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Wild File

Dead Bear Blues

The long haired one and I made our annual trip to Marshall Lake last month. There are about 20 cabins on the lake, one of which is occupied all year by a woman in her sixties. It is almost an hour’s drive to any sort of civilization, so you have to admire her. Marshall Ridge on the south side and the Shulap mountains on the other, rise almost vertically from the lake except where a couple of creeks have formed a delta over a million or so years. Of course, this is where the cabins are. In the fall the grass is green and long and berry bushes are loaded, an ideal place for a bear to fatten up. This is where the trouble starts.

Clarks Nutcracker. Photo: Rob Pinkerton

We were talking to Ann, who stays in her cabin most of the summer. She loves the animals and birds and feeds them peanuts and birdseed. Squirrels, chipmunks, Stellar jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, whiskey jacks all come to her feeder. She told us of a heron that had stalked and grabbed one of her chipmunks. Ann had run outside, startled the bird and it dropped its dinner. A happy ending. The bear stories are not so happy.
A few years ago a bear had smelled the seed that had fallen from the feeder and ripped off half of Ann’s porch to get at it. The bear also sniffed out a squirrel’s cache and dug a huge hole to get at the peanuts. Did the squirrel survive the winter with his store destroyed? The woman that lives there all year keeps chickens. The bear thought that these were wonderful snacks and grabbed one every now and then. With no fear of humans, it roamed the area, scaring people and destroying property. The end came when a dog tried to defend its territory and was mauled. The dog was rushed to Lillooet but died on the way. We had arrived and were unpacking when the dog got whacked and we heard its agonized howls. The lake was up in arms. Everyone was packing a rifle and a posse soon shot the bear. The dog and the bear were just doing what they do.
This area is not West Van or Whistler where bears are whacked regularly. A black bear broke into a pizza parlour in Whistler this fall and was bumped off because it was too uppity. Wherever people and bears rub up against each other, it is almost always people who are to blame when bears find garbage, pizza or chickens, “yum”! to their liking.

Young black bear. Photo: Rob Pinkerton

We usually see bears or signs of them around Marshall Lake. This year we were told that a female grizzly and two cubs were hanging out at Brett Creek, about five kilometers away. This mature sow lives in the area and we have seen her before but she is smart and knows that we are trouble. She stays away from the cabins and flees at any sign of humans and hopefully instills this fear in her cubs. We stayed away from Brett Creek.
A few days before we left, we were driving back to the cabin after a day trip. There was bear poop on the road that was not there when we left. Around the corner, there he was; a beautiful glossy black yearling within sight of our cabin. He stared at the truck and ambled down an embankment and sat eating fire weed. After a few minutes he sauntered off towards the lake to hunt for frogs.
We saw no more of him and I hope he does not hang around, because if he does, he will come to a sticky end.

About the author: Rob Pinkerton

Rob Pinkerton