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Bear population estimates

I am writing this about a week sooner than usual because I will be gone when the next deadline arrives. For those of you thinking funny ideas, I will be back before you read this. This is not quite what you could call a vacation, but this trip I look forward to with even more anticipation. 

As chairman of the Idaho Conservation Officers Association it will be my pleasure to help represent your Idaho game wardens at the 23rd North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association Conference. The annual conference is held in a different location each year and this year the site is Winnipeg, Manitoba. This will make my third conference and each succeeding conference has been better than the last. 

Part of this conference will involve a trip to the International Peace Garden in North Dakota to attend the opening ceremony for the Game Warden Museum. Along with the normal museum material it will contain a memorial to all the fallen game wardens from both sides of the border. This international memorial was conceived by officers and paid for by officers and we hope will serve as a lasting tribute to those of “the thin green line” who have fallen in the line of duty.

As I have often mentioned, my duties are extremely varied. Recently I had to do an annual ritual involving bears and I thought I would mention it. Each year our big game biologists employ several methods to help them come up with population estimates. One method used for bears is a trend route. This involves the placing of bait in a tree on designated routes. These routes remain the same each year and each route has five bait stations. 

In June, along with an interested sportsman, I began the six routes in my district. On each route we would wire a wad of pork fat about 8 feet up into a tree and use some anise-soaked cotton balls nearby. We would do this five times on each route with about a mile between each bait site. Then we let it sit for about three weeks after which we return to each bait site on each route and check if it was hit by a bear, bird or other critter. The biologists can then do a comparison of the past years and see population trends or habitat problems developing. It is another useful tool. On average, these routes had three out five sites hit by bears and we know this from claw marks left in the trees.

Another good thing resulting from these bear routes is a chance to check on the huckleberry crop. This year I believe everybody will need to make room in their freezer. It is looking very good with lots of berries all the way up the mountain. Now before you start running up the mountain, it is a little early. Lowland berries are already ripe and I have eaten some, but they just don’t have that unmistakable huckleberry flavor. Hold on a little longer, and set some time aside in August to get the family up on the mountainside to gorge. Just remember, you may not be alone on that mountainside; the same critters that like to eat pork fat out of trees also like to eat huckleberries. Share and be smart about it.

I will need to check the backcountry in Units 4 and 4A to see how the berries are looking and then I will let you know.

I know I bring this up each year, but I hope it serves to remind you to stop and smell a rose. Being a somewhat simple-minded person, those things that I enjoy the most almost always are simple things: newly turned earth, flowers, wildlife, the sunset as seen from the Driftyard, the smell of Pend Oreille in the summer and the night sky. 

I realize everybody has different likes, but I have never talked to anyone who dislikes the sky. I find it very relaxing to go outside in the evening, kick back in a chair, and watch the night sky. Seldom does it take very long to spot a satellite moving through the heavens and often several are seen at one time. Each time I have to wonder who, what and why. 

Lately, “shooting stars” have become more numerous and I don’t have to tell anyone what kind of show they put on. All the while I was growing up and even now I feel there can be no better sight to fall asleep with than the night sky. Maybe it is time to just gather the family some evening and go outside. Have a little fire and roast a marshmallow or just admire the only thing greater than yourself. I guess the point is to enjoy what we have, enjoy it with the family and to leave it better than when we found it. 

“JJ”

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Author info

JJ Scott JJ Scott was a Fish & Game warden for the state of Idaho, now retired

Tagged as:

bears, Game Warden Museum, population estimates, North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Assoc

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