There’s no real rush hour in Yellowstone National Park, but there can be traffic. Most often the commuters that cause these traffic jams are bison (which have a tendency to cross roads whenever and wherever they please). But others cause trouble too, such as these two fellas we saw Sunday. [...]
Blogging’s been light because we’ve been on the road. Sunday morning we caught a glimpse of another brown bear in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park in Gallatin Canyon. One picture came out okay — but it was nothing compared to the moose picture we were able to get last night in the Tetons. [...]
The NYT reports on an apparent increase in human-bear encounters in the western U.S.
Bears — dangerous and unpredictable always — are prowling broader areas of the West in closer contact with people than ever. In some places, drought is driving the animals out of their wilder haunts and into human settlements. Longer-term climate change, scientists say, is also disrupting bear foraging patterns, especially in and around Yellowstone National Park, where grizzlies have been compelled to search more widely for food in recent years as a tree that produces pine nuts crucial to their diets has been decimated. . . .
The intensified level of conflict is also spurring new research that is challenging some long-held assumptions about bears, notably the idea that bear population is the key variable. As solitary and often nocturnal creatures — unlike, say, elk, which herd together and can be easily counted — bear numbers are guesses at best, scientists say, especially for poorly studied species like the black bear. And shifting patterns of bear behavior, they say, like bears’ learning new feeding habits, could be even more important than population trends. . . .
Human nature is often just as important as bear nature when the two species meet, wildlife managers say, and sometimes people make things worse by failing to see past the bumptious, innocent image that bears can sometimes project. Last month, for example, two people were seen buying cheeseburgers and hand-feeding them to bears near a Burger King in western Colorado. State wildlife officials said that act endangered both local residents and the bears, by cementing a message to the animals that people are a food source.
But with more people living or playing in closer proximity to public lands and national forests that are the bears’ domain, the line between
I spent yesterday afternoon and early evening in Yellowstone with my family and the animals were out in force. We saw dozens of buffalo and elk, of course, but also a half-dozen pronghorn, and (of critical importance) two young black bears, one by the petrified tree turnoff and the other by Roosevelt Junction. Both were quite close, but neither made it easy to get a mug shot. Oh well.
As a bonus, we also saw what was either a lone wolf or (more likely) a large coyote on the Blacktail Plateau, but we weren’t quick enough with the camera to get a good shot. [...]
Bear sightings are on the rise in Ohio. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports there were 119 sightings in 2009 and 164 in 2010. Official estimates of Ohio’s black bear population remain quite low. Increased sightings, if evidence of growing bear numbers, would be a positive sign. On the other hand, increased sightings could also be due to increased pressure on bear habitat.
I’ve yet to see a bear in Ohio. (Zoos don’t count). I’m in Montana for much of the summer, however, so my chances of bear sightings are up. [...]
Mama bears are the most dangerous, especially when they are protecting their cubs, right? Perhaps not. A new study suggests that most black bear attacks in the United States are by male bears, according to the NYT.
The study also 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.
“Mother bears, whenever they feel threatened or a person is too close, they act very aggressively,” said Stephen Herrero, the study’s lead author. “They make noise, they swat the ground with their paws and they run at people. They want to make you think that they’ll eat you alive, but they almost always stop.”
By contrast, “the kind of bear you need to be afraid of is not feeling threatened by you — it’s testing you out as a possible prey item,” said Dr. Herrero, a professor emeritus at the University of Calgary. “It’s quiet. It stalks you just like a lion might stalk you.”
CNN has this video of a black bear who was recently found wandering about a residential neighborhood in Virgina Beach.
Here in the nearby wilds of Arlington, Virginia, I have seen numerous foxes, deer, and rabbits near our house, but so far no bears. Perhaps they avoid the area for fear of being featured in VC bear-blogging posts, and thereby subjected to derogatory comments by trolls. [...]
It’s been awhile since we did any Monday bear-blogging. So it’s time to bear the bear-blogging burden once again.
Here’s an interesting discussion of English literary portrayals of bears vs. American ones by blogger Erica Grieder. After surveying several well-known examples of literary bears from both countries (Winnie the Pooh, Paddington, Yogi Bear, and others), she concludes that “American bears are, for the most part, more assertive and autonomous than English bears.”
Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether Grieder has adequately sampled the relevant populations of literary bears. On the British side, she omits Philip Pullman’s armored bears, as well as the Bulging Bears of Narnia. Both are as assertive and independent as any American bears. On the American side, she omits Gordon Dickson’s The Right to Arm Bears, which however probably supports her thesis.
The definitive study of Anglo-American literary bears remains to be written, even as its absence gets ever more unbearable. [...]