29 April 2010

First Bear of Spring

In roving around my corner of the good Earth in southwest Montana near Butte, I usually run into several of the Black Bear people (Ursus americanus) each year. We had a lot of bears where I grew up in northwest Pennsylvania, too, and I came to admire and respect them. After about the age of 14, I no longer could hunt and shoot them. They have large territories, move miles to take advantage of seasonal foods, and usually do their best to avoid human conflict. Sows are good mothers, too, and will protect cubs by charging or even attacking if necessary (see my experience with a bear charge here).

The first bear of spring is exciting--like the first wildflower, only big and furry and intelligent. I guess it's not like the first flower at all. Anyway, MollyTheDog and I were hiking  along a rocky ridge. We scrambled around some sofa-sized boulders to find ourselves eye-to-eye with 200-pound plus Bear--about 100 feet away. Bear moved startlingly quick, doing an about-face and bounding behind the rocks out-of-sight. MTD thought "PLAY TIME!" and took chase the way she does with other dogs. Bear shinnied  up a tree, I called Molly back, and we circled down and around--with me speaking loud apologies to Bear for having such a rude and unmannerly dog. Here's worried Bear up the tree:

Cutting down the ridge on a loop back to the truck, we found ourselves in knee deep snow on an east-facing slope. MTD quickly took advantage of this with otter-style sliding:

When we  got to the bottom of the little valley, I was surprised to find the lake (elevation c. 7,000 feet) still solidly frozen over:

Back home in Walkerville above the Silver Bow valley, just a few miles away, our first wildflowers are blooming. They are not like bears at all, in that they stay still and allow themselves to be photographed close-up. As usual, our first blooms include Biscuitroot (Lomatium cous; it was an important food of indigenous peoples):

And the tiny, elegant Cutleaf Daisy (Erigeron compositus):

If you look closely, the lobed finger-like leaves of E.compositus are especially beautiful:

At a folk music event that evening, I told the bear story. A friend (and bear hunter) wanted to know just where I had seen Bear. The answer came easily: No Tellum Creek.


Laura Hegfield said...

wonderful photos!

Should Fish More said...

Looks like this was up on the east ridge, yes? I bet Mr/Ms blackie rethought coming out of hibernation after the weather yesterday...

Should Fish More said...

Ouch, just read the last sentance of your post, somehow missed it. Apologies, ER

troutbirder said...

What a great hike. And the concluding punch line was just perfect.

secret agent woman said...

Ha! Glad you didn't reveal the bear's location.