Bears east & west

Bears east & west

Joined: January 26th, 2004, 5:02 pm

July 21st, 2008, 4:27 pm #1

I'm preparing for a trip to Whitney and some backpacking in the area. Why is it that the bears (black bears) in CA are able to break into cars & defeat hanging bags so that a bear canister is required for overnight backcountry travel, while in most of the rest of the country, the standard rope over a high branch is good enough and only humans break into cars?

Does anyone have a scientific reason for the difference in bear-behavior? Was it always like this? Do we run the risk of bears in other parts learning these tricks? I suppose that the bears in the Sierra Nevadas taught one another the break-in techniques.
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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 6:42 pm

July 21st, 2008, 5:40 pm #2

I suppose the answer is that humans trained these bears by leaving food accessible to them. In areas where humans have provided food to bears they have come to rely on such deliveries. In areas where humans haven't rewarded the bears with food, they haven't learned to break into vehicles.
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Joined: August 2nd, 2001, 8:13 pm

July 21st, 2008, 6:16 pm #3

I'm preparing for a trip to Whitney and some backpacking in the area. Why is it that the bears (black bears) in CA are able to break into cars & defeat hanging bags so that a bear canister is required for overnight backcountry travel, while in most of the rest of the country, the standard rope over a high branch is good enough and only humans break into cars?

Does anyone have a scientific reason for the difference in bear-behavior? Was it always like this? Do we run the risk of bears in other parts learning these tricks? I suppose that the bears in the Sierra Nevadas taught one another the break-in techniques.
<insert tongue in cheek>One might also note that the Californians provided the bears with a wider selection of easy-open Toyota cans.<remove tongue from cheek>

Actually, I'm only partly kidding. The bears in Yosemite have learned to recognize which cars are easier to break into and prefer certain Toyota models over other harder-to-enter vehicles.

Even "good" bear practices don't always work. There definitely are bear problems in the east, particularly around Mt. Marcy. There is a permanent bear cable over the outlet from the lake above Marcy Dam. It is a good 12' over the bottom of the channel but momma bear has taught baby bear to shinny out on the cable, hanging upside down, and chew through the rope over the cable, dropping the bear bag into the channel where it's easy to fetch.

I suspect that there are other heavily-used areas in the Smokies and elsewhere east that have well-trained bears. The critters are intelligent and train their young, so the knowledge filters down from one generation to the next.
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Joined: March 28th, 2005, 10:24 pm

July 24th, 2008, 2:46 am #4

I'm preparing for a trip to Whitney and some backpacking in the area. Why is it that the bears (black bears) in CA are able to break into cars & defeat hanging bags so that a bear canister is required for overnight backcountry travel, while in most of the rest of the country, the standard rope over a high branch is good enough and only humans break into cars?

Does anyone have a scientific reason for the difference in bear-behavior? Was it always like this? Do we run the risk of bears in other parts learning these tricks? I suppose that the bears in the Sierra Nevadas taught one another the break-in techniques.
... I have personally seen one bear even get tangled in the middle of the rope/supplies, while on the Hoh River Trail (going up Mount Olympus) before eventually falling off. People break into cars in Olympic National Park, too, but mostly near the coastal sections.
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Joined: January 26th, 2004, 7:00 pm

July 28th, 2008, 5:30 pm #5

<insert tongue in cheek>One might also note that the Californians provided the bears with a wider selection of easy-open Toyota cans.<remove tongue from cheek>

Actually, I'm only partly kidding. The bears in Yosemite have learned to recognize which cars are easier to break into and prefer certain Toyota models over other harder-to-enter vehicles.

Even "good" bear practices don't always work. There definitely are bear problems in the east, particularly around Mt. Marcy. There is a permanent bear cable over the outlet from the lake above Marcy Dam. It is a good 12' over the bottom of the channel but momma bear has taught baby bear to shinny out on the cable, hanging upside down, and chew through the rope over the cable, dropping the bear bag into the channel where it's easy to fetch.

I suspect that there are other heavily-used areas in the Smokies and elsewhere east that have well-trained bears. The critters are intelligent and train their young, so the knowledge filters down from one generation to the next.
Bear cannisters are now required in the High Peaks area of the Adirondaks because the bears have pretty much learned how to defeat any kind of hanging that humans can come up with. They even managed to defeat one type of bear cannister which had to be redesigned.

Bears are smart. If you give them enough incentive (such as happened in Yosemite) they will learn and then pass that knowledge to their children.
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Joined: April 27th, 2004, 6:37 pm

August 14th, 2008, 12:59 am #6

I'm preparing for a trip to Whitney and some backpacking in the area. Why is it that the bears (black bears) in CA are able to break into cars & defeat hanging bags so that a bear canister is required for overnight backcountry travel, while in most of the rest of the country, the standard rope over a high branch is good enough and only humans break into cars?

Does anyone have a scientific reason for the difference in bear-behavior? Was it always like this? Do we run the risk of bears in other parts learning these tricks? I suppose that the bears in the Sierra Nevadas taught one another the break-in techniques.
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (The Mountain Press)

A boy visiting the park suffered superficial injuries after a 55-pound bear attacked him near the trail head for the Rainbow Falls trail, park officials said Monday evening.

"Apparently it looks like a 55-pound yearling male bear attacked a boy," park spokesperson Bob Miller said. The boy suffered cuts and lacerations, and was transported by ambulance to Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center. His injuries were not believed to be life threatening, Miller said.

Rangers apparently shot the bear shortly after the attack, although they will not be certain if they targeted the same bear who attacked the boy until an autopsy is performed on the animal, Miller said. "A bear of the same description approached them in an aggressive manner and they shot the bear," he said.

According to preliminary reports, the boy was playing in some water near the trail head while his father watched when the bear approached him more than once. The father suffered minor cuts and abrasions himself in driving the animal off. "It was pretty aggressive attack," Miller said.

Most of the time when bears in the park attack it's over food, Miller said - either because they've become acclimated to being around people who have fed them or because the people they attack have food they want.

"Unprovoked attacks are very unusual," he said. "This was a pretty aggressive attack and beyond what you'd expect from getting a handout."

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?news ... 9689&rfi=6


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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 9:07 pm

October 3rd, 2008, 4:52 am #7

I'm preparing for a trip to Whitney and some backpacking in the area. Why is it that the bears (black bears) in CA are able to break into cars & defeat hanging bags so that a bear canister is required for overnight backcountry travel, while in most of the rest of the country, the standard rope over a high branch is good enough and only humans break into cars?

Does anyone have a scientific reason for the difference in bear-behavior? Was it always like this? Do we run the risk of bears in other parts learning these tricks? I suppose that the bears in the Sierra Nevadas taught one another the break-in techniques.
I'm finally back from doing the PCT the past few months, and after going through a zillion different areas with bears, spending almost the entire 2600 miles sleeping with my food, and after talking with various rangers and locals, there is one constant:

Where hunting of bears has been allowed sometime in the past 50 years, bears leave people and their food alone. Where there has been no hunting, the bears have gotten chummy. Given a few decades of being chummy, those bears figure out the latest tricks, e.g. how to defeat counter-balance hanging, screw top lids, car locks, etc.

That's not a pro or con for hunting, btw. I'm just saying it pays to know what past hunting rules have been. Personally, i'd save hanging food for grizzly areas in which you do not have a bear canister with you or a regulation bear locker or bear pole in put in place. I also hang food if leaving a base camp for the day or more than a day.

Sorry to revive a month-old thread, but i'm back and was just perusing.

Why does the americasroof link not work now, but the forum still exists just the same?

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Joined: January 6th, 2006, 7:55 pm

October 3rd, 2008, 10:43 am #8

I followed your through hike on Trail Journals from your first day. A very impressive endeavor. Welcome back in the real world. I am envious of your experience. While I have just talked about doing it you just did it. My hat is off to you.

EdH
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Joined: January 20th, 2004, 9:07 pm

October 4th, 2008, 2:11 am #9

I just walked a lot. It's not like i did anything important like say, got to the top of anything high.
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Joined: March 28th, 2005, 10:24 pm

October 4th, 2008, 8:27 am #10

I'm finally back from doing the PCT the past few months, and after going through a zillion different areas with bears, spending almost the entire 2600 miles sleeping with my food, and after talking with various rangers and locals, there is one constant:

Where hunting of bears has been allowed sometime in the past 50 years, bears leave people and their food alone. Where there has been no hunting, the bears have gotten chummy. Given a few decades of being chummy, those bears figure out the latest tricks, e.g. how to defeat counter-balance hanging, screw top lids, car locks, etc.

That's not a pro or con for hunting, btw. I'm just saying it pays to know what past hunting rules have been. Personally, i'd save hanging food for grizzly areas in which you do not have a bear canister with you or a regulation bear locker or bear pole in put in place. I also hang food if leaving a base camp for the day or more than a day.

Sorry to revive a month-old thread, but i'm back and was just perusing.

Why does the americasroof link not work now, but the forum still exists just the same?
The reason I ask is because I briefly met a man three weeks ago at Deception Lakes, south of Stevens Pass in Washington State. He took a photo of me at the lake area. I don't know if that was you or not, Mark.

Later that day, while hiking solo at nearby Surprise Mountain/ Surprise Gap, I was very fortunate to trust my instincts, and encountered a cougar about 20 feet from me that had been most likely stalking me during my hike... He was hiding in some bushes next to the trail, during my return/ descent. Thank goodness he was spooked by me making noises with banging my hiking stick against a rock and blowing an emergency whistle a few times.

I'm glad to have had the experience and story to tell, but I hope nothing like that ever happens again.

I had been alone out there all day... except for the man I met hiking the PCT less than two hours earlier. Your story about hiking the PCT just got me wondering...
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