From the Northern Crew:
The crew helped Brandon trap bears in the Sproul on Tuesday. He finished this round off with eight more bears.
In addition to bear trapping, I received a mortality notification from one of the fawns fitted with a catlogger GPS/VHF collar. So, Thursday morning Alec, Jackie, Luke, Sean, Brandon and I all went out to search. Luckily, we quickly picked up the signal right around where we normally hear it, and indeed the collar was indicating a mortality.
About 35 yards from the road we found the collar and one single ear tag. It was very odd because after searching for approximately thirty minutes that was still all we found. We never found any remains, blood or the other ear tag. The collar was not ripped or torn, and the ear tag did not have any blood on it. However, we did find a predator hair on the log right next to where we found the collar, and we observed bear scat approximately fifteen yards away. So I decided we should look a little while longer.
Much to our surprise Jackie spotted the carcass of an eviscerated adult collared doe about 40-45 yards below where we discovered the fawn collar. According to the collar and ear tags, this was the mother of the missing fawn we were there to investigate in the first place. I had not received a mortality notification from her collar, possibly due to the thick vegetation we found her in.
After surveying the area, we found copious amount of bear scat, a bear bed, and numerous bear trails. We searched her body for scratches, cuts, and puncture wounds (which by the way was covered with hundreds of flies, and maggots which were crawling in and out of her stomach and intestines which were half on the forest floor and half still in her body) [it’s a glamorous job!]. She had claw marks on her hind quarters, puncture wounds on her throat, face, and legs and she was missing a large portion of her ribs. Her thoracic and abdominal cavities had already largely been consumed.
I proceeded to field dress her (which was disgusting) going through her stomach contents to see if I could find anything that indicated foul play. The primary reason why I did that was because she had holes opposite each other on her stomach. Despite seeing these holes, I did not see an entrance or exit wound on her skin. I didn’t find anything other than lots of partially digested vegetation materials, berries, and oddly enough beetles.
Next, we skinned her to look for hemorrhaging and other puncture wounds. Hemorrhaging under the skin indicates the wound was perimortem; if no hemorrhaging, then the wound was postmortem and likely the result of scavenging. We did find some hemorrhaging on the neck but not much anywhere else.
A bear may have been responsible. Or she may have died from some other cause and was happened upon by a bear. Assigning a definitive cause of death is difficult given her stomach wounds, which do not suggest a bear kill. The cut around her midsection looked very clean and we never found any part of the fawn. With bear kills we find bits of bone fragment or at least blood around the kill site.
Field Crew Leader
From the Southern Crew:
Between fawns, bears, fences and trucks, we had a busy and productive week.
Hard to believe, but I received a notification from Tess that one of our VITs had expelled on Saturday, 7/22 at 0900! I rounded up Avery and Amber, and we asked Nate, the Bear Bio Aide, to come help us search, as well.
First, Avery and Amber figured out where it would be best to walk in. Nate and I met up with them and we began our search. We hiked to the top of the ridge through the rocks and mountain laurel while it rained heavily on and off.
We found the VIT underneath mountain laurel, but no birth site was obvious. We decided to line up and start our grid search. As we began searching, Amber thought she heard a fawn bleating. We listened and heard it again. We began walking in the direction of the bleating.
I walked towards Nate to give him nitrile gloves. As we approached each other, he looked down and there it was! We backed off and searched briefly for a second fawn, but did not find anything. A fawn capture in July. Can you believe it!
We helped Nate wrap up his bear trapping in Bald Eagle this week. Unfortunately, no bears were caught on the final two days of trapping [I can attest to that!]. He captured a total of nine bears. Eight of them were new captures with one recapture from this session. His next session will be in Rothrock.
We reported one new fawn mortality in the Rothrock area. The fawn carcass was located near a wetland. The hindquarters were eaten and the neck had some scarring. We also found tracks in the mud at the mortality site, which we rarely see.
The crew completed 13 fence plots this week leaving only four more fence plots to fix.
The brakes on two of our trucks started grinding. I was able to get one into the garage to get fixed. The other truck is put on hold until we decide whether or not we are going to surplus it.
I received my laptop back at the end of the week, so I was able to catch up on LOAS [software we use to enter telemetry data collected on fawns because they do not have GPS collars].
Next week, we will monitor fawns, help Asia and Nate pull trail cameras, and likely finish up fence plots!
Field Crew Leader