Winter Black Bear

If you haven’t noticed, Winter is here.  My friend Justin and I went out on one of the coldest days to look for moose.  Instead we found this day old bear trail. Not all bears go dormant in winter (the definition of hibernation keeps changing, hence my use of dormant) if there is enough food available.  I was still surprised to find an active bear in single digit temperatures.

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Bears are walkers, often “understepping” while traveling (the hind foot falling short of the front foot’s track). This individual almost never understepped, instead it’s hind feet fell directly in it’s front tracks.img_1523

Justin found a hair where the bear passed under a low branch.  By the track and trail dimensions and the lowness of what it passed under without a change in track pattern we could tell it was not a very big bear.

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We followed the trail for a couple miles. Most of the way the animal seemed to be traveling though in one area it shortened its stride, stopped and turned several times, and looped around . img_1549

This image, though somewhat unclear, shows scat and urine.  The scat is most surely from the bear.  I was less sure about the urine as another animal’s trail passed the same spot. It also had snow in it from the previous day’s snowfall and could have been bobcat or grey fox.  I did not follow it out as we where to into the bear trail.  The urine smelled like wet dog which neither bobcat or grey fox smell like leaving me to feel pretty confident it belonged to the bear.img_1547

img_1536Above is one of the places the bear turned back on its own trail after pausing, leaving elongated looking tracks.

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We did find some moose sign near a small wetland.  The moose had been eating the bark of this red maple tree, scraping it with it’s incisors.  Only their bottom jaw have incisors causing them to only scrap upward. img_1561

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After several hours the bear crossed the road we had come in on so we took that as an end to our journey.  It was very exciting for both of us and though we had dreams of finding the bear sleeping in a den at the end of the trail we left happy and fulfilled.

A quick disclaimer of sorts.  Single digit temperatures in fairly featureless woods with an overcast sky with the plan to “follow a bear” is a potently dangerous situation.  I do not it take lightly.  We have experience both with wildlife and cold temperatures, had a way to make fire, told someone where we were and when to expect us back and were not alone.  That said it is worth it and if one is prepared need not be feared.

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