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The Dansville Online
  • Woods & Waters: Bears remain active in late season

  • There seems to be no shortage of black bear stories going around as this year’s big game hunting season starts to wind down. Bears are normally denned by now but the mild weather and lack of food has kept them on the move.

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  • There seems to be no shortage of black bear stories going around as this year’s big game hunting season starts to wind down. Bears are normally denned by now but the mild weather and lack of food has kept them on the move.
    No stranger to bear watching, Dansville’s Gaylord Luce has been monitoring two different mothers, each with cubs, in the hills south of Stony Brook State Park. Other hunters, including Gaylord’s son Aaron, have bumped into bears while deer hunting.
    And a number of bears have been harvested as well.
    Jesse Weidman, from Ossian, hit a bear with his car as he was driving up Ossian Hill Road one night last week. He told me that he didn’t think the animal was seriously hurt but, "I’ll bet I gave him a pretty good headache." The collision did no noticeable damage to Jesse’s car.
    The most exciting bear story that I heard was told to me by Mike Bennett of North Dansville. While hunting deer on state land in Ossian, he said he heard an awful commotion heading his way, which included ferocious growling. He said, "I’ve been hunting in these woods for a lot of years and I’ve never heard anything like that before. It scared me!"
    Mike went on to say that he saw an enormous bear — "It had to weigh 500 pounds." — chasing a frantic yearling deer at top speed through the woods right past his stand. He added, "I never knew a bear could run that fast. It was right on that deer’s tail — growling all the way."
    What would possess a black bear to act that way? Hunger. Although they are classified as carnivores, bears typically feed on a variety of agricultural and forest crops during the late summer and fall. Normally bears would be fat, happy, and hibernated by now. But this year’s drought reduced the berry crop and forest mast that black bears depend on to fatten up. That deer was most likely needed for that bear to be able to survive the winter.
    Now let me add my own story to the mix. Last Saturday while transferring a load of firewood from my woodshed to the wood rack in my garage, I noticed a series of bite marks along the entrance to the shed. A bear, or maybe more than one bear, had bitten the shed several times in the past but these bite marks were brand new.
    I don’t know why a bear would do this — a territorial marking perhaps? — or even why the practice would continue over a period of time. But these teeth marks are a souvenir that I have come to regard as a mystery. Maybe it’s time to focus a trail camera on my woodshed to determine what’s going on.
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