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Monday Bear Blogging:

I've been in Montana the past several days for a conference and some talks. Over the weekened, my wife and I hit Yellowstone National Park, and got quite a few wildlife photos. One of my favorites -- more for the subject than the picture quality -- is this picture of grizzly bear taken between Madison Junction and Norris.

My wife got a picture of a black bear that's much better that I might upload later in the week.

[Note to self: Get a digital camera with a better zoom.]

Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Nice. But, I had a grizzly bear stroll across my front lawn as I was looking up from my desk last year.
6.22.2009 7:56pm
Matthew Carberry (mail):
They do look different without lawn furniture for reference.

Pretty color on that one.
6.22.2009 8:15pm
Kazinski:
I spent about 15 minutes watching a grizzly grazing from about 150 yards in Montana, when I was out for a hike. When he caught my scent and did a bluff charge about 20 yards in my direction, I figured I had seen enough.
6.22.2009 9:09pm
byomtov (mail):
When he caught my scent and did a bluff charge about 20 yards in my direction, I figured I had seen enough.

Good thinking.
6.22.2009 9:42pm
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :

When he caught my scent and did a bluff charge about 20 yards in my direction, I figured I had seen enough.

Lewis and Clarke's account of their first serious run-in with a grizzly -- "the blonde bear", as they called it -- is a classic.
6.22.2009 9:45pm
Jennifer Hendricks (mail) (www):
Hmm, my family and I saw a young griz with this coloring in the same area a couple of weeks ago. It crossed the road right in front of our car, and a lot of foolish people hopped out to take pictures! (Especially foolish because it looked young enough to possibly have a mama nearby.)
6.22.2009 10:01pm
Another pinhead (mail):
Are you sure it is a grizzly and not a black bear? Color and size are not reliable distinguishing criteria.
Take this bear test and you will see what I mean.
http://www.bearinfo.org/id.htm
6.22.2009 10:29pm
anonoprof (mail):
Looks like a black bear to me.
6.22.2009 10:42pm
zippypinhead:
Neat! But yes, get a better zoom lens. Don't go sneaking up to get a closer picture. Even with a fire-extinguisher-sized bear spray canister at the ready, it's not wise to play dumb tourist with Yogi Bear's big brother (and remember, you can't take your .44 magnum into National Parks until the new law goes into effect next February, not that any firearm round less powerful than a .50BMG is necessarily going to do anything other than get Yogi even more ticked off at you in the short-term)

Not to mention all the annoying post-attack paperwork that would be waiting for you (or your next of kin) to fill out back at the ranger station!
6.22.2009 10:44pm
Tatil:

When the attack stops, remain still and wait for the bear to leave. If an attack is prolonged or the bear starts eating you it is no longer being defensive.

Hilarious!.. This is a quote from the site "Another pinhead" posted. I'd think if any animal starts eating you, it would be time to take some action.
6.22.2009 11:21pm
Chris_t (mail):

Looks like a black bear to me.




Another vote for a black bear. No hump, and a downturned snout.
6.22.2009 11:32pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
How to tell a grizzly bear from a black bear: the grizzly bear has bear bells in its scat.
6.22.2009 11:47pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

not that any firearm round less powerful than a .50BMG

Not quite true. It is true that unless you are very good or very lucky and manage to shoot through the eye, only a very powerful weapon is likely to penetrate the rib cage and do serious damage. However, a kill shot is not necessary to defend yourself. Although a grizzly will stand up to threaten you, he will get down on all fours to charge you. You want to aim at the shoulders. Even a .30-.30 shell will typically damage the shoulder badly enough to make it unusable. Once you've hit one shoulder, fire on the other. The bear is now crippled and you should be able to escape or to approach carefully and make a kill shot.
6.22.2009 11:53pm
Albatross (mail) (www):
Grizzly bears and sharks: two creatures I plan to stay very far away from, notwithstanding anyone else's love for them.

OK, I don't mind shark being so close to me. But it has to be on a plate and well grilled.
6.23.2009 12:10am
Richard A. (mail):
By the way, any idea what that bear did when it was in the woods?
6.23.2009 1:28am
Fedya (www):
Two bears in my front yard, Sept. 2004

OK, so I'm a lousy photographer. But I was taking pictures quickly, through the living room window. :-)
6.23.2009 9:51am
A Chicken Around Bears:
Even a .30-.30 shell will typically damage the shoulder badly enough to make it unusable. Once you've hit one shoulder, fire on the other. The bear is now crippled and you should be able to escape or to approach carefully and make a kill shot.

uh, huh... Given a choice between repelling a grizzly attack with a puny little deer rifle like a .30-30 versus a large canister of bear spray, I've heard the experts say it's better to go with the bear spray. At least the bear will pause long enough to wipe its eyes that you can probably make your escape.

I once read a story (must be true, it was on the Internet!) that in the 1950s a single grizzly killed 5 USAF MPs armed with M1 Carbines at a checkpoint outside a base in Alaska, before the bear itself eventually bled out. Admittedly, the .30 Carbine round is a little less powerful than a .30-30, but we're still talking about a round that's got foot/pounds punch roughly halfway between a .357 magnum and a .44 magnum, with either 15 or 30 rounds per magazine available to each MP.
6.23.2009 10:07am
Pro Natura (mail):
I made my one and only visit to Yellow Stone over thirty years ago, entering through Bear Tooth Pass just before sunset in late summer: It's the closest thing to a mystic experience I've ever had and everything else in the Yellow Stone Valley had the same impact.
6.23.2009 10:42am
pintler:

Given a choice between repelling a grizzly attack with a puny little deer rifle like a .30-30 versus a large canister of bear spray, I've heard the experts say it's better to go with the bear spray.


With apologies to regular readers, I encourage bear spray users to test fire it in varied conditions. In my experience, even barely detectable breezes have a dramatic effect on it, and much of grizzly country is fairly prone to wind.

It's a great tool to have in the kitbag, I recommend it highly, and I carry it myself. It just occupies a different part of the bear defense arena than firearms (short range, no wind, little skill required, low threshold for use vs. longer range, weather indifferent, practice required, high threshold for use).


but we're still talking about a round that's got foot/pounds punch roughly halfway between a .357 magnum and a .44 magnum


When you're talking dangerous game, bullet design matters more than muzzle energy, IMHO.

Most importantly, when in bear country, walk like a coyote, keep a clean camp, and give bears a wide berth. And to avoid the greatest danger of your trip, be very careful when driving to and from the trailhead :-)
6.23.2009 10:54am
GTT:
Nice picture. Saw one of these up close (i.e. right in front of the car) when we drove into the park last fall; I was reminded of The Far Side cartoon with a polar bear that was attacking an igloo and saying to another bear "I love these--crunchy on the outside, with a chewy center."

Which entrance did you come in? We came in via the Beartooth highway, which was scary but fun...
6.23.2009 10:59am
ChrisIowa (mail):

Note to self: Get a digital camera with a better zoom.

Image stabilization might be more important. If you have a clear image you can do a lot by cropping. If you do not have a clear image there is no way to fix it.
6.23.2009 11:31am
[insert here] delenda est:
We saw a small family of black bears in Shenandoah, the Daddy was about 50 yards away at one point, but he seemed relaxed enough about us.
6.23.2009 11:43am
[insert here] delenda est:
PS: definitely get a better zoom, it is about the most important part of a typical non-slr digital camera. Get at least 10x.
6.23.2009 11:44am
lurker-999 (mail):
" ...when in bear country, walk like a coyote,..."

Never heard that simile before. Could we get a translation? Don't suppose you actually meant 'egyptian' ?
6.23.2009 2:13pm
john w. (mail):
I have to agree with several other nit-pickers: That photo looks more like a honey-colored black bear than a Griz. No hump, elongated snout, and pointy ears.

Of course if you want to be 100 percent sure, you have to *carefully* measure the length of its front claws.
6.23.2009 2:24pm
SeaLawyer:


Looks like a black bear to me.




Another vote for a black bear. No hump, and a downturned snout.


That is not a black bear!
6.23.2009 2:25pm
pintler:

" ...when in bear country, walk like a coyote,..."

Never heard that simile before. Could we get a translation? Don't suppose you actually meant 'egyptian' ?


For much of the past century, and perhaps now, coyotes were considered vermin and shot on sight in much of the Rocky Mtn west. The survivors are extremely skittish - if you saw one 300 yds away and even slowed down, they were gone in a flash.
"Walk like a coyote" thus means to have your head up, scanning and alert, and not go into the weary backpacker's head down stupor, to know the wind direction and what it implies about surprising a bear, to watch the upcoming terrain and notice that you're leaving the open meadow for the stream side thickets, etc.

Given how brazen suburban coyotes are getting to be, I suppose I will have to retire the phrase :-).
6.23.2009 3:31pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

Given a choice between repelling a grizzly attack with a puny little deer rifle like a .30-30 versus a large canister of bear spray, I've heard the experts say it's better to go with the bear spray


That should be "some experts", not "the experts". I live in grizzly bear country. The mistake that many people make when carrying a rifle like a .30-.30 is to aim at the chest or head in hope of a kill shot. It is quite correct that you aren't likely to do much damage to a grizzly that way. A .30-.30 shell fired at point blank range into an adult grizzly very likely won't even penetrate the rib cage. But damaging the shoulder enough to stop a charge is a lot easier than making a kill shot. A .30-.30 shell can do a lot of damage to a shoulder. It doesn't have to get through it to something vital - it just has to muck it up enough to make it difficult or painful to walk on that leg.

Bear spray is a good thing to carry, but it doesn't always work, and it isn't effective at much of a distance. The best thing is of course to avoid surprising grizzlies, don't get anywhere near their cubs, kills, or food caches, and avoid attracting them or confronting them. But if you do get into a situation in which a grizzly charges you for real, shooting at the shoulder can be a good idea.
6.23.2009 5:19pm
Justin (mail):
If you don't want to spend 4 figures to get an SLR and a couple of lenses, I highly recommend the FujiFilm S8100fd. 18x optical zoom, 10.2 MP, about $300.

We took one on safari and loved it.
6.23.2009 9:20pm
DennisN (mail):
pintler:
Most importantly, when in bear country, walk like a coyote, keep a clean camp, and give bears a wide berth.


Roger that.

Last time our Scouts did a trip in the Porcupine Mountains of UP Michigan, it was a bad year for bears. Absolutely every party we met had had an encounter with bears.

Our camp drill was to never eat in camp and never camp where anyone had eaten. We would have dinner, walk another 20 minutes, bear bag everything smellable, and hang-cache that another 200 yards down the trail. We never saw a bear. The only way a bear was likely to get us would be to trip over us by accident.

There is no such thing as a small bear when it is in your camp.
6.24.2009 12:05am
neurodoc:
pintler: Given how brazen suburban coyotes are getting to be, I suppose I will have to retire the phrase :).
They are indeed brazen. I was walking down one side of a street one afternoon on Cape Cod a couple of years ago, when I saw a smallish, scraggily looking German shepard walking toward me. As we got closer to one another, I realized this wasn't a German shepard, not even a poorly bred one. The coyote, probably the same one who went through our trash when it wasn't well secured, was completely insouciant and just kept walking as we passed one another. Do they represent any threat to humans?
6.24.2009 10:53am
rosetta's stones:
Yes, if you come around coyotes in heat, or have dogs they're threatened by, or maybe too close to a den, they will attack. They did so just a mile away from my house here, in suburbia, along a walking trail. Shoot, shovel and shut-up is your best option here, imo, if you feel threatened.

I used to live near an RV park in Texas, near some dunes where a pack of coyotes ran. The more foolish snowbirds would put little FiFi the poodle out on a chain sometimes at night. Poor FiFi.
6.24.2009 11:30am
Fat Man (mail) (www):
A timely review of non-slr telephoto zoom cameras:

"Little Cameras With Big Eyes" by John Biggs in the NYTimes on Thursday, June 24, 2009.

There are a lot of options, depending on your budget, your photographic expertise, how much stuff you are willing to schlep, how often you do it, und so wieter.

If you are willing to spend $1,000 and carry something that may be a bit bulky, but want absolutely the best pictures, buy an SLR. I helped my friend buy a Nikon D80 with the 70-300 lens before she went on safari to Africa. She was very glad she did.

I hate bulky gadgets and I would go for the smaller Canon SX200 described in the review that weighs less than 8 oz. The SX110, seems to have the same optics and electronics as the 200, but it is a little heavier, $120 cheaper, and uses AA batteries which may be a bug or a feature.

If you want to dialog on this offline. Please e-mail me.
6.26.2009 6:00pm
zippypinhead:
Our camp drill was to never eat in camp and never camp where anyone had eaten. We would have dinner, walk another 20 minutes, bear bag everything smellable, and hang-cache that another 200 yards down the trail. We never saw a bear. The only way a bear was likely to get us would be to trip over us by accident.

There is no such thing as a small bear when it is in your camp.
Good drill. Tent away from the cooking/eating location, away from the bear bags, and away from the sump/garbage disposal area. Set those areas up in a "bearmuda triangle" some distance away from the tents, and the bear will commute around the interesting smells without bothering the tent area.

And be vigorous about smellables in the tents. Ban use of deodorant, scented soap, and even scented sunscreen or lip balm. The last bear attack at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico (several years ago), where they generally require rigorous adherence to anti-bear procedures, occurred when a Scout with sunburned lips put on scented lip balm before he crawled into his tent.
6.27.2009 11:22am

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