Oct 11, 2005 at 10:28 pm #1216905
@ryanLocale: Northern Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Publisher’s View: Bear Predation (Commentary)
I had the opportunity recently to visit a demonstration of a portable electric bear fence. Yes, it’s actually backpackable. This was a UDAP brand fence, as provided about 3.7 lbs, and enough to enclose a tent/sleeping area.
The fence concept is starting to pop up in various applications. In OR, they are using it on the Rogue River to protect food caches / storage at paddling camps. In AK, wildlife biologists use them to surround their entire camp. In MT, I’ve seen them used to secure stock animals while grazing at night. The latter is a terrific application: it separates the stock, safely, from camp, which is great news for backpackers and equestrians that share the same campsites. As a horse packer, it’s nice having the piece of mind that your horses aren’t going to be harrassed by grizzly bears when they are penned a couple hundred yards away from camp. This keeps the horse food where it belongs as well: far away from camp.
The applications of this technology could be very cool for grizzly country. There’s been a lot of talk about brown/grizzly bear predation since Herrero’s book came out a few years ago, and since Timothy Treadwell & mate were eaten in Katmai. A new and apparently predatory attack recently occurred on the Hulahula R in ANWR. Both of the latter could have been avoided by use of a fence.
After seeing the UDAP fence, it’s first version is pretty amazing: it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and does it for a very light weight. I think you could easily chop 40% of the weight, but perhaps at twice the price (it’s already at $300).Oct 12, 2005 at 2:16 am #1342721
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
good post and view/commentary. it’s not surprising that the bear’s rxn to the spray the first time (leaving & perhaps rubbing nose/mouth on ground) and subsequent times (recognition w/o the need for actually spraying) is identical to that of dogs & the somewhat common “Halt” product. dogs too learn from a single exposure to “Halt” and leave when the hand goes to the can of “Halt” or the can is raised and pointed. having owned, trained and cared for dogs (both mine & others), i have had numerous encounters with strangers unrestrained dogs when walking mine or friends’ dogs.
this is probably, as stated here, a dumb idea and i’m not suggesting it for actual use as stated. however, it may be the “germ seed” of a better idea. for decades (maybe even longer) dog trainers have used both lemon juice or vinegar in a balloon to attempt to eliminate certain behaviors from dogs – digging being one of them. balloon is filled with lemon juice or vinegar, inflated, and buried (in the case of “digging”). dog digs it up; it explodes in dog’s face or mouth; sprays dog & dog sometimes learns not to dig. some dogs are smart enough to learn the smell of the balloon and so will continue to dig elsewhere where there is no “booby-trap” – those cagey canines!
my point is, can anyone think of a way to do something similar with the bear canister? it would be sort of an outer “booby-trap”. there is also the question of whether this deterrent would really work on a bear. i’m sure that noxious chems could be used to chase the bear away, but would it return? hunger drive is perhaps stronger than the digging drive.
not that the hiker has to carry the booby-trapped canister, but could such be used to educate bears that inhabit the area by the powers that be in that locale/park?
of course, this still leaves the human as the only available food!!Oct 12, 2005 at 7:27 am #1342731
Ryan, I don’ t see how it can be said with 100% confidence that this fence will stop a predatory bear from attacking. I’ll have to look up some web info on it and read.Oct 12, 2005 at 8:12 am #1342732
@mikeclellandLocale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
The electric bear fence is a great new tool. It has been used successfully on courses for NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School).
It’s easy to use. And outfitters are using it in greater numbers, it’s becoming the norm.
Remember – we are visitors in the bears fragile home. The best way we can protect the bears is by being an immaculate camper in bear-country. If a bear attacks a person, it’s gunna get shot. A fed bear is a dead bear.Oct 12, 2005 at 9:23 am #1342741
Ryan’s editorial is very thought provoking but perhaps a bit alarmist concerning the possibility of black bears in the Sierra becoming predatory. I’m not sure
that our “conditioning” of the bears feeding behavior vis a vis our misbegotten tactics in keeping our food from their hairy paws would escalate to something so contrary to Ursus Euarctos americanus natural history.
I do agree, though, that we must take a different tact in how we interact with the Ursine bores. And it certainly isn’t bear canisters.Oct 12, 2005 at 9:35 am #1342745
I’m not a hunter, and am fairly pacifist, but maybe we ought to think about hunting bears once in a while. They are losing all fear of people.Oct 12, 2005 at 9:43 am #1342747
Kevin: I assumed the editorial was talking about Grizzlies.
William: I haven’t looked for the news myself, but I heard through the grapevine that there was a lethal black bear attack in Ontario recently and the talk is that the black bears (which as we all know almost never attack) are no longer afraid of humans due to a hunting ban. Again though… I stress… I did not research these reports and theories myself… it’s just talk. Maybe someone else knows the true story.
p.s. Just did a quick google search. It’s a true story. Here’s the link…Oct 12, 2005 at 9:54 am #1342749
David– Ryan muses about black bears as well. read again.
re. Ontario bear attack— there seem to be be behavioral differences between Eastern and Western populations of Black Bears. I have heard of attacks in Pennsylvania (in years past), as well. But were they predatory?Oct 12, 2005 at 10:02 am #1342751
Kevin: Ya… I only read thru the editorial once this morning… over breakfast. I’ll re-read.
I guess Ontario would be considered Eastern. The article doesn’t provide any details as to what led to the attack… i.e. if they accidently surprised the bear or if it was actually on the prowl. It does say that the same bear approached another hiker about 30 mins. before the fatal attack though, so it sounds like it was predatory.
I’m in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia BTW… on the eastern seaboard. We have black bears here of course… but there has never been a recorded incident of a fatal black bear attack in NS.Oct 12, 2005 at 10:33 am #1342753
What about using odor-proof bags in canisters and other food protection devices (ie, Ursacks)? Have bears attacked food canisters using odor-proof bags? My own experience is that neither Ursacks nor canisters are disturbed when I used those bags to contain my food.Oct 12, 2005 at 2:48 pm #1342768
@kenknightLocale: SE Michigan
Yes, a fatal black bear attack did take place in Ontario last month. There have also been a handful of black bear attacks that resulted in injury throughout the summer in Ontario and Alberta. Some of the attacks were fended off without injury.
There was also, if I recall correctly, a fatal bear attack in Pennsylvania in June but I’m not going to take the time to do the serach to confirm the details.
The point: black bears and grizzly bears both can pose a threat. I’m not sure it’s too the point where I feel I must carry bear spray in places like GSMNP or New Jersey (the rules on bear spray in Canada are different; last I checked I could not bring it across the border).Oct 12, 2005 at 3:11 pm #1342770
Do you think Bear spray would act as a deterrent on the Jersey Devil?Oct 12, 2005 at 3:25 pm #1342771
@ryanLocale: Northern Rockies
From the report of the Ontario fatality, posted above:
“While there has been an increase in bear sightings, the ones that attack and kill are almost all in remote areas.”
The attack on the hulahula river in ANWR was really surprising to me. This was a healthy, young, bear. The argument posed in the article was that hunting could curtail bear predation by instilling fear in bears. I’m all for bear hunting, but I’m not convinced I buy that argument.
The research I’ve done leads me to believe that some bears are “bad” bears (I use this term loosely, only to refer to a bear that might have predatory tendencies towards a human). Increasing human presence in remote areas may simply be increasing the probability that a human will encounter a bear that wants to eat them? Is it just statistics?
One thing I don’t think a lot of people (especially tourists and frontcountry visitors, or uninformed backountry visitors) realize is the extent to which a bear will seek food.
The urge for putting on fat is tremendous, especially in the late season. Having shot an elk and defended the gut pile from a grizzly, and firing warning shots until our rounds were gone and still having the bear circle us is a freaky experience. Only bear spray kept it at bay – temporarily. In two hours, the bear was back. It really wanted the food. It’s very scary, to see a bear in a predatory mode.
I was camping just outside of Yellowstone in 2003 and a griz came into camp in the middle of the night and began circling our tents. It grabbed a pack and ripped it open. We exited our shelters, sprayed the bear, and it left – for about an hour. By then we had packed up. The bear came into camp just as we finished packing, but there was still one tent up. We left the tent and began hiking away from camp. The bear ambled over to the tent and shredded it. It ate some of the fabric and chewed on the poles. This was a healthy looking bear and certainly did not appear malnourished. But, we were told that the huckleberry and whitebark pine crops were doing poorly in this area, and food was in very short supply. We did not cook in camp – we’d cooked 2 hours earlier up the trail. We weren’t even camped on the trail: this was a great stealth camp, located about 1/3 mile from the main trail, completely in the middle of the woods: no game trails, no creek waterways, nothing that would indicate a “bear trail”. We hung our food, toiletries, cooking gear, all back on the trail 1/3 mile away. Crazy.
Thanks for the comments, all, on the editorial. It was intended to provoke thought. I hope the forum continues to do so.Oct 12, 2005 at 4:31 pm #1342779
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
I read Ryan’s commentary with interest and also William Webber’s(shoot the damn things). I have backpacked in SEKI for over 30 years and watched with increasing nervousness as the bears have become increasingly aggressive. There have been several incidents in the last 2 years of humans being injured by bears in the Upper Bubbs Creek area as well as Rock Creek/Mitre Basin. At least one bear has learned to bluff charge backpackers to get them to drop their backpacks and run. They have also learned how to open Bearikade and Bear Vault cannisters by sitting on them to pop the lid. The point being: The critters have lost their fear of humans and cannisters are not an iron clad solution. My fear is similar to Ryan’s; sooner or later they will figure out that the mother lode is not the cannister, but the human. This is more likely if cannisters become really bear proof. When I suggested this to SIBG personnel they were cheerfully dismissive. Nonetheless, I tend to think along the line suggested by William Webber, i.e. an occasional hunt to instill a healthy fear of humans. Their first reaction when they see a human should be, for their sake as well as ours, to “get the hell out of Dodge”. As anecdotal evidence in support of this idea: when is the last time anyone had a problem with bears in a national forest, where hunting is allowed? Not me.Oct 12, 2005 at 5:31 pm #1342785
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
In all respect. In SEKI the owners of the Bearvault were not properly screwing on the lid. If the lid is not screwed on properly then a 500 lbs bear sitting on it could easily pop it off. As for Bubbs Creek drainage. I too have heard reports of bears being pretty agressive towards humans. In some cases, from what I have heard, injuries did occur. I have hiked from Yosemite south to SEKI and have only seen one bear in my short time as a backpacker (7 years). The one I did see just walked away from our group and went about his business. I still will take my chances sleeping in the backcountry versus driving or living in the San Jose Bay Area any day.Oct 12, 2005 at 5:35 pm #1342786
You might be right, Tom, in there being a progression to something like predatory behavior–maybe not. I had not heard of any injuries from Black Bears in SEKI due to attempts at predation. That there were strong indicators in most (if not all) incidents of provoked action ( cub/ mother situations, dumb aggressive behavior on the part of the humans, etc.).
I would love to see the documentation of these incidents in one handy place.
This all being said, culling (of both species) may be necessary in places like SEKI or particular areas like Bubbs Creek.
I’ve seen some pretty onery bear action, myself, there in past years—although I’ve never felt personally threatened (nor have I lost food to bears there–or anywhere else for that matter). I’ve chased huge sows in the wee hours throwing large rocks and generally, making a spectacle of myself just below Charlotte Dome, above Bubbs Creek. I’ve seen poor attempts at protecting one’s food –bad bear bagging in the pre canister days—and incredibly reckless behavior on part of some parties camped in the area. All which have contributed to the problem.
Too many dumb people, too many smart bears.
And a shame that I don’t care for bear meat. But humans, I hear, taste pretty decent ;-)Oct 12, 2005 at 6:11 pm #1342789
Ahhh, Kevin, you just jinked yourself.
Humans taste pretty good !?
Hey buddy, sleep well at night !
Maybe its just me, but I feel like
the law of survival is me or them.
Same problem with dogs today (in society) is that they have lost a fear
Our “human” laws will need to change to preserve the right of human life over animal life in ALL cases.
Perhaps the new face of the Supreme Court will get to address this issue.Oct 12, 2005 at 6:34 pm #1342791
well, If we really are what we eat ( as the saying goes) than perhaps we should eat really beautiful people….
as for the rest—- huh?
sounds like you are going to make the PETA most wanted list, Wildman
sweet dreamsOct 12, 2005 at 6:39 pm #1342792
Patrick: It’s working man… I’m getting more and more afraid of humans all the time! LOL :)Oct 12, 2005 at 7:09 pm #1342793
@kennyhel77Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
agreed there!!! Remember all, WE ARE ALL VISITORS OUT IN THE WILDERNESS!!!Oct 12, 2005 at 7:14 pm #1342794
just when you thought it was safe to go Ultralight….
“I don’t think that little electric fence is going to stop me”…….muwa hahaha!Oct 12, 2005 at 8:05 pm #1342797
A friend of mine once showed me slides of his backpacking trips on Kodiak Island, Alaska from 15 years ago. He had lived there for several years during high school while his dad worked at the Kodiak Island Naval Base. I noticed in the photos he had a huge handgun strapped to his waist (Desert Eagle 44 magnum auto.) I was surprised to learn that this was for protection from the Kodiak Island brown bears, which he said were even bigger than the Grizzlies in Montana and Wyoming. According to him it was common practice to carry such a weapon for bear protection while backpacking in that area. Also I noticed from his slides that the designated backpacking campground he used was completely enclosed by a strong chain link fence-even fenced on top. I can’t remember if he said the fence was electrified, but it may have been. That was bear management Kodiak Island style.Oct 12, 2005 at 9:04 pm #1342800
Is it just me or does anyone else feel they’d rather take their chances dealing with the bears versus the gun toting humans.Oct 12, 2005 at 10:34 pm #1342806
Having spent a summer in Lake Clark National Park in southwest Alaska, as well as some other time in the mountains, I’ve had a fair amount of (close) contact with brown and black bears. Brown bears are damn impressive animals. We carried .44 Magnum revolvers, pepper spray, and 12 ga. shotguns for bear protection. Interesting that firearms are allowed in the 1980 “ANILCA” parks and preserves, but nowhere else in the park service.
I think I could stop a charging bear with a shotgun and slugs, but what about a hungry bear who rips open your tent in the middle of the night? While the chances must be small, recent events have proven them to be greater than zero. The option of sentry duty at night is pretty onerous for a small group.Oct 12, 2005 at 11:21 pm #1342810
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
depends upon the particular humans, oh…and the particular bears. on some sections of the AT near more populated areas, CT & MA, unless i were hiking with some others (rare), i wouldn’t go near the shelters. is that b/c of bears or humans? don’t get too many bears round these parts! (though have seen one some yrs ago – it was road kill..oh…the pick-em up truck that hit it…judging by the trail of debris leading away from the impact site, sorta’ like drops of blood, the truck was….mortally wounded too.)
BTW, in case anyone is thinking “handgun” defense for griz. back in the 60’s there was this program called “American Sportsman”. originally, they took TV/Movie stars & atheletes on various types of “hunts” or fishing trips – later on a kinder, gentler Am. Sportsman developed, cameras were usually used instead of guns (yes, fishing was catch & release). one episode took this NFL player, a big guy (was it Dick Butkus??? can’t remember), hunting for brownies in alaska – with a handgun. can’t remember if it was a Ruger Redhawk (not even sure when it was first mf’d, but as i recall it had a chrome alloy color to it and no blueing), but it was identified as a .44 magnum handgun and had a scope mounted on top of it (i don’t think ‘Dirty Harry’ was even out yet). some yrs later, when i first handled a Redhawk – scope and all – (way too much gun for me), it reminded me of that gun in that Am. Sp. episode.
well…to cut to the chase…they approach this innocent bear foraging in the ground for whatever an innocent bear forages in the ground for that time of year …as they slowly approach (stalk) real close (50ft or so, maybe less), out of curiosity, the bear “pops tall” to get a gander and try to pick up a scent. guide whispers “now”, NFL player aims for the heart. one shot. one kill. game over, man. of course, a predatory bear isn’t gonna be adopting this “go on, i dare you, shoot me in the thoracic vitals pose”, is it now?!! it already knows “what” you are (i.e., din-din) and “where” you are. so no need to pop to attention. that bear was a big, big, big, big bear. seen some like it in the Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History (~1500lb and over 7′ tall – move over Shaq!). NFL player was dwarfed by the size of his kill. very formidable looking animal.
y’all out west can keep your griz and brownies. i don’t want to be messin’ with even a 300lb hungry black bear. hope my bear spray works. REAL QUESTION: anyone know if “Counter Assault” is a decent product, or should i get the product Dr. J uses?
oh…one more thing. as if y’all don’t have enough problem with griz. read in the news recently, some real intelligent folks are attempting to get permission to set up African game preserves complete with large herbivorous mammals, plus lions and hyaenas out in the flatter parts (savannah-like) of your neck of the woods. they say it’s the only way to insure survival of these dwindling species. oh…yes…i’ve read that bear spray does work on lions, but then, generally speaking (if it’s not a young or very old lone male), don’t the females of the pride generally hunt in groups of at least 3-5 (one or two chasers and an ambush group)!!! better carry 2 or 3 cans of bear, er…i mean lion spray with you at all times.
in most food chains, there is room for only one “apex” predator. go ahead and intelligently cull (not wipe out) the bear “herds” (you get my meaning, right? maybe there are too many? don’t know.). how many human lives equals one bear’s life?…or…is it the other way around??? wonder how PETA would ans. that ques?
i’ll take the 0400 watch.
“Fun” Factoid for the day: just in case anyone is not aware, and enjoys learning about animals. Dr. J mentioned the predatory bear going for the mid-section. here’s what i’ve read some years ago: wild cats, wolves, etc do the same. in packs the alpha beast gets the mid-section. why? they eat first. why the midsection first? partially digested food in the small intestine & the internal organs – both good sources of nutrients – that’s why they can stay alpha the longest – they eat the best. remember, not bears (being omnivores, though they still exhibit this mid-section first behavior), but carnivores don’t eat much vegetable matter, so they try to get it (and its nutrients) from the prey’s small intestine and internal organs (store houses for some nutrients).
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