Koda confronts Death

Hi Folks,  Koda has been writing up a storm as he is now 8 years old and in middle age.  I think he must be going through his mid-life crisis.  Here is another piece of his memoirs.  I think this one is quite interesting and gives us a window into a dog’s psyche.

What I know about death

The first time I knew death was when Soona died. I wasn’t really there, but I knew afterwards. Soona was old, and sick. I knew that. And for two weeks Leslie gave her all the attention, and I let her. I was only a year old then, but I knew I had to be quiet now and let Soona and Leslie have their moments together. One day Dennis brought my leash and took me for a walk. That night Soona wasn’t at home and things felt strange.

Koda and Soona just before she died

Koda and Soona just before she died

The next morning, I stood by the sliding glass door. I felt compelled to go outside. Something was shimmering on the patio. Leslie let me out and I went to that spot where the shimmering was and sniffed and sniffed. I smelled Soona there. Leslie said that was where Soona had died yesterday. They had taken her body away before I came home, yet I could still see her there as if she was saying goodbye to me. It might seem like I annoyed her when she was alive, but she really loved me and here she was telling me in spirit.

After Soona died, we moved to Wyoming where we live all the time now.

Koda compares his foot to a wolf track

Koda compares his foot to a wolf track

Winters are the best and I really like the snow and the cold. During my first winter, when I was just at little more than one year old, we spent a lot of time walking in the meadows where all the elk like to graze in the evenings. One afternoon I found a dead coyote. A young man, like me, he’d gotten too bold and had mingled among the elk herd, looking for a meal perhaps. He was kicked in the ribs right there and died. I still didn’t know much about death, but this coyote looked like me and was a lot like me. I sniffed and sniffed him, but really I didn’t want anything to do with that coyote. I like deer and elk when they are dead and I like to chew on their bones, but this dead coyote I didn’t like.

Koda enjoys an elk carcass killed by wolves

Koda enjoys an elk carcass killed by wolves

Many times I’ve run after coyotes. I’m a lot bigger than any coyote. They are wild like wolves, so running after them makes me feel wild and free. Yet this dead coyote reminded me of something I didn’t want to be reminded of. So every time that winter when Leslie came close to his body in the dry grass and snow, I stayed far away.

Living in Wyoming, I’ve seen lots of death, everything from deer, elk, marmots and squirrels (like!), to cougars, wolves, and coyotes (don’t like!), but when I was 5 years old, I had an experience of death that was mighty different. Leslie took me to the desert where we stayed with some friends. I liked Steve and Vicky and they also had a big dog named Maggie. Every day Leslie and I hiked around this desert called Sedona which was sandy and red like me.

Koda in Sedona

Koda in Sedona

One morning, I followed Leslie into a little room Steve used as an office.   I was bored while Leslie and Steve talked. Then I noticed that shimmering again and the special smell–a smell that reminded me of Soona’s death. It was coming from a small table where a man’s wallet sat. The wallet needed something from me. I went over and put my nose on top of the wallet so I could smell what it needed. My mind went still and through my noise I was traveling. The shimmering scent led me to an old man by a bridge on a road of stars. This man told me he didn’t want to cross the bridge. “I’m scared and alone” he told me. He was so nice and I didn’t want to see him afraid. After all, I am a protector. So I went to him, stood by his side, and walked him to the other side of the bridge. It was an easy thing to do, and especially since the bridge appeared like a rainbow in the stars. I liked this place and wanted to explore more, but I knew I couldn’t. The old man turned around, patted me on the head and smiled, then disappeared, just like that. Suddenly I was back in that little room with Steve and Leslie staring at me. They too sensed something had happened. But you know, humans can’t smell like I can, so they had no idea what happened. Apparently I’d been still for many minutes with my nose on that wallet. Then Steve told Leslie ‘That’s my father’s wallet. He died 6 months ago in this house, and had a difficult death.” I guess I helped him cross that bridge and that felt good.

Koda enjoys a view

Koda enjoys a view

 

What Kind of Dogs are Wolves by Koda

Hi folks.  I’m going to try something different on my blog.  From time to time, I’ll post reminiscences from Koda, the dog who grew up in the Wyoming wilds.  Here’s the first one.  The stories below took place when Koda was about 7 months old.  We were still living in California and traveling by car back and forth to Wyoming.  After Soona died when Koda was about 1 1/2 years old, we moved to our cabin in Wyoming full time.

This is me.  And this is my first blog post

This is me. And this is my first blog post

After a long drive, Leslie (she’s my person), Soona (she’s my grandma) and I were at our new home, a place not at all like the city we came from. This place was vast—just mountains, trees, and more smells than I ever could have imagined.

A Glorious spring day.  Koda and I hike up Elk Creek Meadows.

A Glorious spring day.  Here I am on the trail in the mountains

One morning we were all up in the flats above the house. Leslie was piling little rocks. Soona and I were sniffing and watching. Without warning, Soona made a beeline for the woods. I was still little, only 9 months old, and didn’t know one smell from another, but I knew she smelled something that I didn’t, so I followed her. Leslie was worried for the old lady. The woods, she said, could be dangerous, especially for old dogs. So she followed us. And what do you know, Soona had a great find: a turkey partially eaten by a coyote! We munched on the bird for a while. I know turkeys because they live in California. But I didn’t know they were here in Wyoming too. From that time on I’ve watched them and got to know them. Leslie taught me to let them be. In the winter they come to our yard where I sit outside on the porch while they peck and pick for seeds and corn we sometimes lay out for them. Mostly they amuse me and, as long as don’t run after them, they pay me no mind.

Wild turkeys, not native

The flock of turkeys I’ve come to know. And they know me.

One day just Leslie and I went for a hike up a stream, leaving Soona at home. We returned a different way, a route through sparse meadows peppered with small trees and gullies. I stayed just a bit ahead, yet kept close to Leslie. We were on the side of a small arroyo when I smelled something watching us from behind a tree. I turned to look, and saw the most beautiful girl I’d ever laid my eyes on. She appeared to be a dog, yet she had a different aura about her. My heart jumped and an irresistible urge took over my entire body. It was if this black dog were a magnet drawing me towards her. I’d already met and played with many dogs in my life at that point. I was only 7 months old, but I already knew to ‘ask’ before I could go play. But this dog…she was like no other, and I just had to know what, and who, she was. She seemed to be the essence of what a dog is; a wildness that was wilder than I ever could be. Really, I just lost my head. And so I ran after her, silently.

What a beauty she was

What a beauty she was

I heard Leslie screaming for me, calling my name. But Leslie’s voice was like a dream in the background. That black dog was so fast that I finally gave up trying to catch her. But, I’ve got to tell you, that was the most exciting moment in my life!

I ran back to the little arroyo where I’d left Leslie. She hugged me and seemed so relieved to see me. She told me that I’d seen a wolf and I was lucky that there weren’t other wolves waiting for me there. That wolves weren’t like dogs and they didn’t want other wolves, or dogs, in their territory. But all I know was that was one truly wild and free ‘dog’.

This is a wikiup

This is a wikiup

We rested in a nearby wikiup in the meadows. Leslie petted me, then scolded me for running away. After a time, we headed back in the direction where I’d run after that wolf, till we came to a trail. And what do you think I found at the trail? That wolf got so excited she’d thrown up her lunch! I guess I made an impression on her too.

ReWilding the Beartooths

It’s happening.  Grizzlies are re-inhabiting the Beartooth Mountains.

grizzly warning sign in the greater yellowstone area

Grizzly warning sign in the lower elevations. Now bears are returning to the high elevation Beartooths

In the last few years, Grizzly activity has increased along the flanks of the Beartooth Front, the southeastern base that nestles the community of Red Lodge and the long north and eastern drainages where berries and other fall foods are abundant. Red Lodge is now getting its share of grizzly bears. But still there were few reports of bear activity in the high alpine forests.

Certainly bears have used the lower drainages on the west side of the Beartooths like Crazy Creek,  Soda Butte, or Lily Lake.  These are low elevations that provided a corridor through Cooke City into and out of the Park.

Years ago I heard of a sow who lost her young cub in the spring to an automobile.  She bawled for a week around the Clay Butte/Beartooth Lake area, looking for her cub.  Yet although I’ve backpacked frequently, and spend a lot of time in the summers day-hiking the western Wyoming side every year, I’ve never seen any bear sign–tracks or scat.

The Beartooths still offer bears great habitat.  The excessive moisture brings a lot of plant food opportunities in the way of grasses, forbs and roots.  And they still have healthy stands of White Bark pines.  White Bark pines in the GYE are 90% dead.

Avalanche Peak, Yellowstone.  Dead whitebark pines

Avalanche Peak, Yellowstone. Dead whitebark pines

The exception to that rule are the Wind River Mountains and the Beartooths.

White Bark pines in the Winds.  Healthy stands

White Bark pines in the Winds. Healthy stands

And those Marmots have traditionally been a favorite protein for bears.

Marmot

Marmot

So when I began my hike today from Hauser Lake down to Stockade Lake, I figured that there were no bears around these parts–especially so high.

Losekamp Lake (around 9600′) sits at the base of Tibbs Butte (10,676′).  Grizzly bear watchers will tell you that these bears mysteriously disappear around the 4th of July.  For years no one knew where they went, until a pilot flying over high talus slopes in the mid-80s saw bears congregating there.  These bears were taking advantage of Army Cutworm moths who feed on alpine plants and summer here.  My understanding is that the Beartooths, although high and abundant in these talus slopes, do not have moth sites, although the Wind Rivers does.

Losekamp and Stockade lakes are rarely visited, being on the less popular southern side of the highway.  I was alone on my walk.  Koda and I made our way down to Stockade Lake, where I tooled around for a bit looking for an elusive Sheep Eater trap I was told was once there.

Stockade at stockade lake

Stockade at stockade lake

Stockade Lake

Stockade Lake, Beartooths, WY

With little wind and mosquitos too thick for a lunch break, we headed back towards Losekamp lake.  Koda a bit ahead, went off the trail about 10′ to smell something behind a boulder.  All of a sudden he growled–a sure sign of an animal he got scared of–and I looked up to see a sleepy bear rise from the boulder.  I quickly called Koda back, and grabbed my bear spray.  We stopped for a moment to access.  The bear, surprised and probably a bit scared himself, immediately began eating, displacing his fear to food.  He seemed sleepy and not about to run away, nor be aggressive.  He pondered us.

Young bear

Young bear

Grizzly bear

A young grizzly, probably just kicked out this year, I did wonder if his mama was around.  Lucky for us she was no where to be seen.  I gave the bear a big berth, going off and around the trail, while talking to him gently, apologizing for waking him up.

Most grizzly encounters end this way, with the bear usually running off. A few weeks ago around my area, Koda alerted me to a grizzly that was also sleeping by the trail, awakened by our presence.  Koda kept by my side, and the griz, about 200′ away, pondered us for a moment, then ran off.  Dogs will alert you and keep you safe if they are well-mannered and under good voice control.  A dog that runs all over the hills and is not very responsive poses a grave danger for a person, as the dog might bring the bear back to you in his fear, with the grizzly following.   The best book to read for safety with grizzlies is Hiking with Grizzlies by Tim Rubbert, or watch online The Edge of Eden: Living with Grizzlies with Charlie Russell and observe Charlie’s body posture when dealing with bears and using bear spray.  Stay away from those books about Grizzly attacks.  It’s like reading a book about fatal car accidents instead of actually learning how to drive safely.

Robin egg, hatched

Robin egg, hatched

Upon returning to the car at the trailhead, I stopped at the Top of the World Store to deliver some of my Wild Excellence books.  I told Kristi Milam, the owner, about my bear experience and she told me there’s been a lot more sightings this year than ever before.

One other note on the Beartooths:  it’s becoming an excellent place to possibly see, or hear, wolves.  I’ve been seeing tracks of the Beartooth pack around this same area for weeks, as well as Clay Butte and lower elevations like Crazy Creek drainage.  Wolves were spotted up at Top Lake just weeks ago in the meadows. Elephant's head

With Grizzly Bears and wolves returning to the Beartooths, they are finally re-wilding.  Carry bear spray and be safe.

What are these Sounds? UPDATED!!

If you read Jim Corbett’s books, you will know that he started his tracking apprenticeship at a very early age. Corbett describes that when he was around eleven years old, he decided it was imperative if he wanted to be a tracker to identity every sound in the forest.  Corbett grew up in the jungles of India. Identifying sounds not only was a way of ‘knowing’ the forest, but also vital to his safety.  Birds especially can alert one to danger in a landscape with tigers and leopards.

I think what made me decide to begin this audio task in the landscape of my home in the Absarokas was the night I was sleeping in the backcountry and I heard a loud scream in the middle of the night.  My companion was sound asleep.  My dog was by my side.  The screech was not a person, but it was blood curdling. That was the beginning.  I began recording this last winter.

Winter nights bring many new sounds.  I put out a microphone and recorder while I slept.   Some sounds were easy to identify like these wolves singing https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212590774&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true“>

Wolf

Other sounds much harder and I needed help like this Screech Owl.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212587105&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true“>

One night I got very lucky and got this cougar.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212587376&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true“>

Cougar

Spring arrived and so did many local birds–Robins, Mountain Bluebirds, Townsend’s Solitaires, hawks, and one of our resident owls–the Boreal Owl.  For several years I’d tried to identify their primary sound when they are beginning to nest, a series of low toots.  They will call for several weeks, or months, starting at dusk, and they are difficult to locate.  I’d never seen one, but now easily can identity their call.

The last several nights I’d heard strange noises outside my window that sounded like very loud mice, or strange squirrel sounds. It’s hot, and I sleep with the windows open. The squirrels are all asleep at midnight, and mice are very quiet.  Also, these noises appeared to shift from one location to another much farther away, then back near my window. I looked outside but could see nothing because it was dark.  Then this morning, around 4:30 a.m., just before first light, I heard the sounds again, right above my window.  I got out of bed, walked to the picture window and looked on the roof of the porch overhang. There sat two owls, medium sized, no tufts. They were making these strange ‘Skiew’ noises.  Boreals? What were they doing around my house these last nights?  What was this communication all about?

UPDATE!!!   I sent this tape to several experts.  One identified them as fledglings and probably Boreals. Dan and Cindy Hartmann of Silver Gate, MT.,who specializes in photographing Boreals and Great Gray owls, identified them as Great Gray chicks.  Dan thought he heard a ‘whoo’ in the background of the tape.  Although I was looking up at the two birds sitting on my roof in essentially a dark situation, I judged them to be about 10-12″ tall. Based on that, Dan said Boreals would be smaller as chicks.

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/213809073&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true“>

Boreal Owl. They are very secretive owls

Knowing your Place is not just about knowing terrain, or identifying tracks, trees or flowers, or even understanding ‘bird language’ as Jon Young teaches.  It is a constant exercise in using all our senses and an immersion in our natural state of Wonder.

We could have many more places like Yellowstone.

Living in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, I enjoy the full suite of wildlife (minus bison, another story…) at my doorstep.  It’s not that I’m seeing large megafauna daily, yet if I hike around my valley or the nearby Beartooth Mountains, I see their evidence.

People who visit Yellowstone expect and hope to catch a glimpse of wolves, bears or other wildlife.  But Yellowstone is a protected habitat, free of human habitation.So what is it like to live with these animals in your neighborhood?

Today was a hot day in the valley.  When it’s hot, I like to take a half hour drive up to the Beartooth Mountains towards the summit via highway 120.  Although mosquitos are out, the air is cool and pleasant.  I took a hike along what’s known as the Morrison Jeep trail–an ATV road closed until July 15 that runs from the Beartooth Plateau all the way to the Clark’s Fork Canyon in the desert. Wildflowers are starting to abound.

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold

 

Kalmia, used by some tribes to commit suicide as it is deadly poisonous

Kalmia, used by some tribes to commit suicide as it is deadly poisonous

And Koda had a great time in all the lakes.

In the Beartooths

Yet what makes this place so unique is this:

Wolf tracks

Wolf tracks

And the signs to watch out for grizzly bears.

Front and back grizzly tracks.

Front and back grizzly tracks.

Because this is a ‘road’–suitable only for ATVs–and it is closed now, few people were out.  I saw one group of returning backpackers.  They told me they saw two wolves this morning, one black and one grey, in the meadow.  Part of the Beartooth wolf pack I told them.

I recently visited northeast Wyoming and Devils Tower in The Black Hills.  It’s a gorgeous area and a striking sacred spot.  At the Devils Tower visitor’s center, I read a story of an Indian man that was interviewed in the 1930s.  He recalled coming to Devils Tower (known as Bear’s Lodge to the tribes) as a young boy in the 1850s.  At that time, he said, there were wolves there.  Yet no longer.

Devils Tower, WY

Devils Tower, WY

The United States has many beautiful parks and national forests, yet only the Yellowstone Ecosystem is complete with a full suite of native wildlife that once was abundant everywhere.  After living here, everywhere else feels bereft.

Grizzlies too are killed for cattle predation on public lands

I am not advocating that more people move here.  On the contrary.  I am advocating that we work to have these kinds of complete ecosystems in many other parts of the country where it makes sense.  Grizzlies, for instance, occupy less than 2% of their original habitat.

Like many animals that are losing their habitat, we too are losing ours.  How preposterous is it that a person must fly or drive thousands of miles just to view these animals as well as experience an un-fragmented ecosystem; even though there is plenty of suitable habitat for wolves, grizzlies, and other carnivores in forests and Parks in places like Utah, Colorado, and other lands in the West.

After living here for eight years, I’ve come to understand that scenery isn’t ‘everything’ and in fact, it’s nothing without the wildlife that was meant to inhabit it.  Without them, those beautiful lands feel empty.Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep

Practically, what does that mean?  First, a change in attitudes. In larger landscapes, we can live with these large predators.  Yes, we’ll have to adapt with our garbage, bird seed, chickens, and other small livestock, but it can be done. Changing our attitude includes changing our hunting and trapping laws to be inclusive of these predators, instead of the outdated model of ‘more ungulates, less predators’.

Second, the livestock industry must change and use predator friendly methods of control where possible, including the realization that livestock losses on public lands are ‘at your own risk’.  Public lands are all wildlife have to make their living on. Bears, wolves, coyotes and other wildlife should not be shot on public lands if depredation occurs.  It should be the responsibility of the cattle rancher to ride the range with their cattle, stock them appropriately with perhaps a bull and mixed age groups.  Sheep need dogs watching them as well as a human shepherd.

People who live with bears and wolves and cougars daily know that these animals are not ‘behind every tree‘, waiting ‘to get you‘.  If they were, then they could easily kill a person.  Instead, they avoid people; make their living mostly at night; and seem to only get into trouble when people are leaving food out or not taking care of their livestock.

Having spent a lot of time in the Southwest, I would love to see wolves restored in that area.  But the year-round coyote trapping and bounty needs to stop first.  The northeast corner of Wyoming is the corridor in which cougars can expand eastward, but the hunting quota is either too high, or unlimited! That is just two examples of attitudinal and practical changes that need to be considered.

Once you’ve lived in a place like the Yellowstone Ecosystem, not only is there hardly anyplace like it on Earth, but you will want to restore your home, where ever that is, to its natural balance.

 

 

Decomposed Granite Paths

With summer here, lots of do-it-yourselfers will be hunting for info on Decomposed Granite.  I have many posts on ‘how-to’ and ‘how-not-to’, including my eBooklets with complete installation information.  I’ve found a few more photos from previous installations of mine in addition to those already on my website.  First some paths:

A Decomposed Granite path in a shady location.  Notice the concrete transition just at the outside door so DG is not tracked into house

A Decomposed Granite path in a shady location. Notice the concrete transition just at the outside door so DG is not tracked into house

Decomposed Granite path

Decomposed Granite path.  Notice the edging here

Decomposed granite flagstone patio

Decomposed granite flagstone patio with DG inbetween stones. Pathway is all Decomposed Granite

Decomposed Granite path no hardener

Decomposed Granite path. No hardener was used in this job

Stone and DG

Decomposed Granite path with stone blocks inserted

Decomposed granite path

Lovely Decomposed Granite path under arbor.  This path was done with a TerraPave seal

Decomposed granite pathway

Another arbor

Wood and DG steps

Pressure treated wood contains these Decomposed Granite stairs

Terrapave

Decomposed Granite path with terrapave

I would be amiss if I did not show a photo of how you can mix different fines to achieve different DG colors. Areas of the country have different standard decomposed granite colors.  Here in the San Francisco area, most DG is gold fines, and occasionally like some of the photos above you can find grey.  In the photo below we mixed in some black fines to obtain a darker color.  Elsewhere on my website, I have photos of a rock I used that was more pink.  Rock can be used but it must have fines in it.

Decomposed granite colors

Decomposed granite patio using a creative mix of fines to achieve our color

Now for some patios using decomposed granite:

Decomposed Granite pathway

Decomposed Granite walk and patio

Decomposed granite shade

Another view of the Decomposed granite patio next to a shade bed

Decomposed Granite leads to a deck

Decomposed Granite leads to a deck

Decomposed Granite with a small flagstone shower

Decomposed Granite with a small flagstone shower

Decomposed Granite inbetween properly placed flagstones by pool

Decomposed Granite inbetween properly placed flagstones by pool

Decomposed Granite path at the Getty Museum L.A.

Decomposed Granite patio at the Getty Museum L.A.

The bench sits on a decomposed granite patio which transitioned from the concrete patio in front

The bench sits on a decomposed granite patio which transitioned from the concrete patio in front

For a complete guide to Decomposed Granite paths, pathways, and using other materials such as pavers and concrete, please see my eBook.

Spring, Grizzly tracking, and What’s up with Delisting

It’s spring and that means the bears are out.  But so is everyone else. Pups are born and need to be feed; elk are calving; birds are nesting. It’s a busy time and a great time to go into the Park.  There you can also see the bison babies.

But here in my valley right next to Yellowstone, all the same activity is taking place, just a tad more hidden.

Coyote relaxing before she goes mousing again

Coyote relaxing before she goes mousing again

Young bull moose

Young bull moose

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane

Ruddy Duck with Horned Grebes

Ruddy Duck with Horned Grebes

I live in a ‘drop off’ place for bears that get into trouble.  Bear trouble around here always means trouble that people make for bears like not putting up their food stuff correctly, or not watching their stock so calves or lambs are killed.  The Interagency Bear Management Team drops bears off here hoping they will go into the Park.  Usually they ‘home’ back to where they came from; but because the Agency has been moving them around for so long, all the drainages around here are already occupied by other bears.

The spring is when bears hang around down low as they follow the seasonal warm-up. They spend time eating grass, or, if they can find it, winter kills, and dig for roots. Hiking at this time of year here in the valley it’s inevitable that you will see grizzly tracks and it’s worth knowing what they look like and how to identify them.  For instance, the other day I hiked a drainage and saw what appeared to be a single boar grizzly roaming that area.  Another drainage nearby revealed a sow and a two year old–a combination I definitely needed to be watchful of.  It seems like every hike either you are ‘following’ a bear or maybe the bear is ‘following’ you.  Yet keep in mind that grizzly and black bears are mindful of their own business and are not looking for an encounter with a human.  The best advice is to be alert, awake, aware.  Carry bear spray and know how to use it quickly. Take your time in the woods–no power walking or headphones.  Stop every so often and look around like a deer might.

Bear tracks are easy to identify–they look a lot like human footprints, but bears have their big toe opposite than humans and walk pigeon-toed.  Telling the difference between a grizzly and a black bear takes more practice and is not always a certain thing.  The Palmisciano method is the recommended technique, working only on front tracks.

Jim Halfpenny says if you have a good, clean track, it is very accurate. But he also notes that ‘anyone who says it is always easy has not done much tracking’.

Since I.D.ing that the print is a bear is easy, what takes practice and is much more pertinent is being able to pick out a track when it’s very faint.  With practice, I find that bear prints are so distinguishable that they are probably the easiest to pick out even when hard to see.  Here are a few examples.

Print looks even larger because its in mud, but you can see his claws

Print looks even larger because its in mud, but you can see his claws

This one is easy of course.  The next one isn’t so hard but you could miss it in the puddle.

Bear print in a puddle

Bear print in a puddle

The puddle print is a perfect example of how difficult the Palmisciano method can be, especially with just one print.  The above print appears to be a black bear, but since I was following this bear for about a mile on a dirt track, I had other prints that were much more distinct.  I also know the area is frequented by grizzlies and not blacks.  So the above print, although it appears like a black bear print, is actually the front print of a grizzly.

Below prints are pretty easy too.  Note the back foot is in front of the smaller front foot. That’s a typical gait for a bear called an amble.

Can you see these two bear prints, front and back?

Can you see these two bear prints, front and back?

Now look at this one.  Koda has stepped on part of it and mostly the metatarsal pad is what is strong.  If you look to the top of the photo you can barely make out his left front foot.

Faint grizzly print

One saying trackers have is that it’s not the track you can see, but the next track that you cannot see that teaches you how to track.  Keeping that in mind, follow a bear’s footprints and measure or use a stick to see the distance between right and left tracks. Soon you will come upon a track that is not visible, but with the stick as a measure you will know where it is.  Study that ‘print’ and soon it jump out at you.  After a while of doing this, you’ll find yourself walking along and then ‘see’ a print that seems invisible to others.  Seeing that print might just keep you safe as it will heighten your awareness and let you know there’s a grizzly in town.

Koda shows the size of this bear scat

Koda shows the size of this bear scat

Grizzlies are ‘on the chopping block’ to be delisted.  The IGBT and Sally Jewell are itching to return their management to the states. Once that happens, they will be hunted.

I disagree with delisting for a wide variety of reasons.  In the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) which is basically the area around Glacier National Park, there are approximately 750 grizzly bears.  In the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYE) there are about the same.  But the connecting corridors in-between have few to no bears.

NCDE bears can connect for genetic diversity up into Canada.  But how can our bears here, in the GYE, connect?  Studies have shown that without any infusion of new genes, these GYE bears will eventually die out.

When grizzlies were listed back in 1975, there were about 120 bears in the GYE.  It has taken over 40 years to get to this point where we have over 700 bears.  If hunting begins, the ‘easy’ bears, at the edges of the Ecosystem, will be killed.  Those are the bears that would connect north with their cousins.

And more importantly, living with bears and seeing how intelligent they are, I cannot see how we can hunt them.  Like the tribes who are united against delisting, I have come to feel a powerful spirit connection with grizzlies.

Please read my op-ed below that appeared in the Powell Tribune a few weeks ago.  I tell the story of ‘The Woman Who Married a Bear’ and how we are like that woman today.

Patten Guest Column_5.5.15

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