Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Back on the mountain -- part 4
All travelers have to cross the log. There's no easy way around it. The camera trap captured each step as the bear surmounted the obstacle. It was 1:00 in the morning, April 17th.
Suddenly the camera's flash seemed to register. He reared up on his hind legs with a slack-jawed look of surprise. Maybe it was a threat. Maybe he was just trying to see what it was that flashed in the dark. I would guess he had never seen such a thing before.
The next few pictures show the bear ambling about between the log and the camera. Then he approached and tried to fathom the thing with his senses. The flashing continued.
Good bear! He left only his breath on the lens.
Several days later a gray fox and bobcat climbed over the log, and six days later the bear came back at 2:00 AM.
He must have noticed the flash again, and maybe something just snapped. The good bear turned bad. It was a clear case of assault and battery. He tore off the bear guard, opened the camera case and tore out the camera. He bit the camera just hard enough to jam the menu panel and the lens, which is now permanently extended at an unnatural angle.
My camera trap is finished. This is the down side of camera trapping.
The bear is recognizable by a small notch in the right ear, and over the three week period he encountered three out of five camera traps.
His first encounter was on a sunny morning, and he only approached the camera to examine it. When he found the camera two days later in the middle of the night he pushed it down, but didn't damage it.
Seven days after that he came upon the second and third cameras. He walked on by. I suppose he just wasn't in a mood for tinkering that day.
But when he met up with the second camera 6 days later he decided to examine it thoroughly.
I don't really think he snapped or that he's a bad bear. But he taught me a recurrent lesson of life. You always get a surprise when you think you have it all figured out.
The spiked bear guards are not the final solution to curious bears.
Maybe I need a constant reminder, an anti-trophy to hang on the wall.
How about this? I could mount the camera on a walnut plaque, frame it with the defeated bear guard, and include a picture of the great brown tinkerer wearing that slack jawed look of surprise.