Oatie, high water and a search

| June 3, 2020 7:33 AM

Beautiful sunny weather for most of this week. I really enjoyed getting out on my ATV with temperatures in the mid-70s on the North Fork. That ended Saturday night with a massive thunderstorm about midnight. Now, on Sunday morning, we are seeing periods of heavy rain and there are now BIG puddles in my lane with prospects of more to come.

Now I am really glad my cabin is a long way from the river. I’ll bet the groundwater is rising in the basement of the Polebridge Mercantile and that Oliver Meister is getting a canoe out in case the Polebridge hostel is suddenly sitting on an island as has happened fairly frequently when we have a fast runoff.

Floods are not real frequent on the North Fork and have always been the result of the same combination of events. Late runoff of the snowpack combined with above average temperatures and heavy warm rain. This year is not exactly like that but I worry that this week’s warm weather softened snow in the mountains and now the heavy rain—if it continues for 24 hours or more could create some local problems—especially in the Polebridge Townsite.

The rain is also likely to have an adverse effect on the North Fork Road. Rain encourages the multiplying of chuckholes and already has turned the north end into long stretches of muddy ruts. A local who drives a Subaru dubbed the road impassable, but four wheel drives continue to make it through. Of course, the traffic makes the road worse and it may well really become impassable if the rain continues. Not much the County can do with a road that is just mud—at least not until it dries up.

Still seeing a lot of grizzly bears and only an occasional black bear. Many thanks to Tim Manley for keeping us all informed. The famous “Oatie” who has had a radio collar since his Polebridge days is now silent. FWP triggered his radio collar to drop off this week. There were concerns that due to his growing, the collar would get too tight and harm him. The collar has been recovered with no sign the bear was suffering any bad effects, so I am sure we will have future sightings. He is certainly habituated to people although his past practice has been to ignore humans. We all hope that continues.

We have already had one nearly all night search mission. Everyone OK but a good practice for North Valley Search and Rescue working with the Two Bear helicopter. Search leader Mark Heaphy did an outstanding job coordinating. Thanks Mark!

A no doubt fast moving vehicle hit and killed a doe whitetail deer on Tepee Flats this week. She was pretty young and small and had a fully formed unborn fawn that died with her. Have no idea how much damage was done to the vehicle, but since the road was dry and straight, I assume speed was a factor.

What do you think?

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.