Grin and Bear It

     On the Gunflint Trail we refer to our bears as bigger sized pesty racoons.  They usually only show up if there has been garbage left out, strong smelling foods being cooked or plentiful berries.  They aren’t normally aggressive but they can be a nuisance and make large messes.  We haven’t heard of any nuisance bears at campsites in the Boundary Waters or Quetico Park but there has been a couple of incidences other places this summer.  

<%image(20070730-bearhouse1.jpg|350|201|BWCA Black Bear)%>

  On a recent trip to the dumpster evidence of a black bear could be seen.  This wasn’t just a little pile of berry bear poo, but a huge mess of garbage left by one.  The bear had made it’s way into one of the locked dumpsters and continued to spread garbage all over the place.  Some work with a shovel and a half an hour later all was clean once again.  The problem is once a bear finds food in one spot, it usually returns again and again. 

     This is what happened on the South Shore of Gunflint Lake this year.  A sow with her two cubs found bountiful food along the road and at Gunflint Lodge and Gunflint Pines Resort.  With garbage cans at all of the cabins and campsites it is nearly impossible to keep them empty all of the time.  Even when rules about when to dump garbage are posted somehow garbage makes its way into the can.  The bear strikes gold once or twice and bingo, a return trip is scheduled to depart within five minutes.  The resorts and homeowners along the road have had a heck of a time dealing with this bear.

     Then one fine morning when a wrangler from Gunflint Lodge was up doing a cookout for the breakfast horse ride something strange happened.  The wrangler was busy preparing breakfast for the guests who would arrive in an hour.  The bacon was sizzling and the smell of food cooking was drifiting along with the breeze.  The wrangler was equipped with an iPod and headphones on this gorgeous peaceful morning in the wilderness(don’t get me started).  A strange feeling of being watched, or a quick blur of black out of the corner of the eye made the wrangler take notice.  Of course the wrangler couldn’t hear the approaching bear but sure did get a good look at it as it sauntered toward the campfire to get a quick bite to eat.

     What would you do?  Black Bears are generally afraid of people and are easily startled.  I once came upon a campsite in the middle of a hiking trail with people in a canoe just off shore screaming at me, or so I thought.  They were actually screaming at a black bear that had found their food and was happily eating all of it as they were absolutely no threat to him where they sat.   I started shouting at it, banging pots and pans and throwing rocks at it as my sister stood shaking behind me.  It quickly disappeared into the woods and didn’t return while I was there.  Had the campers done this in the first place they would have had food for the rest of their trip. 

<%image(20070730-bearcagesm.jpg|300|225|Boundary Waters Black Bear)%>

   I’ll blame it on the Ipod.  Since the wrangler was way more startled than the bear the wrangler made a hasty retreat leaving all of the food for the bear to eat.  The bear enjoyed the morning breakfast high on the ridge overlooking Gunflint Lake.  From rumors floating around the northwoods this may have been the bear’s last supper.  

     I hope the untimely death of this bear is only a rumor.  Bears and other animals can make messes and become nuisances to humans but since animals were here first maybe they have the right.  People have chosen to live in the habitat of many forest creatures and become pests and nuisances to them.  Whether or not we like it we are sharing this country with many northwoods critters who will always act like the wild animals they are. Creatures of habit these animals go for an easy meal, just like those of us who choose fast food or go out to dinner instead of hunting and cooking our food everyday.  Are the bears and animals to blame or are we?