High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

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MetalBackpacker
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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by MetalBackpacker » Tue Jan 08, 2019 1:32 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 4:02 pm
There is a glacier in Wyoming called the Grasshopper Glacier, and early explorers noted swarms of grasshoppers on the glaciers and grizzly feeding on them.
Woah, that's cool to know how it got the name! I hiked over Grasshopper Glacier this year on my CDT thru hike. At the terminus of the glacier there was a wall of ice that appeared to be 60-80ft tall, pretty impressive. Didn't see any grasshoppers though!








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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by SSSdave » Tue Jan 08, 2019 2:23 pm

In the backcountry, bears do not like to hang out where people hike so no wonder most here see so few. As someone hiking about obscure areas over decades, am confident I can always find places if I want to where I am likely to come across bears any given mid summer day. First they want to be where there are natural foods to eat like hidden meadows with vegetation and small burrowing critters. They like nearby big trees as their natural reaction when scared, especially from larger bears, is to climb tree trunks. Thus dense, damp, dim red fir forests are at the top of their list especially when such also includes streams. Note such forests also tend to be noisy when stepping through that alerts them to anything big nearby.

Following forest stream courses at canyon bottoms through dell flats is especially productive because while air is cool and heavy, it sumps down gravity flowing along those lowest places so a bear can smell everything along a stream above including you solo hiker camped beside Bubbs Creek you thought was going to be lonely well away from the PCT. A wise reason to instead climb up above trails beside a stream to find a canyon bench out of sumping flows to site at versus dropping down to be alongside a creek

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by bulaklakan » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:18 pm

In 2007 my two sisters and I took some of our kids - then mid-teens - on their first 'real backpack'. Our goals were modest: over Kearsarge, 5-6 days, maybe explore the drainage SE of Kearsarge Lakes or go over to Charlotte. We didn't want to push the young'uns too hard on their first trip. Of course it's not hard to guess how that turned out - they all did great, while we (adults) were re-educated about what we could accomplish... not so easy to gallivant about in the mountains with 45-50 lb packs like we did some decades earlier. Not to mention that we were not particularly fit or acclimatized.
Anyway we got a leisurely start from the Kearsarge TH, struggled, had some altitude sickness and didn't make it over the pass. It was getting dark and raining intermittently. We found some tent spots on the rocky ridge south of the trail below the last push to the pass, maybe 11,200' elevation. My daughter and I climbed down to Big Pothole to get water, someone else threw together some dinner. After we decided that cleaning the dinner dishes could wait until morning - we felt like crap and were cold & wet. And no way would a bear be up this high. (Despite our cavalier attitude about the dishes, we did put our food in cannisters & away from camp.)
So of course we were awakened a few hours later by our dishes banging around. Flashlights revealed a bear's big rump above where he/she was scavenging in our kitchen area. I did have a bag of gorp in my tent... my sister with whom I was sharing the tent was insistent that it was Not Staying in the tent. To keep the peace, I reluctantly tossed it down towards our cannisters.
In the morning our dishes were sparkling, my gorp bag was shredded with no sign of its contents, and our cannisters were undisturbed.
I have wondered how that bear came to be up there - did it smell our dishes from 1000' below, or follow us up there sensing weakness? Kelbaker's and SSSdave’s posts would lead to the theory that the bear was making a nocturnal trip over the pass & stopped by for a snack....

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AlmostThere
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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by AlmostThere » Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:31 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:04 am
Does anyone know if there has been a robust population/range survey for Sierra bears? Rather than hearsay from individuals, a real count of bears? I suppose bear poop or tracks may be easier to map than bears themselves. Can radio collars be put on bears, or do they just pull them off?

Bears are indeed GPS tagged in the parks, if they are nuisance bears. I've seen the data mapped for some of the Yosemite bears. They wander around their favored stomping grounds quite a lot and of course there are "artifacts" that are generated by faulty GPS data, but seem very set in a specific region. Part of the challenge for Yosemite rangers is getting bears to move for good -- I have talked to "bear rangers" who are assigned specifically to the task, who seem to spend tons of time trying to haze the nuisance bears out of areas like LYV.

Here is some data on populations of bears in California: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservatio ... Population

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by SSSdave » Wed Jan 09, 2019 10:36 am

Not at all surprised a bear checked out your site near Big Pothole. I've looked about at all those spots in the sand between boulders near that lake and that is all there is with tent spots. On the other hand there are crude spots in trees at 3240 meters nw of Flower Lake bears would not likely bother climbing up to . On the other side of the pass at extremely popular Kearsarge Lakes, 90% of groups camp at the ne lake near the bear boxes with the 10% rest along the north side shores of the 3 popular lakes (GE magenta areas). Want to camp in that zone and not see bears or other groups? Site a camp where I did above the 3360 meter line east and 100 feet or so vertically above the popular lakes that also has excellent water supplies from all summer streamlets and good views out across the basin (GE red areas).

I would expect black bears that regularly explore human trails at higher timberline elevations have discovered most places backpackers camp at within 100>200 yards of trails, lake edges, and use routes. And those that hunt down backpackers for food bother to check such locations at all hours of the day if they are passing by previously discovered camp spots. They have learned 95% of backpackers camp within 100 yards of trails etc and that they almost never find groups camped beyond 200 yards. They also probably notice groups almost never site more than maybe 50 feet vertically above trails unless groups don't others have a choice since they are lazy. So bears don't waste the effort and energy to explore such places unless they visually see someone in the distance or more likely hear or smell them or especially in the evening see flash lights or campfire lights. One can be sure the smell of frying fish or bacon will have a bear following a smell for a long distance regardless of how far it needs to go. And in fact as one of the only persons that regularly camps well away from such routes, I almost never find signs of used camps spots.
Kearsarge1.jpg
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notis
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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by notis » Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:13 pm

Harlen wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 6:06 pm
(cringe alert)... been hanging salami in the trees around their camps in the hope of seeing one. :(

The most interesting place I've seen a great pile of bear scat was off-route on the precipitous west slope of Mosquito Pass, and at the time I was searching about for a safe way up. That bear had to be climbing exposed class 3-4, which may be why he sh!t himself.
Cringe-alert is right!! What!

And then I laughed out loud at the last line :lol:

I've never seen any signs of bears above 10k feet or so.

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by AlmostThere » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:43 am

I guess I should start taking pictures of scat and prints....

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John Harper
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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by John Harper » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:38 am

AlmostThere wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:43 am
I guess I should start taking pictures of scat and prints....
Sounds like the makings of a great "coffee table" book. Perhaps an Amazon best seller?

John

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:42 pm

Seriously, an old friend of mine, who is a biologist, was the author of a book on "scat" back in the 70's. He did the photography himself. It was a field guide to Sh**! He did not get rich off it. LOL.

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by AlmostThere » Fri Jan 11, 2019 9:02 am

I already take pictures of ugliness in the backcountry, for trail crew, documenting the atrocities people do before we glove up and clean it up. Acres of toilet paper.

I tried to get pictures of the bear tracks in the bottom of a lake in Bench Valley, that was unique. But they were barely visible in the image and unrecognizable as bear prints.

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