“Look who came for dinner at the feeder!’ I received a nice photo this week of a black bear on this island visiting a resident’s feeder.
Black bears are large mammals, and they live only in North America. They are not always black but can be brown or tan. They have a good sense of smell and can avoid humans very well and usually do just that. A friend and I will never forget our encounter with a bear in the woods near Schoodic. We were hiking to the shore and had just passed through a wet area of the woods on the trail before we reached the shore. We only stayed a short while at the shore before retracing our steps on the same trail. A very short distance back, we came upon a steaming pile of bear scat filled with blueberries in the middle of the path. It had not been there 15 minutes before! The black bear knew we were in the woods, but we had no idea that it was close by.
Black bears rarely attack another creature and do so only if they are cornered, injured or have cubs to protect. Black bears tend to avoid people, and they are more afraid of you than you are of them say all the experts. The best behavior for you is to never try to get closer to a bear or try to feed one. Respect their privacy and keep your distance. Knowing we have bears on this island should not inhibit your walking in any way. Chances of you seeing them are rare. However, if you put food out that they might like to eat before they go to sleep for the colder months, you are inviting them to come near you.
Black bears grow fat in the fall on acorns and nuts they can find and on any fruit still on trees or plants. They need to be fat as winter starts to withstand the cold and survive until spring.
Each bear finds its own hibernating spot. The only bears that will hibernate together are a mother with yearling cubs. Bear dens are about the size of a dresser in your bedroom. Black bear dens are big but not as big as many other bears. A bear could be in the woods near you, and you’d never know. Bears sleep in their dens without moving at all, for they don’t get up to eat or produce waste all winter long – a period of time that might be six months. The mother bear does, however, give birth to her cubs during her hibernation, and they nurse from her. The litter is usually two or three cubs, and they are born tiny and helpless. They do not hibernate their first winter. They nurse and grow.
If bears are in your neighborhood, be respectful. They look cuddly and very soft – and they are, for I have been privileged to have petted zoo bears – but don’t try to get close to them. Respect their space. Barking like a dog may send them on their way if you meet one in the woods before it sees you. Retreating also is a good plan. I’d like to recommend a small book about bears called “Bears for Kids” by Lynn Rogers for excellent information about this large mammal in our midst.
As I crossed the Bass Harbor Bridge recently, it was hard not to get more than a glance of two great blue herons and flock of ducks feeding there. I wish this bridge were bigger and had an observation place. Wildlife in the marsh is always fascinating, but drivers need to be especially alert there. Quite a few years ago, my daughter saw two bears out on the marsh early one morning as she rode to school on the bus. The view from this bridge is very tempting for all photographers no matter what time of day or season. Whenever there are egrets out there or flocks of geese and ducks, you find cars parked nearby. Always be careful, however, when standing on the bridge.
We can’t help noticing the colorful changes in leaves on trees and shrubs now. Tourists come from all over the country to see the colorful foliage in the fall. One of local shrubs, called hobblebush, starts turning in mid-summer to bright hues of orange, yellow, maroon or red, and when it is in with evergreens, the color contrasts are beautiful. The leaves are long and nearly as wide (4-8 inches) You may know this shrub as moosewood. It is easily seen on the trails near Sieur de Monts Springs. When you’re in the woods this week, see if you can find moosewood. Its fruit is fleshy and ripens from red to black.
Two yellow-rumped warblers were brought to me one day. They had hit a window near where the birds were feeding. The large flock they had been in was moving about at high speed near the feeder, and two killed themselves accidentally. Always think about that when you put food out. If a window is nearby, put feed farther away from the house or break up the reflection on the window. These small warblers, formerly called myrtle warblers, travel in small energetic flocks. Some may linger here until the end of the year, while others head south and can be seen everywhere in the vegetation in Florida and other more southern states.