Friday, May 20, 2022

Big bear tracks

by By Larry Wilson
| April 20, 2022 7:20 AM

Spring continues! Winter one day cold and windy the next. At least the snow is mostly wet and melts quickly. Additionally, it helps melt underlying snow in a proper manner which reduces the threat of flooding later in June. Still, I am tired of snow, more tired of mud and ready to welcome some nice weather. I am looking forward to the first gophers and ready to slap the first mosquitoes.

The gophers may not be out but the bears are – and they are, no doubt, very hungry. I haven’t seen any yet but a neighbor took pictures of some BIG tracks. Our guess is that they were made by a 600 lb or bigger male grizzly. (Females rarely, if ever, get that big) Several other folks from just north of Columbia Falls to the Border have game camera pictures of bears – both black and griz – and/or seen tracks in the snow. Make sure you secure and remove all bear attractants! That includes all garbage, bird feeders, pet food, evern paper towels that may have been used to wipe up spilled soup. A bear may not see as well as a hawk, but they can pick up just a whiff of food from miles away.

Also, cubs born during last winter’s bedding period are also just now emerging. They can be really small and they look cuddly. If you see one with no mother in sight avoid it as it is super dangerous. A 30 pound bear cub can cut you three ways – wide, deep and often. Their paws and jaws are sharp and quick. On top of that, they are incredibly strong and agile. I remember a cub years ago that had been orphaned and it took three full sized strong game wardens to subdue it and tie it up wrapped in a heavy tarp.

I have seen floaters on the river. The river is plenty low enough, but it is still too cold for me. I only float when it is 70℉ or higher at launch time with prospects of warming. To me, it is really miserable if you are on the river in cold weather and you get wet. Plus, I prefer to be lightly glad if I get dunked in the river.

Still, there are plenty of adventurous folks out there ready to take a risk or find a thrill. For them we have North Valley Search and Rescue. Already, they are gearing up for people’s poor judgment or mistakes. Jet boats are ready for use. Boar operators are training, swift water teams are checking equipment and getting in shape. S+R time is spent roughly equally on snow, water, land and training. We are really lucky to have two S+R units in the Flathead. They are ready 24/7 year round unlike the Forest Service which can not seem able to rewrite the River Plan in five years.

What do you think?