2007.09.12 Beware bear painters, and bring your Wagbag

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

It’s not the best of times to be a bear, especially in Alaska, where biologists are painting, (yes, painting) bruins deemed to be “problem” bears. The idea is to make them easily identifiable in case they continue to bother humans. But just who is responsible for the “bothering” in the first place?

About the time the painting program was starting, six bears were killed in one week in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula by civilians claiming they were protecting life or property. As is often the case, most of the kills were by people who had ignored long-standing advice to avoid bear confrontations by having bear-proof garbage receptacles and putting an electric fence around their property.

More problems are caused by fishermen who leave salmon carcasses in rivers, which is practically a neon sign beckoning hungry bears. Of course, bears always get the blame for the human-caused confrontations. Maybe the bears should get together and hire a lobbyist, if they could find one willing to work for fish and berries, plus the occasional purloined picnic basket.

At least they should try to do something about Jeff Selinger, biologist with Alaska’s Division of Wildlife Conservation and mastermind of the bear painting scheme. “We’re trying to do what’s best for the resource,” Selinger told a Juneau newspaper. Selinger’s first bear-painting attempt was hardly a benefit for the “resource.”

Selinger and his team shot a two-year-old female bear with a tranquilizer dart on June 13th, bleached five areas on her hide and marked them with bright pink paint. The bear died shortly thereafter. A necropsy determined the death was caused by Selinger missing the bear’s target area and instead injecting its liver with a fatal dose of tranquilizer. Nice job, Jeff!

Some question the idea of painting bears in the first place, thinking it will cause socialization problems for the colored victims. Not so, “expert” Jeff “Sure Shot” Selinger told the Anchorage Daily News.

“Bears cannot see colors, or if they do it’s just minor shades,“ Selinger said. “Most of what they see is in black and white, so color coding would not have an effect.” Doesn’t sound that positive, does  he? Yeah, and this little tranquilizer dart won’t hurt a bit, if only I knew where to shoot it.

Meanwhile, in the lower 48, for once the animals are spared by new rules aimed at making life less dangerous for park rangers.

Three outhouses in the Mount Whitney region have been removed in the last year, sparing rangers and helicopter pilots from waste removal duties. One outhouse, which previously sat 14,494 feet above sea level near Mount Whitney’s summit, was the highest outhouse in the continental United States.

Park rangers used to have to dress up in hazardous material suits and tie bags or barrels of human waste weighing up to 250 pounds to a line dangling from a hovering helicopter, which had to negotiate mountain canyons in high winds.

“It’s one thing to take a risk to fly up there to pick up a sick or injured person,” forest ranger Brian Spitek told The New York Times. “To do it to fly out a bag of poop is another.” OK, let’s have a show of hands. Who believes that he really said “poop?”

Since there is little loose dirt at Mount Whitney’s higher altitudes and nearly 20,000 people a year who register to climb the mountain, burying the waste isn’t possible. Climbers now get to (make that have to) follow the lead of river rafters and take their own waste with them. Bears may still defecate at will.

People signing up to climb the Whitney trail are told what to do in case of a lightning storm, given directions on how to safeguard their food from bears and issued a Wagbag, a portable sanitation kit designed to hold...well, you know. The used Wagbags are deposited in receptacles at the trailhead. Once taken to a landfill, they biodegrade in six to nine months. Wagbag collection officer...that sounds like something Jeff Selinger might be able to handle.

At this point, I doubt that climbers have to worry anymore about hungry bears. In the first place, the combination of the smell of your food and the scent from the Wagbag emanating from your backpack probably isn’t that inviting. Secondly, the bears are probably too busy laughing at you to care.

You know Smokey Bear must be looking down from bear heaven and smiling. And remember, as Smokey always says, only you can prevent Wagbag fires.

 

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017