

You might have noticed the bear's limp as he left the bear-marking tree. That limp made me wonder if this bear was our former main male bear, Milton, who got hurt about 1.5 years ago. He hurt the same front leg as this bear was limping on. Perhaps he has recovered very slowly and is now returning to his former territory. That would be wonderful!

In any case, I'm sure this bear is getting ready to go to a den. Winter is arriving - there's no doubt about that. Look at the mountains on the horizon behind Shyla in the next photo. They look wintery!
But, I am hoping to see a few more bears before they all go to sleep! I know that lots of people don't like bears. However, I am someone who loves having them roam our forests. The forests always feel a little empty to me when the bears are all asleep.


  1. love to see them so rotund as i know they'll need it!

  2. I love seeing all your wildlife. I hope the tan bear is ok.

  3. They do look fat and ready for a long winter nap.

  4. We love bears tooo,,, and your photos are fantastic!!
    I hope the bears find a nice comfy den to sleep for the winter.. and I hope they have a full tummy.

  5. I do hope you find another den for us to follow. I found that totally amazing to see the bear come outside periodically during the winter.

  6. When the weather gets relentlessly gloomy, I get a little jealous of those animals that get to hunker down and sleep away the winter blues, so to speak. I love your wildlife photos, but that first one of Shyla really spoke to me - such a beautiful soul

  7. I find the bear activity fascinating!!

  8. I've always been a big fan of your bear photos! They fascinate me!

  9. Howdy Mates. We love your bears. Any creature in the wild is wonderful. We're surprised the little tree survives all that marking hehe. Thanks for sharing your photos. Hope all is well over your way. No worries, and love, Stella and Rory

  10. You are so lucky to see them ALIVE and healthy. Can't work out why people just want to kill them and call it sport.

    Re our feral fish. We don't know why they aren't just killed humanely and put back in the river for the other creatures to feed on...

  11. We hope the bear with the tan markings will be okay. Beautiful photos of you, Shyla!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  12. We hope that the bear isn't sick....we like to watch them too, but think we'd be afraid of them if we lived so close! Beautiful Shyla pics!!

  13. How can people not like bears? I wouldn't necessarily want a close-up and personal encounter but I love knowing they are out there.

    The foxes in my neighborhood get mange sometimes and it hits their tails. Poor guys look like they have possum tails :-(

  14. I've still been seeing tracks in the mud, so I think some of our bears haven't denned yet. We have minimal snow on the ground and sunny days feel warm here at altitude.

  15. Do you worry about the dogs encountering bears, or do you keep them clear of that area?

    I always worry about my dogs running into wild animals.


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