Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Almost More Than I Can Bear

At camp, I sleep on the third floor of the beautiful Barlow/Wadman Lodge. Almost everyone else sleeps in tents in the middle of situation one grizzly bear habitat. I feel safe myself, but spend a great deal of time worrying about all those folks in the woods.

I hate knocks on my door in the middle of the night. It always means trouble, a sick camper or staff member, some wrong to right, fights or hi jinks, perhaps a fire, and of course there are always bears.

It was 4:30 AM, Thursday morning, a week and days before the end of camp, when the knock came. I opened the door. It was Bryan Purdy. Bryan's door is closest to the stairs, when those who don't know where to go, come, they always go to his room first.
"You've got a bear." Bryan growled. Why is it always, you've got a bear, you've got this problem or that, you've got a disaster? I guess because I'm the Camp Director. I told him I'd be right down. Leonard was visiting that week, sleeping up in the loft, I called him down; misery loves company. Minutes later we met Bryan in the dark at the kitchen door.

"Where is it?" I asked.

"I forgot to ask." Bryan admitted. At the time, I was not amused. We started our search on the north loop. There were some fishermen heading out of Camp Apache. Leonard asked if they had seen the bear. "Is there a bear?" a leader demanded. "Don't worry." I assured him. Then I took Leonard aside and begged him to not mention bears.

It wasn't until we got to Hopi that we found the blazing campfire and the rattled group of adult leaders who had confronted the bear on their picnic table. We began our investigation.

At first they thought he might have gotten some cookies; maybe a hot dog had been left on the ground. As we pressed for details, I am sure they sensed my "urgency", they concluded that there hadn't been any food out, just an empty cookie wrapper left under the table. "I sure hope so," I said and prayed.

The table was covered with bear tracks; there was bear snot all over the bear boxes, and the Scoutmaster said he thought the bear had pissed on the table. We searched everywhere for the bear. Leonard, Bryan, and I visited every campsite, collecting any scented item we found. Fortunately there were very few. We poked about till first light.

As soon as possible, Bryan went down to Hopi and took some pictures. Here is the crime scene.


These bear boxes were our salvation. Years ago I listened as Doug Muir, Ashton District Forest Ranger, talked to our Scout Executive, Harvey Mortensen, about getting bear boxes for Camp Loll. Doug recommended heavy gage steel. Harvey worried they would be too expensive. Couldn't we use three-quarter inch marine plywood? "The bear would eat the boxes along with everything in them," Doug explained. "That seems like an awful big expense," Harvey lamented. "Well," said Doug, "you're the one who will have to call the kid's mom when he's killed by a bear." Loll got its bear boxes.



Perhaps there were food scents on the table. The bear had obviously walked all over it.



The dish pan got a special look.



You can see his palm print on these documents.



And here is one on the troop's fireguard chart


You can see how he tried to open the boxes with his muddy paws. Fortunately there was at least one clip in place.



The suspect cookie wrapper.


It was most gratifying to attend Jacob Mortensen's missionary farewell a few weeks after camp. Jacob is one of three of Harvey's grandsons who worked at Loll this summer. His assigned topic was obedience. He used, as one of his examples, the parable of the bear boxes. He explained how the scouts are taught to put every scented item into the bear box. Although the scouts almost never see a bear, they still obey the rule. "Then," Jacob explained, "when the bear came this summer, he could not get any food, so he went away. Had he gotten food, he could have caused a lot of trouble, hurt some scouts, maybe gotten someone or himself killed. As it was, because everyone obeyed the rules, everyone was safe." A pretty good lesson to be learned by a boy on his way to becoming a man.



This bear had very dirty feet.



He must also have been fairly persistent.



However, there was no way for him to get in.



Everyone was on the look out and during camp inspections some tracks were found. I had some pictures taken. I even took a few myself.



I called the Forest Service at 8:00 AM sharp, and Brandon Burke and Bill Davis asked for some of the pictures. I e-mailed Brandon a few.



We had clear front and back prints. From this front print we were able to determine it was a black bear. One cannot draw a line between the toes and the pad without nicking one or the other.


Brandon called back to request some reference to size. So I took some more pictures including a tape measure. By this time I was a little less concerned.


The hind footprint was shorter than my hand.


Brandon came to camp later in the day. He determined that our visitor had been a yearling cub.
We instituted a bear watch for the rest of the summer. The protocol is: 1) At the end of the day each camp friend will visit their troop, they always do anyway, and check for "bear violations". 2) Each Commissioner also visits each of their camp sits just before bed to make doubly sure. 3) At 4:00 AM, a bear patrol, made up of staff members with lights, walks the entire camp to make their presence known and to "scare away the bear". 4) Then at 5:00 AM Leonard, and I - or the next week, Jody and I - start the generator and walk the camp with lights. We followed this protocol for the rest of the summer, until the last scouts had left and the staff moved into the lodge. We saw no more signs of any bears, but I was still glad to do my sleeping on the third floor of the lodge.

4 comments:

Clark said...

Thank you, Delose, for your care, prayers, and protection for the scouts and for us staffers during the course of the summer. You handled the bear visit very calmly and professionally. This summer was one of my best in recent memory. Thank you for the opportunity to leave my mark on Camp Loll. I'll be back to roll out the thunder next summer.
--Clark Andersen

Lysis said...

Clark

Thank you for the note, for your wonderful service in 2010, and for next summer too.

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