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A Grizzly story

Elk from the trail camera

I set up my trail camera for the last two weeks, hoping to catch some bears or wolves.  Mostly I got a lot of elk.  But I did capture 3 bighorn rams and a coyote.

The crazy part is that on the way up there I was following a grizzly’s perfect tracks in the snow.  The tracks were actually solid ice and super clear.  I was trying to figure out how they turned to ice.  I thought “Maybe he went up in the early morning or evening over thin snow that melted under his heat and then iced over.”  The ranch hand neighbor thought he just melted actual ice with his heat.  But everywhere around the tracks was snow, except for his tracks.  Any enlightening thoughts would be gladly accepted folks.

I chatted with J___ at the nearby ranch on my return.  He told me that that same grizz had walked right through the cows, looking for their mineral lick that they used to keep every year.  Its gone this year but probably its the same grizzly.

Then he told me a great grizzly story:

“You remember last year they were trapping and collaring.  They caught 3 grizzlies on our property all in one morning.  The traps are just 55 gallon barrels.  The bear goes in for the meat and the door closes behind him.  The doors on both ends are just metal grates.”

“Well Mark Bruscino was there (note: he’s the G&F Bear specialist in Wyoming) and asked if I wanted to come see as this was unusual.  They’d never trapped 3 bears all at once and it was 2 sows and one cub, so it was going to be interesting which bear belonged to the cub.  They trap the bears, then dart them with a light sedative.  Mark said ‘look inside that barrel at that grizzly’, so I looked.  And the bear, instead of looking out the grate, was looking sideways at the wall of the can.  I looked from one end, then I looked from the other end.  But each time I looked, the bear looked away, as if shy or something.

” ‘What’s going on?’ ” I asked Mark.

” ‘That bear is embarrassed.  She’s been caught before and she’s embarrassed that she got caught again.’ ”

“Well Mark sedated her and looked at her ear tag.  That bear, Mark said, was the first bear he’d ever caught and collared, 11 years back. She was 3 years old then.”

” ‘That bear has only been handled by people twice, both of them me.  She remembers me.  Bears are smart.  Most people would be shocked to learn how smart bears are,’  Mark said”

“You know the bear can hear you when they’re sedated.  And Mark was talking to that bear saying things like “Hi, you remember me.”  She’d be sure to remember something like being caught in a trap.

“Mark said that that bear had been in Dubois, caught and transferred for cattle killing.  She was put here and didn’t get into any trouble for all those years, until last year when she killed our pigs.  A year later she was tracked, by her collar, down in Dubois, but since then the collar’s fallen off.  When you think about it, how does a bear know, after being trapped in Dubois, then flown here by helicopter, not even driven here, but flown…how can they know how to get back to Dubois.  They don’t go the same route, she had to cross 3 highways, and its really rugged country between here and there.”

“Mark said we had about 1/2 hour before those bears woke up.  I helped them pull them out of the cans.  I was trying to be really gentle so as not to twist her paw or whatever.  Mark said there’s no handles on the bears, you just pull on their fur. ‘Don’t worry about hurting them.  These are massive creatures.  They’ve been over rock cliffs and in all kinds of situations.’

I told J___ that was a great story. Next time they’re trapping I hope to get a photo or maybe even ‘pet’ a sleeping bear.  J___ got too and so did all their dudes that day.

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One Response

  1. It’s the weight, I think, that causes tracks to ice. The snow compresses the track, and some combination of heat from the ground + changed physics of compressed snow crystal = icy track. I’ve seen it happen a lot with warmer, wetter snow (typically above 20 deg F) and never with cold, dry snow (below 0 deg F).

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