BEAR WITH ME — October 2009

Jack ThumbnailBy Jack McShane

Bears, bears and more bears; many sightings and much sign of them are in evidence in our Andes environs. Fall is upon us along with the foliage splendors and our local bears are in a rush to fatten up for their winter hibernation. As of this writing, I myself have only seen one which jumped the guard rail on Route 30 and disappeared into the woods on the reservoir side. My Bussey Hollow property is showing much sign of increased bear activity which includes the peripheral devastation of Marty Liddle’s corn plantings on the lower field, many large stones overturned which harbored ant colonies with their tasty and nutritious eggs. A bear’s olfactory senses are so sharp it can tell just which rocks harbor the ants, thus  avoiding the need to expend energy flipping over ant-free rocks. Also observed are a few “bear nests” in my productive apple trees, which are not actually nests but are the result of a bear climbing the tree and bending fruit laden branches back which usually breaks them so they can access the fruit. This habit, which often destroys the very trees that I planted and cared for over the years, gives me justification, if I get the chance, to draw my bow on a bruin come hunting season. I know that if I am successful Marty would be quite happy, as well neighbors whose barbeques will benefit from some free-range, corn-and-apple-fed bear meat.

A report by Mary Thill of the Adirondack Explorer, a magazine giving in-depth articles about the goings on in the Adirondacks, described how a particular female bear, named “Yellow Yellow” for its two ear tags put in place by DEC biologists, has learned how to open bear canisters, supposedly bear proof contraptions that should keep campers’ food from the bears. She has learned to press two buttons, one on either side of the canister,and then proceed to unscrew the lid.


Bear – Have camera

The biologists also have radio-collared a number of bears and have tracked their wanderings. The bruins appear to travel in circular patterns going from one food source to another. Some go clockwise, others counter clockwise, covering points up to 25 miles apart. The studies show that young males have a natural instinct to disperse very far but come back to their home ranges where they often get in trouble with people and other adult male bears. They are like teenagers testing the waters and looking for those new territories, female bears and food sources. The DEC will shoot nuisance bears with rubber bullets to deter them from frequenting places of human habitation and campsites. If this fails they shoot them period. Another male, called “Red Green”, by contrast, became aggressive with age. He began entering lean-tos and growling at campers, a strategy that rewarded him with food until the DEC wildlife staff shot and killed him. The main point here is do not feed bears as the DEC has a saying “a fed bear is a dead bear”.

Our Andes bears have been able to get a lot of our bird feeders down, even those with what we humans thought would be bear-proof placement. It is really best to keep the feeders down during spring, summer and fall. I have had four bluebird boxes downed, torn apart, and the hapless tenants consumed. There is not too much to be done here, I guess.

One of the best bear sightings that I can relate is the day when I was kayaking with some friends on the NYC owned Cannonsville reservoir when two of the lead paddlers observed a bear swimming across the waterway. Upon reaching the bank, he stood up, shook himself off and rambled up and over the highway. I guess he didn’t realize that NYC DEP disallows swimming in their reservoirs. By the way, when asked by people what to do upon seeing a bear I always say “get your camera”. Well I had it for the pictured confrontation but for a use other than taking a picture. Enjoy.  ~