About Me

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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Bear spray with a happy ending

Screen shot of Napoleon 
with my bear spray

What creepy thought comes to mind when you find a tooth-punctured canister of bear spray deep in the woods? Yes, some poor sod made his last stand against Bruin and lost. In this case the poor sod was me, but my can of bear spray made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Last June I absent-mindedly left my bear spray behind when I set a trail camera beside a seasonal creek. A bear visited 2 hours after we left, and during the next 3 months the camera video-captured bears on 50 occasions. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have video proving that Bruin got the big surprise while munching the canister. My lost bear spray was not in the camera’s field of view, at least not initially. But after it presumably exploded in the jaws of a bear -- it became a bear toy. I have video sound tracks to prove it. You can hear bears rolling it on the rocks and crackling the metal in their jowls. 

The canister mysteriously appeared at the edge of a video clip on day 53, and remained in view of subsequent clips until a yearling cub retrieved it from the water 11 days later. This bear -- I call him Napoleon -- seemed to make a statement. He walked up to the camera and dropped the can there. 

It didn't stay there. I found it several yards downstream in the dry creek bed, and how it got there I'll never know. It didn’t smell like pepper spray, but its remaining chemical taint gave me a coughing fit. The crumpled bear spray canister now resides in the clutter of my garage and workshop – a souvenir of another adventure with a happy ending.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Tree-climbing camera inspector

For three years I've photo-captured bears climbing this rubbing tree. It 's about 14 inches in diameter and leans a bit. Cubs zip up and down the trunk, even on the underside, and adults occasionally tackle it too. It was a tree made for an arboreal camera trap, and promised a head-on view of a bear shimmying closer to the camera.       

After hauling my aluminum extension ladder to the site in two pieces, I bolted two cameras on a 1" pipe lag-screwed to the tree with a threaded flange. With neighbor Ted passing the tools to and fro the installation wasn't life threatening.  Here's a bear's eye view as seen from near the base.  The cameras (a Browning and a GoPro) are 11.5' from the base and a vertical drop of 12'.

I used to fit arboreal cameras with bungee cords. If an overly curious bear ripped a camera loose, the bungee would prevent a crash landing. Mischievous bears might play with a dangling camera, and could bite through the bungee cord, but a bungee could save the camera.  Nowadays I  believe most bears are loath to lose their grip while batting at a camera.   

Bears visited the site 18 times, but only three looked up at the camera, and only the camera inspector climbed the tree. 

To see the video copy this link https://vimeo.com/463652759 and paste it in your finder.