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Bears leaving dens early; precautions advised

WILDLIFE — Bears are on the move early this year, lured from their winter dens by unseasonably warm weather.

  Bear activity has been reported in recent weeks from the Washington Coast east to Yellowstone National Park.

"Black bears usually start making appearances in mid-to-late April, but warm weather can cause them to stir earlier," said Rich Beausoleil, bear and cougar specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Black bears are hungry when they emerge from their dens, because they lose up to half of their body weight during hibernation."

Natural foods are scarce this early in the year, so bears often start looking for the easiest source of high-protein food, he said.

People living in and at the edge of bear country can reduce the chance of attracting bear problems by securing garbage cans, removing backyard bird seed and keeping pet food indoors.

"Situations involving bears that have learned to associate food sources with people often end badly for the bear," Beausoleil said.

Two state laws prohibit leaving food or food waste in places where it can attract bears and other wild carnivores. Unintentionally or "negligently" feeding bears can bring a fine of $87 while the fine for intentional feeding can be as much as $1,000.

Human conflicts with bears tend to subside by mid-summer, when berries and other natural foods become available, and then pick up again in fall before the animals enter their dens, Beausoleil said.

Steps to prevent conflicts with bears include:

  • Never intentionally feed bears or other wild animals.
  • Keep garbage cans in a garage or another secure area until collection day.
  • Remove pet food from areas accessible to wildlife.
  • Take down bird feeders until winter.
  • Thoroughly clean barbecue grills after each use.
  • When camping, thoroughly clean all cooking utensils after use and seal uneaten food in airtight containers that are stored in bear-proof canisters away from sleeping areas.

Read more information on avoiding conflicts with bears.

Smith River floaters not ready to be bear savvy

CAMPING — Just about every outdoor park  and forest in North America that has bears requires bear-resistant camping methods. 

But even in the wake of having to kill eight bears that had become camp robbers, Montana lags…

Montana Parks Board won't require bear-proof food containers on Smith River
Over the past two years, eight black bears were killed along the Smith River corridor due to conflicts with people floating the river, prompting the staff of the agency to recommend that campers and boaters use bear-proof containers, a recommendation the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board rejected. Instead the board ordered parks staff to come up with other recommendations to keep bears from being attracted to camps and stops along the river. The board will take up before permits to float the river are issued next spring.

Man killed by bear likely interrupted feeding

BEAR ATTACKS — Hikers and hunters who venture into bear country can benefit from reading investigations of bear attacks.  Here's a report on the most recent investigation of a bear mauling in the Northern Rockies.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A panel of wildlife experts has concluded that a Utah man mauled to death in a remote area of northwest Wyoming in September likely happened upon a bear feeding on a deer.

“We think the attack was a combination of two things — that the bear was on a carcass and the bear was surprised at close range,” Chris Servheen, grizzly recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a member of the panel, said Friday. “Either one of those types of encounters can provoke a charge and an attack by the bear.”

The panel found evidence of both grizzly bears and black bears at the site where Adam Stewart, 31, of Virgin, Utah, was killed on Sept. 4. In addition, the area where the attack occurred is forested and hilly, and Stewart may not have seen the bear until he was 15 to 20 feet away, it said.

“It’s not real easy to see in that area,” Servheen said.

They can’t determine what kind of bear killed him because of the condition of his body and the presence of both kinds of bears in the area, Servheen said. Stewart’s body wasn’t found until eight days after the mauling in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, bears had fed on his body and his remains were mixed in with deer remains.

Stewart was employed by a Boise, Idaho, company, Nature’s Capital, which the U.S. Forest Service had hired to conduct vegetation surveys.

He was working alone and didn’t have bear spray or a firearm with him.

While it’s impossible to know whether bear spray would have prevented the attack, Servheen said he was surprised that Stewart didn’t have bear spray with him in an area known to be grizzly bear habitat.

“We recommend to everybody that they carry bear spray and we also recommend that people don’t hike alone,” he said.

It is believed that Stewart was an experienced backcountry hiker.

Investigators determined that Stewart was attacked and killed on the day he hiked into the forest. Evidence, which includes a time stamped photograph from Stewart’s camera, indicates he had set up camp and was hiking to a research plot site 3 miles away when the encounter with the bear occurred.

Anti-hunters twist bear mauling into propaganda

WILDLIFE — An anti-hunting group says it has put up a billboard in the hometown of a Washington bowhunter recently bitten by a bear with the underlying message — "You had it coming."

While hunting deer with his son, Jerry Hause of Longview was treed and bitten in the foot and leg by a black bear over the Labor Day weekend after he apparently got between a sow and cub while bowhunting in the area.

Always game for a distasteful headline-grabbing jab at hunters, PETA apparently paid to place a billboard in Longview that shows a bear pursuing a hunter up a tree above the words "Payback Is Hell. Leave Animals Alone."

"No one wants to be treated like a living target or to suffer and die—not humans or any other animals," says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. "PETA's billboard is a reminder that hunting means causing fear, pain, suffering, and death, and there's nothing 'sporting' about it."

On the other hand, God designed life on earth with predators and prey.  For example, deer and elk suffer fear and pain as they are ripped, disemboweled and killed by wolves or coyotes. At least human hunters strive for a quick, clean kill.

It's shocking, but true.  Real life isn't like Disneyland.

Bowhunter treed, bitten by black bear

HUNTING — A Western Washington archery hunter is recovering from puncture wounds to his leg after startling a black bear during a hunt on Monday.

Jerry Hause, 60, spooked the bear while hunting near Longview and figured his best option as the bear charged was to climb a tree.

The rest of the story is told in detail in the following report, by Shari Phiel of the Longview Daily News:

LONGVIEW, Wash. (AP) — When Longview resident Jerry Hause headed out for Monday’s bow hunting opener, he never imagined he would end up in a fight for his life with a black bear.

Hause and his son Jeffrey, 26, drove into a remote, wooded area in the upper Abernathy Creek area about eight miles west of Longview in hopes of bagging deer. Hause, 60, has been hunting for decades, but he’s been a bow-hunter for only four.

Hause was about to start driving game toward his son, who was waiting in a tree, when the unexpected happened.

“I’d already hiked about three miles so I sat down to take a break before I tried to push some (game) back to him. I took my backpack off and sat my bow down and as I was sitting there I started looking around and … I saw a black head which I thought was a bear,” Hause said from his home Thursday. “I’ve hunted this area for 30-plus years and I’ve never seen a bear up there.”

Hause said the bear appeared to be a cub and was 80 to 100 yards away. Knowing knew it’s unwise to come between a cub and its mother, he looked for a way to leave the area.

“I stood up and in one motion that bear jumped out of the creek it was in and was on level ground with me. And as soon as it was on level ground it was on a dead run after me,” he said.

He doesn’t know if the bear was the mother or the same bear he’d thought was a cub.

Hause said he knew he wouldn’t be able to pick and aim his bow, and he wasn’t confident he could drop the 250- to 300-pound animal. His only choice, he said, was to climb the tree he had been resting against.

“I knew the tree was right there, so I headed up that to get far enough up the tree that the bear couldn’t get me,” Hause said.

Hause climbed several feet up into the tree. The bear followed, but Hause said he thought he was out of the bear’s reach until he looked down just as the bear bit into his left leg.

“It totally amazes me how fast that bear got on me. In three seconds it was on me,” he said.

Hause said the bear also tried to grab him with one of its paws and left claw marks on his leg. He said he realized he couldn’t climb any higher, so he grabbed a branch above him and held on.

“I was thinking, ‘If it gets me out of this tree I’m a dead man.’ It was mad, it was growling. It was serious about what it was going to do,” Hause said.

Hause pulled himself and kicked out at the bear with his other foot. Having heard on wildlife shows that sharks will sometimes stop an attack after being hit in the nose, Hause aimed for the bear’s nose. The maneuver seemed to work. The bear let go and dropped to the ground and then moved off.

After waiting 10 minutes, Hause said he got out of the tree and began hiking back to his truck. Once he got to an area where he could make a call on his cell phone, he alerted his son and called his wife, who came and took him to PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center. He was treated and released and is expected to make a full recovery from his puncture and scratch wounds.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Bob Weaver said the chances of encountering a bear in the woods, let alone being attacked by one, are very slim.

“This is are very rare incident. It’s happened before, but it’s a very rare thing to happen,” Weaver said.

Statewide, there are an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 black bears. Weaver didn’t know how many bears there are in the Cowlitz County area.

“Typically bears are very afraid of people. If they know people are around, they tend to run the other way. Of course when you get a sow with cubs, the motherly instinct is to protect their cubs, so you have a higher possibility of something like that happening, especially if you get between the sow and the cubs,” Weaver said.

Officials initially planned to track down and euthanize the bear, Hause said. He said he talked them out of it because it’s in a remote area and may have just been protecting its young.

Weaver said wildlife agents plan to evaluate the attack site to see if there is evidence of cubs or a kill in the area that the bear may have been guarding. Hause said he’s willing to go along — if they’re armed. He said he also plans to carry a pistol with him when he goes hunting from now on.

Hause, a retired building analyst for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, said he doesn’t blame the bear for what happened.

“It either had cubs out there or I was threatening its food. It’s bear country. They live in the woods. I don’t.”

Injured hiker had to fend off bears

HIKING — Bears have always been good at smelling opportunity.

A hiker who fell, broke his leg and dislocated his shoulder in the North Cascades last weekend said he had to fend off bears while he waited several hours for a helicopter rescue team.

The 50-year-old man activated a beacon that notified his wife after his accident at 6,000 feet on Syncline Mountain along the Pacific Crest Trail, the U.S. Navy told the Bellingham Herald.

  • Most mountains in the North Cascades were covered in snow above 5,000 feet last weekend.

A helicopter with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine responded and found him at the bottom of a winding series of switchbacks. But that crew did not have space to land or slings to hoist the man off the mountain.

So they dropped him food, a medical kit and a water bottle with a note letting him know another helicopter, from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, would come to rescue him soon.

Perhaps the bears smelled the rations.

The injured man was hoisted out off the mountain in a rescue basket by the Navy helicopter at 10:30, more than five hours after the accident.

He told the crew he'd encountered more than one bear while waiting, but fended them off with bear spray. 

Adventurer kills, eats faithful dog in 2-month survival epic

ADVENTURE — Here's a Canadian survival story with an unusual twist that has some animal lovers saying a desperate man made a heartless decision.  

But doctors treating Marco Lavoie after his rescue in the wilderness of northern Quebec say he may not have survived his four-month ordeal had he not killed and eaten his dog.

Some fascinating points to the story:

  • Lavoie, 44, was close to death when a rescue crew found him last week.
  • His canoe and vital supplies were destroyed by a bear at the start of a planned two-month trip in August.
  • Lavoie's German Shepherd may have saved Lavoei's life by chasing away the bear in the initial attack.
  • But three days later, facing the possibility of starvation Lavoie, killed his doting companion with a rock.
  • The first words Lavoie reported spoke to medical staff: 'I want to get a new dog.'

Lavoie had lost 90 pounds and was suffering from hypothermia when rescuers found him Wednesday. News reports from Monday indicated he was still in critical condition.

Could you kill your faithful canine companion if you thought it would be the difference between your life and death?

Bear awareness needed during big-game hunts

HUNTING — Bears are still out and active throughout the fall as hunters are out for deer and elk hunting — a potentially hazardous mix. 

Being bear aware is particularly important for hunters because stalking and harvesting game increases a person’s chance of bumping into bears, says Jamie Jonkel, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear management specialist.

“When travelling through dense brush or field dressing an animal, be extra aware and do what you can to warn wildlife of your presence,” Jonkel says.  “Always have bear spray close at hand.”

Jonkel says this has been an especially busy fall for grizzly bear activity, especially in Western Montana.

He offers these safety tips for hunting in bear country:

  • Always carry bear spray, have it within easy reach and know how to use it.
  • If you are going to be alone in bear country, let someone know your plans.
  • Watch for fresh bear sign.
  • After making a kill, get the carcass out of the area as quickly as possible.
  • When field dressing the carcass, keep your can of bear spray within easy reach.
  • Use special precautions if you must leave and return to a carcass, including   placing the carcass where you can observe it from a distance when you return.
  • Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a bear that is near or feeding on a carcass

Check the Deer, Elk and Antelope Hunting regulations available online and at FWP offices, or go to FWP’s Living with Wildlife web page for more information on hunting in bear country.

Ask question before helping hunting buddy pack out game

HUNTING — "Is it dead, yet?"

Maybe that's a question you need to ask if your hunting buddy calls and asks for  help packing out his bear.   From the Associated Press:

KALISPELL, Mont. — Montana wildlife officials say a black bear wounded by a bow hunter bit the arm of the hunter’s companion before succumbing to its injuries.

State Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman John Fraley says a man was hunting Tuesday near Thompson Falls when he shot the 150-pound female black bear with a bow and arrow.

The hunter waited for several hours to try to make sure the bear was dead before he started tracking it.

The hunter located the wounded bear and shot it twice more with his bow. The bear then ran down a hill and encountered a man who had arrived to assist the hunter. The bear bit the second man’s arm before it died.

The injured man was treated at the hospital in Plains and released.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say the hunter legally tagged the bear. 

Camera collars let biologists tag along with bears

WILDLIFE — Biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are getting a peek into what city bears do all day.

Six bears were equipped with rugged video cameras attached to collars around their necks, which are allowing biologists to get a good idea of how the four black and two brown bears spent their time last summer.

See the story and video clips.

Homeowners need to be ‘bear aware’

WILDLIFE — The region's black bears are out of their winter dens and on the move, looking for food sources that might help them regain weight lost during hibernation.

Homeowners can avoid problem encounters with bears by being aware.

High calorie human foods are a major attractant, particularly if they are easy to obtain, such as out of a bird feeder or garbage can.

Idaho Fish and Game officials urge homeowners who live rural and suburban settings to take small precaution that can make a big difference in safety and to the welfare of the bears.  Whether it's a black bear or a grizzly, a bear lured into a yard or campground by food or garbage is likely to be killed for public safety.

“All bears are opportunists; their whole life revolves around food,”  Fish and Game conservation educator Evin Oneale said. “They remember every single location where they receive a food reward, and if they get one from your residence, or your neighbor’s residence, they will be back for more.”

The result is always the same – a dead bear.

Read on for easy solutions for homeowners living near prime bear country.

Elk hunter kills charging grizzly bear on a Thanksgiving to remember

Elk hunter in Wyoming national park kills charging grizzly bear

In what is being categorized as a first, elk hunters shot and killed a charging grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park on Thanksgiving morning, according to the Jackson Hole Daily.

With bear spray in pack, woman suffers bites from grizzly

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS —  The recent story of a bear protecting its cubs in the presense of humans calls for a review of basic procedures for walking in bear country:

  1. Bear spray is an effective deterrent to bear attacks.
  2. Bear spray is useless if not immediately accessible when a bear is encountered.

In Montana and Idaho, grizzlies are especially active this time of year looking for berries to put on fat for the winter, as displayed in the photo above snapped last week by Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Hikers and especially stealthy hunters, such as archers, should be prepared for bear encounters during fall.

See a video on using bear spray effectively

See more tips for especially for hunting and fishing in bear country.

Learn about bear spray and more at “Be Bear Aware” exhibit

WILDLIFE — A “Be Bear Aware” educational trailer – and a chance to be trained on using bear spray – will be open Monday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department office, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Grizzly attacks solo hiker in Glacier Park

HIKING –A grizzly bear attacked a hiker around noon today on the trail from Many Glacier to Piegan Pass in Glacier National Park. The hiker was able to walk to assistance after the being bitten multiple times.

The 50-year male hiker from St. Paul, Minnesota was hiking alone when he rounded a bend in the trail and encountered a sow grizzly with one sub-adult, park officials say. The hiker was carrying bear spray, but was unable to deploy it before the bear attacked.

The hiker sustained bites to his left thigh and left forearm, before the bear grabbed his foot, shook him, released him and left the area, the park report says.

The man hiked back toward Many Glacier encountering a naturalist ranger leading a hike. The ranger notified dispatch while the man continued to the Many Glacier Ranger Station where he was treated for his injuries and then transported to the Blackfeet Community Hospital in Browning by the Babb Ambulance.

Initial reports indicated the hiker was making noise as he hiked.

The trail from Piegan Pass to Feather Plum Falls is closed at this time, and rangers are investigating the incident.

Glacier National Park is grizzly and black bear country. Park officials advice hikers to carry bear spray, know how to use it, and have it on a pack strap ready for immediate use.

Hikers are also encouraged to hike in groups and make noise when hiking.  
  

Grizzly attack takes toll on Alaska NOLS group

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Seven teens participating in a month-long National Outdoor Leadership School wilderness trip in Alaska were mauled by a grizzly bear with a cub in Alaska's Talkeetna Mountains; two hikers had life-threatening injuries, the Denver Post reports.
  

Camp-raiding bear forces camping area closure up North Fork CdA River

WILDLFE ISSUES – A popular camping area up the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River is being closed to public use because of a black bear that’s been raiding campsites and picnickers.

Idaho Panhandle National Forests officials say the closure affects the Graham Creek area about 14 miles north of Interstate 90 and up the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River off Forest Highway 9. 

Frequent bear encounters have been reported in the area, said Kimberly Johnson, Coeur d’Alene District deputy ranger. 

“While most people are storing their food and trash properly, we have a situation that could potentially turn dangerous if the bear continues to return and becomes habituated to encounters with humans,” she said. 

“By removing food and trash from the area, our goal is to protect both the visitors and the bears by discouraging the bears from returning.”

When camping in bear country keep a clean camp, secure food and trash in bear-proof containers or a vehicle at all times, and keep pets under control, she advised. 

Info and updates:  Coeur d’Alene River Ranger District in Fernan (208) 664-2318.

Grizzly kills hiker in Yellowstone: first in 25 years

NATIONAL PARKS —  A grizzly bear killed a hiker today on a popular trail in the Yellowstone National Park backcountry. It's the first fatal bear mauling in the park since 1986, officials said.

Park spokesman Al Nash said it appears the man and his wife surprised a female grizzly and her cubs this morning, the Associated Press reports.

Nash said investigators have been interviewing the woman about the bear attack, which took place close to Canyon Village, near the middle of the park. He said authorities aren’t prepared to release the man’s name, age or hometown and likely won’t release more details until Thursday.

Nash said park officials haven’t taken any action against the bear, which he described as a sow with cubs.

Read on for details.

Black bear killed where woman was attacked near Colville

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A small black bear was killed the day after a woman was attacked while she was jogging Thursdya near Thomas and Gillette campgrounds east of Colville.

As I reported in my blog post on Friday, the 36-year-old woman surprised a bear while jogging. She fell to the ground and was batted around by the bear.

She was not seriously injured, but state Fish and Wildlife officials say they have to take bear encounters seriously in developed areas.

Fish and Wildlife officers brought in a houndsman who released dogs near the site of the incident.

"Very shortly they spooked up a couple of bears," said Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman. "One was estimated at 140 pounds. The other, about 70 pounds, turned on the dogs and handler, so they took it out."

It's not clear whether that was the bear that was aggressive toward the woman, she said.

The officers baited and set a culvert trap in the Lake Gillette area, but no other bear has been captured in nearly four days, she said.
  

Black bear sought in attack near Colville

DANGEROUS WILDLIFE — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers are searching for a black bear reported to have attacked a female jogger northeast of Colville Thursday.

Stevens County Sheriff’s officials say a 36-year-old woman was attacked by a black bear while she was jogging in the late morning on a trail between Thomas and Gillette lakes, 17 miles northeast of Colville on the Colville National Forest.

She dropped to the ground into a protective fetal position and the bear batted at her and then left the area. Later in the day she was treated and released at Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville.

Today WDFW officials were notified of the incident by the Sheriff’s office. State and federal wildlife staffs are investigating and placing bear traps. They may use dogs to find the bear.

USFS campgrounds are maintained at Thomas and Gillette lakes.

Read on for details, who to call in the case of a wildlife problem and tips for camping in bear country. 

Black bear study vindicates mama bears, surprises experts

WILDLIFE — The results of a new study published last week in the Journal of Wildlife Management found that black bears have killed 63 people in the United States and Canada over the last 109 years.

That light toll on humanity didn't surprise the experts, but wildlife biologists were taken back by the analysis of which black bears killed people.

We're not talking about grizzlies. Just their smaller more-common cousins.

The study of lethal bear attacks across Canada and the United States found, contrary to popular perception, that the black bears most likely to kill are not mothers protecting cubs. Most attacks, 88 percent, involved a bear on the prowl, likely hunting for food. And most of those predators, 92 percent, were male.

Read a good report on the study by the Toronto Globe and Mail along with tips for hiking, camping and living in bear country.

Click here for a New York Times report on the study.

Click here for a video interview with University of Calgary research Stephen Herrero, who's written the most acclaimed research on  bears attacks.