Friday, May 4, 2018

Big Creek

The men in the group site slept late and then loitered around the camp this morning.  When we headed out for the tent campground, one of them called to us.  When we walked over to see what he wanted and he gave us two mango juice drinks and a bag of Oreo cookies - because we were so nice and helpful.  He said they are international students at the University of Michigan. I asked where they were from; Dubai.  I asked if it is true that everyone in Dubai is rich.  He answered that that is a misconception; only seventy percent are rich.

Ericka, a regular camper we have known for years, came walking up to our host site with my book in her hand.  She and her husband had been out backpacking for a few nights and she stopped in so I could sign her book. She is actually mentioned in the book, but not by name.

All the sites in the tent campground and the horse camp were reserved for the weekend. Of course, we had several campers arrive without a reservation because they had not heard of the new system.

Here is today's Yellow Trillium with a moss background.

The two wildlife guys showed up again this morning. They unloaded the four-wheeler and prepared to head up the Big Creek Trail to find the bear.  Yes, he was a bad bear.

The previous users of the four-wheeler had told them a tire was bad and they had to walk back down the mountain.  So they checked the tire several times before loading their gear.

Then they loaded their rifles. The bad bear had a death warrant on him. He had torn into tents on seven occasions.  They had caught the bear in the past, took a DNA sample, gave him an ear tag, and put a tracking collar on him.  Then they took him back up to Campsite 36 and tased him at the scene of the crime before they let him go. The bear did not learn anything from the tasing and reappeared at the campsite three days later. His DNA matched the DNA on damaged tents. He was caught on camera tearing into another tent, wearing his tracking collar. It would only be a matter of time before that bear hurt a hiker for food.

I recalled a discussion we had with Ranger Tim some years ago.  He didn't think a taser would have much effect on a bear because of its thick fur coat. Ranger Ryan countered that a taser will fold a bear up like a dish rag. It is also effective on elk.

It was a sad occasion, but, really, this is the first time I saw the expression, "loaded and ready for bear" being literally true and appropriate.

They posed and gave me a couple cheesy grins before heading up the mountain.  I gave them nut bars for the ride. Ranger Ryan Williamson, the driver, is a wildlife technician.

I took this picture of Andy as we were sitting in our screen room after lunch. He had just made another face at me, but I snapped while he was chuckling at himself.

Then Andy noticed that water was leaking out the back of Scamp.  Not a good sign. I'll blame Winnebago for the design.  But, I was the one who did it.  Our galley sink has a glass cover to use for extra counter space.  Fine.  The trouble, though, is that if the tiny faucet handle is left in the hot position, lowering the glass lid will turn the water on.  The water filled the holding tank and then the sink.  The sink overflowed and some water was running into the top drawer.  And the middle drawer.  And the bottom drawer. After mopping as much water as I could off the floor, I emptied all the drawers and either dried or set stuff out to air dry. Then, we left all the drawers open for the rest of the day to dry out completely.  What a wet mess.

Andy heard the wildlife guys reporting to dispatch on the radio that they had finished with the bear and were on their way back down the trail. They showed up just before dark. (I used photoshop to lighten this picture.)  This is the tracking collar they took off the bear. It has a two-year battery and sends out a GPS signal every twenty seconds. He told us the collar costs $3,000 and a battery change costs $1,000. That is how the rangers can track the bears (or elk) on their cell phones and always know exactly where they are. He can remotely release the collar from a bear and then go pick up the collar after the bear has moved on.

The men clearly felt bad about putting the bear down.  I was impressed by how much effort they put into making sure they have the right bear before they resort to it. The evidence against this bear was overwhelming. But, he was just being a bear doing what bears do: eat. Ranger Ryan said the problem is people tempting bears by leaving food out. He surprised me by adding that the horse people are the worst because they bring coolers full of food up the mountain.

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