When The Camper Is Rockin’……

There could be a black bear pushing it.

At least, that’s what happened some mornings ago. I was so excited to sleep in, since it was my weekend, but was woken up at 6:10 am. I had just rolled over and noticed the camper was shaking a little more than normal. Then I heard a sound that seemed like something was messing with the outside of my camper.

Sure enough, a black bear was attempting to get into my sewer hose.

I knocked on my kitchen window, trying to scare it off, but it didn’t seem to care. It did leave but in no hurry. I went outside to see if there was any damage and saw some paw-prints on the side of the camper. Thankfully the bear didn’t tear or puncture the sewer hose, and I don’t think he got any reward from it. I noticed there was a black truck with a photographer in it, sitting in my driveway. (Thanks guys for not trying to get the bear out of my campsite. #eyeroll)

I was really flustered after that. At 6:00 in the morning, there really isn’t anybody around or working yet. I was upset that I didn’t take a photo because the bear didn’t really have any unique markings on him. He looked like the perfect, little black bear. There was no way I was going back to sleep. I was so amped up and nervous. Since I felt like I needed to do something, but didn’t know what to do, I decided to drive around the maintenance area and see if it was still around. The goal being, to get a photo of it.

After I didn’t see it in my area, I figured I should Instagram my adventures, and went to the Visitor Center to get wifi. On my way there I saw some activity around the Wayside (what they call restaurants/gas stations in the park). The bear was now sniffing around the dumpsters and the loading dock! I immediately was concerned.

A fed bear is a dead bear.

The first step to a fed bear is a bear that is comfortable and habituated to humans. You can be within 50 yards of the bear, and it doesn’t change its behavior. The next step is curiosity. Bear’s have a great sense of smell, why wouldn’t they be interested in us and what we have around us. I always have food with me. The next step is when the bear associates humans with food. This could be purposeful, from someone feeding a bear, or accidentally, from a bear getting into trash. I did not want this bear to get any kind of food reward.

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I did my best to get close to the bear in my truck and tried to honk the horn. However, the photographers were within 15 yards of the bear, behind the dumpsters, behind the trees. They did not appreciate me trying to scare the bear out of the food area, and I understand why.

I’m a photographer, I want to get that shot as well. But is it at the animal’s expense? I remember before being a Park Ranger, the joy, and feeling I would get when I would get close to an animal and get that beautiful shot. It’s almost an indescribable feeling, you feel like the animal is “letting you in.” After learning more about wildlife management, and seeing the effects that humans can have on wildlife, I feel differently.

When an animal lets me get close or surprises me by getting closer, my first thought is now worrying. Where is the fear or cautiousness? The animal shouldn’t be this comfortable, because the next few steps of habituation are not good in the long run for the animal. I try to startle deer away from the road because they are more likely to get hit when no longer afraid. I try to move bears out of developed areas, so they are less likely to get a food reward.

The photographers weren’t happy with me, and as I drove home, I worried if I had overreacted.

Am I over thinking things? Do I care too much?

 

2 thoughts on “When The Camper Is Rockin’……

  1. Your not overreacting, human safety first then animal safety a mantra I learned when spending a week as a pr-fo in Denali in 95 while shooting a women’s outdoor series.

    The crew was heavily indoctrinated about not acting aggressively toward the animals to get a good shot and only as a last resort to avoid an attack on a human.

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  2. Not overreacting!! When someone is super defensive it usually means they know they’re wrong. And you certainly don’t care too much. Once all those photags get their vacation heads off and their brains screwed back in I bet they’d thank you for looking out for the safety of all involved.

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