bear tracks in the snow

Ever come across an unexpected delight in your day? That thing you’ve been looking for the last 6 months shows up in a drawer you’ve checked 97 times, the person in front of you pays for your coffee in the drive thru, you discover a secret raspberry patch! It’s exciting and fun and life is good.

I think bears walk through the world in a perpetual state of ‘life is good.’ I occasionally feed the birds and have this very cool sunflower feeder. 

bird feeder in the shape of an acorn

I hung it on a rhododendron branch by my back door and one morning it was gone. Vanished without a trace. The bandit who made off with my feeder must have thought he hit the jackpot. It certainly was the biggest acorn he had every seen. YEARS later it was found during scouting before deer season. I guess my thief found another treasure. 

Bears are known for a playful nature that sometimes gets them into trouble. Yogi Bear is obviously based in some truth. We don’t usually have too much trouble with bears during trapping season because most of the time they are sleeping. Thank goodness!

The times they do wake up and find a Clover trap is always memorable. 

They bust out through the netting…

hole in netting of Clover Trap made by bear

Dig out under the frame…

dug hole under frame of Clover Trap by bear

And generally make a mess of things…

Of course, the later in the trapping season it gets, the more likely these grand bear adventures occur but crews have documented bear shenanigans in every month of trapping and on both study sites.  

2 black bears investigating Clover trap

After decades of trapping and thousands of deer captured, you might think we’ve heard or seen it all. But every year, some new and unexpected “delight” occurs. A consequence of life in the field. 

If you haven’t already guessed, this year it was bear related. Trapping season ended a month ago and crews have been slowly collecting and storing equipment. A rocket net used in the late season was still sitting in the field waiting to be packed away. When the Southern Crew went to collect it, it wasn’t in the neat line as they had left it. 

Rocket net pulled around the messily ground

Since the trail camera was still set on the net, they were able to identify the culprit without much trouble. 

I guess sleeping for several months is pretty boring and gives you a lot of energy. Yogi was thrilled to come across a new plaything in the woods. So thrilled that he came back again that night to play a little more.

bear standing a rocket net site

Thankfully, there was no damage to the net or the bear. We certainly don’t want to catch bears in a rocket net. He had some fun without getting tangled up…which would have been really bad for everybody. 

But now we know that rocket nets need to be checked even if they aren’t being used. Because “Oh Boy! A NEW toy for me to play with.”

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist
PA Game Commission

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