Unbearable

Unbearable

The last thing Debbie said to me as I left this morning was “Don’t forget your pistol. The last thing I need is you running into a bear.” Thirty minutes later, just 60 feet from my Buck Hump camera, I was looking at one of the biggest bears I had ever seen, and there wasn’t 40 feet between us.

I was very conscious of the fact that my walk in was very quiet and that a good breeze was blowing in my face.

My trail to Buck Hump is a mix of very thick young spruce–which I have tunneled through–and small, low-bush blueberry openings.

I was coming out of the spruce, and just as I was about to put a step out into a blueberry opening, I noticed an antler sized dead spruce branch under foot. I purposely stepped on it to make a snapping sound to alert any animals in the proximity of my presence. What a great move!

One more step, and I was in the open. There, directly ahead of me, standing upright and looking directly at me, was this very large bear. No doubt he heard the snap and stood to see what caused it.

Black Bear Standing

Black Bear Standing

I don’t know who was more stunned. We stared at each other for what seemed minutes, but I’m sure it was seconds, before I said “What’s up?” Thankfully he whirled and headed back up my trail.

I can’t imagine what might have transpired if I had not broken that stick. I’m sure that the two of us would have continued walking towards each other, and no doubt we both would have been even more startled.

As it turned out, when he whirled, it did nothing to diminish my initial thoughts of his (thankfully a him) size. He was very wide to say the least, barley fitting in between the spruces on the trail.

I looked at him long enough while we were staring at each other that I was able to estimate that his beautiful, light rust-colored muzzle was about 8 or 9 inches long and 3 or 4 inches wide. His head was much bigger than a basketball hoop. His hair glistened in the sunlight. He was a picture perfect example of his species. He wasn’t unlike the one I caught on the Seven-Point Swamp Stand camera last November.

By the way, my pistol was in my backpack. It might as well have been in my truck for all the good it would have done me if things went bad. Life lesson: If you think you might need a gun, then you’d better have it where you can get to it…in a hurry.

Now I knew he had just passed my camera–a matter of feet away–and I was sure that I’d get great videos of him. WRONG! The camera was dead. Three of the eight lithium batteries had died. I’m not sure why. Frustrated, I put a new set of alkaline batteries in–that I almost did not take with me–to get it through until my next visit.

The camera shot dozens of videos. The best were of two young bucks and a young bull.

Still with my adrenaline pumping, I rushed to get to the camera at the cutover. I knew that I was in trouble when the camera was not on the tree. As it turns out, it had been destroyed by a bear. It was several feet from the tree, and both the strap and cable holders were snapped off.

The Back of My Bearized Camera

The Back of My Bearized Camera

The sensor cover had been punctured by teeth.

The Front of My Bearized Camera

The Front of My Bearized Camera

“Well,” I thought. “At least I’ll have the video.” WRONG. That camera was dead too! The lithium batteries let me down again. The camera had been dead for three weeks or so.

Two more interesting things that I observed on the way home:

1) I saw a spot near the cutover that looked like it had been tilled. It was about 8 feet by 12 feet and oval shaped. Maybe if I was not already fuzzy with the day’s happenings, I could have figured it out. It was not turkeys or deer. It was either a bear eating ants or a moose looking for a dust bowl.

2) I found a porcupine skin. This was the work of a fisher cat. They eat the porcupine from the underside after forcing them out onto a small limb. I caught a fisher on the camera near the brook by Stand 1 back in January.

That was 90 minutes that I will not soon forget.

WLAGS

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Winter’s Victim, Part 4: Winter’s Savior

Winter’s Victim, Part 4: Winter’s Savior

From March 14 through my visit on the March 30, there were varying intensities and frequencies of visits. The most notable was from a vulture because they are not frequent visitors in the winter. My guess is that it was migrating because it only stopped by for a meal on the go.

Turkey Vulture Takes a Turn

Turkey Vulture Takes a Turn

Another surprise was the fisher, not because it came at all, but rather that it only came once.

A Fisher Checks Out the Carcass

A Fisher Checks Out the Carcass

There were countless visits by coyotes, even after all of the deer was consumed, except hair, including the morning that I checked the camera. You can see in this photo from that morning how little was left at that point.

What's Left

What’s Left

The bobcat visits were much less frequent, but did provide some great photos.

Bobcat's St. Patrick's Day Feast

Bobcat’s St. Patrick’s Day Feast

The ravens were a constant, and they were by far the most photographed critters over the last two weeks.

The Ravens Were a Constant

The Ravens Were a Constant

A mouse even got involved. I had to look closely, but one night as a coyote approached you can see a mouse scooting away. The coyote barley gave it a look, unlike almost any other time when he would have turned himself inside out to catch it.

There were more great photographs than we could reasonably include in a few blog posts. Instead, we’ll just include a slideshow here.

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All in all, this young buck provided much needed sustenance to many forms of life during the very trying days—the most trying days—of winter, as fat reserves are all but gone this late in the winter for most of these animals.

Having said that, I still am sorry that this little spike horn buck did not live to see his second spring.

WLAGS

Most Discouraged

Wow! I was so disappointed after checking the cameras this morning. We have had a major leaf fall, but I did not see ANY deer sign this morning. The leaves can cover droppings and track, but not rubs. I saw nothing.

The cameras confirmed what my eyes saw. There was one doe on camera #1, 11 minutes after I checked it last, and that was it!

I did get a great video of Mamma bear and her now considerably larger twin cubs at the Fork. Right at the end of the video, she stands up on her hind legs.

Black Bear Sow and Cubs

Black Bear Sow and Cubs

I also got a great video of a fisher cat at Stand #2, which is not surprising, as I deleted over 60 videos of mice, flying squirrels, gray squirrels, and porcupines at Stand #2.

Fisher Cat at Stand #2

Fisher Cat at Stand #2

A coyote and a red fox, the first I’ve ever seen there, also showed up to try and take advantage of the rodent explosion.

Red Fox at Stand #2

Red Fox at Stand #2

Those rodents have completely wiped out the acorns there.

By the way, I got a great video of a big bull moose at the Fork a while back that I forgot to mention.

Big Bull Moose at the Fork

Big Bull Moose at the Fork

I’m stymied, but I don’t have the physical strength right now to scout the areas where I think the deer have moved off to.

My best guess is the bigger oak groves on either side of Mountain Road and up to Stand #5.

The other possibility is the new cutovers above Eckart’s.

I have never seen so little sign in J.E.

The brookies are getting ready to spawn. I saw several this morning, including at the spot where Debbie and I watched them spawn last year.

WLAGS

Beavers

I pride myself in my observation skills, but this one I missed.

You might remember me commenting on the beavers dragging beech and maples across Rte. 1 to the brook. I thought this was all about food, but it wasn’t. Much of what they were doing was to repair the old dam.

The pond is filling up, and will once again be a magnet for wildlife. The otter, the reason I went there today, has already taken full advantage of the pond. On the down side, he has eaten about every brook trout in the brook and pond. The up side is that a moose has already checked the place out along with a pair of geese. I’m sure wood ducks and other waterfowl will be there shortly. It will be on the dining out spots list of every mink, weasel, fisher cat, deer, and raccoon in the area. To say nothing of the songbirds that will benefit from the insects and fruits.

The beavers are using the old lodge as a dining room for now, with the main lodge down near our boat launch. I think that will change as the summer and human activity grow nearer. I think that then they well might restore the old lodge, which is in the upper most portion of the photo.

Old Beaver Dam

Old Beaver Dam

They have built a series of smaller dams between this one and the lake. I am hopeful that someday, they will move further upstream to dam up the older, larger pond sight. It is prime with food and far enough off the beaten track that it would serve them well for years.

I set up my best camera on the dam to hopefully get some photos of them and the otter. That is, if he hasn’t literally eaten himself out of house and home.

WLAGS

WSI Update

Just a little update on snow and winter severity index (WSI).

Monday I was able to walk back to the camera without snowshoes. Not because there was so little snow, but because of a few sunny days and very cold nights, the snow had a deep crust. The snow depths ranged from 6” to 29”, with most places coming in at 16” to 19”. Not good.

I had the usual suspects on the camera: fox and coyote mostly, with a daytime video of the fisher, all of whom were able to walk freely on the snow crust, which of course a deer cannot do.

Deer in Deep Snow

Deer in Deep Snow

The problem with the fisher video was that although it was sunny, he spent most of his time in the shade of an evergreen.

Fisher

Fisher

I went up there today in hopes that yesterday’s 50 degrees would have knocked the snow pack down. Not much, unfortunately. Today’s depths ranged from 5” to 26” with an average of about 16”. That’s better, but we have a storm starting right now that, depending on who you want to listen to, will bring us 3” to 12” of heavy, wet snow (the plow just went by).

I think we are at about 44 WSI days so far. Not good, but if it would go quickly in the next week to something less than 12”, we, the deer, would be OK.

Last year we were at 32 WSI days for the year, and 17 of them were in March, the most critical month. We are already at 12 WSI days this month, and worse yet, 30 consecutive days.

Our average in Washington is 33 WSI days over the last 40 years or so.

Keep your fingers crossed.

WLAGS

Videos

In the last 7 days the camera behind the house took over 60 videos.
Almost half were of 3 grey fox. 2 traveling together and coming by almost every evening shortly after sunset.
It is their mating season after all.
A single shows up often, mostly 4 to 6 hours after the pair.
Of great and pleasant surprise was several videos of a large and I mean very large fisher cat.
I’ll bet he is at least as heavy as a fox. They have been known to weigh up to 18# and a big grey fox would be 12#.
He often showed up just before the single fox.
In one he sits on his haunches like a bear and scratches himself for the whole video.
He must live near by as he seems to come by every other day.
And then there is the coyote. He or she shows up at first light and if it gets within 40’ of the camera it looks at it and takes off like it was shot at!
This camera is a black light camera and has spooked only bears that have gotten close enough to smell it.
It has no infra red light to spook them. It is why I chose this model.
It is leaving me scratching my head as to what is spooking the coyote.
Any ideas?
By the way remember all the track I saw yesterday? Today after the 10” of snow, only red squirrel track.
Nothing moved overnight. It will be interesting to see how soon everything resumes normal movements.
 
WLAGS