Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Getting back to nature 2.

Monte's quarter section (160 acres). New photograph taken
from a small plane. The land had been clear cut about ten
years ago (save for the small trees which are now larger).
The old logging roads from Crown land are still visible.
This post is a follow-up to last year's "Getting back to nature".

I had just finished baking a lot of Cornish pasties for this years expedition and was thinking about making some apple strudel when my friend Monte phoned to say that our expedition planned for tomorrow was off. Some money he was expecting has been delayed until late September. We were already less prepared than we had hoped for: he had to spend a bit of money getting a 4WD Durango for the trip, but it did not have a winch; his gun license was not going to arrive in time, so we would have less protection from the grizzly and black bears in the area, and we were shy on some other equipment too. He was thinking about going after the money arrived but I told him that the moose hunting season would have started by that time. I think that the chances of being accidentally shot by a hunter would be greater than being attacked by a bear, but the combination of moose hunting and grizzly bears can be a deadly mix. Many people have been attacked and killed by a grizzly guarding the remains of a moose carcass, and when we were in the area last year, we saw moose tracks and one print of a bear's forefoot in some fresh mud. That track was of a black bear, though. It might have been the one that growled at us from the undergrowth not far away.

A local farmer had told us that he would take us further toward Monte's land across his farm, but when Monte's sister phoned and spoke to the farmer's wife, she seemed less enthused by the idea. The locals are not too happy about some of the hunters in the area who have driven (apparently small) all terrain vehicles through the dense undergrowth to the marshes that surround the small lakes there. Unable to remove the entire moose, they just take what meat they can transport out and leave the rest for the grizzlies. The area seems over-hunted and the moose population is declining. September is bad for travelling through grizzly country, they are trying to fatten up for the winter and with the moose in decline they are not only going to be extra protective of moose carcasses, but will likely be looking for other sources of meat. If a bear has decided to eat you, apart from shooting it or scaring it off by various methods, there is really nothing you can do. Playing dead only works if a bear is defending its territory and sees you as a threat. While bears are killed by hunters (no licenses for hunting grizzly bears in that area are issued, only licenses for black bear ), that usually means a shot through the heart from the side. With a charging grizzly, though, a 12 bore shotgun cartridge filled with steel balls is the recommended defence. But a 700 to 1,7000 lb. bear landing on you before it dies could kill you from its weight alone.

Because the locals are not pleased about the hunters coming into the area, some of them have been blocking access to old roads. On their own land, this is quite legal, however, no one is allowed to build a road through Crown land and then restrict the access to other people wanting to travel on it, so if we found such a barricade, we would tear it down. The expedition was going to be through abandoned logging roads through Crown land that are not all marked on maps and as it has been a number of years since logging was taking place there, we expected to have to fell some small trees that might have grown back. Most of the forest is conifer, and that can only be replanted, but the few aspen will grow back over time, and might have to be cut.

The current plan is to build a powered raft to take us and an all terrain vehicle across a large lake to the east, and then go through the forest on Crown land to his property, but we might first check out some of the existing logging roads into the area first. Once there, we will of course pan the two creeks on it to see if there is any gold (ownership of land grants no rights, you still have to stake a claim) and look for other things (depending on the season) like morel mushrooms (very profitable) among the aspens and fiddleheads in the undergrowth. I expect the creeks will have trout in them. For shelter, a tree house is on the agenda.


  1. Sounds a marvellous trip, hope the bears survive though, have a soft spot for bears especially sun and moon ones. These are the rescued 'bile' bears of China and Vietnam, a practice that is slowly being forced out thank goodness.

  2. Hi Thelma,

    Any trade in bear parts is illegal in British Columbia and grizzly bear hunting in general is outlawed anywhere the bears are seen to be at any risk at all. One of the main causes of bear deaths, across Canada, is through being hit by trains. The bears frequently go the train tracks to feed on the grain that leaks out of grain cars. Of course, while governments are quick to condemn individuals for causing harm to wildlife, they are less likely to condemn the railway companies (who pay them huge amounts of tax money) for not ensuring grain car leakage.

    Here's a fascinating interactive web site about Bear 71:

    As you listen to the narrative ("by" bear 71), you can track her route by following the arrow with your mouse cursor and stop to see other animals along the way. It is set in Banff Park, not far from where I live (about an hour+ drive).

    It's one of my favorite web sites on the WWW.

  3. Hi John, fascinating but a sad ending. The rescued 'bile' bears in their sanctuaries, seem to have a 'lazy' life but happy, lolling around in hammocks, seeking their hidden food, many of them are of course disabled from the extraction, blindness and lost limbs. When you think of the poor medieval bears made to dance for an audience, and still done today of course in Eastern European countries one wonders why do humans participate in this cruelty. At least your Canadian bears have people looking out for them....

  4. If only Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways would also take some responsibility for so many bear deaths too. The problem with such big organizations is that such things are always "someone else's department" and there is that "bottom line" of profit for shareholders. Grrrr!

    We certainly would only use a gun as a last resort. The noisemakers that the park rangers used in the video seemed very effective and we would have those too. In Canada, many people hunt for subsistence: a big moose can feed a family for about a year. I don't agree with trophy hunting, though. Most hunters here are ethical: no one ever shoots porcupines here as they are too easy to kill, even though they would be quite edible, and unlike deer, have a fat content -- anyone who tried to survive just on venison would die of starvation (it has happened).