With little food in the forest, we are diverting hungry bears from becoming nuisances.In such times, bears commonly go from house to house looking for garbage and bird seed and even looking for food inside houses. This was an extra bad food year due to late spring and early summer drought, reducing early summer berries (juneberries, blueberries, and raspberries) to a fraction of their normal production. Eagles Nest Township has a reputation for minimizing that by feeding bears over the last six decades.
The lack of food has produced a bonanza of thrills for Black Bear Field Course participants. Stories of Lily, Ursula, Jewel, Shadow, One-eyed Jack, V-Dot, Big Harry, Braveheart, Pete, Bow, Samantha, Faith, Ty, Fern, Daisy, Oliana, RC, Fred, Ricky, Lucy, Spanky, and others that are showing up after absences of several years are too many to tell.
During midday lulls, this group that has heard all the lectures multiple times elected to take pontoon rides to see other wildlife. Today was a beautiful day for that.
In a windy channel, common mergansers that are now in non-breeding plumage rode out the waves.
Along the shoreline of a little bay that was out of the wind, a white water lily stood out brightly against the dark shadowed water.
In another bay, a baby loon slept in the pretty blue water that reflected the sky. It is molting its fluffy baby plumage and growing the brown juvenile plumage that it will maintain through several molts for nearly three years on the Atlantic Ocean. Then it grows its black and white adult plumage in time to migrate back to a local lake, establish a territory, and (with luck) is able to mate for life.
At the other end of the lake, a loon swam in green-looking water that reflected the shoreline vegetation.
Along the shore we saw a tree with some of the sparse chokecherries that survived the drought. Some of the scats we see contain cherry pits.
We are looking forward to some relief for the bears in a couple weeks with what looks to be a good hazelnut crop. They ripen in mid August and hang on until mid-September. These nuts can make a big difference in bear movements, fattening, and ability to maintain pregnancies. In years of good hazelnut crops, people wonder where all the bears disappeared to.
As we ended the ride today, a mother deer alertly looked down on us from a ridge where she was shortly joined by her fawn.
A nice day of excitement, learning, and fun.
Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center
Wildlife Research Institute
145 West Conan Street
Ely, Minnesota 55731 USA