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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Friday, June 25, 2010


Black bears regain foothold in Wisconsin after 100-year absence

  •  click on the X's to see all pictures below
    buy this photoA young black bear wandered through the yard of John and Jan Swartz near Mount Horeb on the evening of June 15.
     It played with a toad, checked out a bird feeder, and wandered off. DAN KETTERER photo
    • bear2.jpgclick on the X's to see pics
    • Bear Tracking 4-6-24-10.jpg
    • Bear Tracking 5-6-24-10.jpg

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    Looking for signs of southern Wisconsin's bearsclick on the X's to see pics

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    Photo gallery: Looking for signs of black bears in Wisconsin
    (9) Photos

    Living with bears

    Wildlife biologists recommend the following for living with bears:
    • Don't knowingly feed a bear.
    • Keep garbage cans in a closed building.
    • Reduce garbage odors by rinsing food cans before putting them in recycling containers.
    • Keep meat scraps in the freezer until garbage day.
    • Keep pet food inside or don't feed in the evening.
    • Keep barbecue grills and picnic tables clean.
    • If a bear is near your home, wave your arms and make noise. Then back away slowly or go inside and wait for the bear to leave.
    • If the bear found food such as garbage or bird feed, it will return. Remove the source of food and the bear will probably not return.
    BARABOO — In the deep summer green of a hardwood stand in Devil's Lake State Park, Bill Ishmael puts on his reading glasses and
     stares closely at the bark of a slender tree. Up and down the trunk run parallel gouges and scars. In several places the bark is punctured by deep holes.
    "We'll put this one down as a hit," said Ishmael, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources.
    The pronouncement, coupled with the damage to the tree bark, immediately causes one to become more attentive. Suddenly, the forest feels different.
     It becomes wilder, deeper, stranger. More mysterious and maybe just a little scarier.
    All because this woods may now be home to a black bear.
    This spring has marked the beginning of a new era in how the DNR thinks of black bears in southern Wisconsin. With multiple bear sightings coming to
     the agency every day, including numerous reports of sows with cubs, DNR wildlife experts now believe southern Wisconsin is home to its own population
     of black bears for the first time since the late 1800s.
    And this week saw the beginning of efforts to scientifically gather data on the fledgling population as Ishmael and Becky Roth, also a DNR wildlife biologist,
    conducted the first bear bait station surveys undertaken in southern Wisconsin.
    "This year was just crazy compared to the last two years," said Roth of bear sightings.
    Don't buy bear insurance just yet
    While the increase in those reported sightings is a good indication that bears are moving in, the reports alone are just the beginning of a more rigorous approach
    to documenting and describing southern Wisconsin's newest wild residents. For one thing, some sightings don't quite pan out.
    Ishmael said he once received a somewhat panicked phone call from a man on a farm who said he had gone inside and locked his doors because there was a bear
     behind his house. When Ishmael arrived, he walked around the house to check out the field in back and saw two pointy ears and a black head sticking up above the grass
     — a farm cat.
    "I felt bad for the guy," Ishmael said. "I was almost embarrassed to knock on the door and tell him it was a cat."
    Other sightings, however, are a pretty good indication that bears are making themselves comfortable in the state's more southern reaches. Jan Swartz, of rural Mount Horeb,
    watched with a neighbor on the evening of June 15 as a bear ambled into her yard.
    The bear, she said, seemed more curious than anything else. It sniffed around and played for a bit with a large toad. "He and the toad jumped at the same time when they saw
    each other," Swartz said. The bear then noticed the bird feeder on a post attached to the deck and walked over to check it out but lost interest and wandered away.
    Swartz and her husband, John, spend a week each year paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota and have never seen a bear there so
     they chuckle at finally seeing one in their own backyard.
    Bare bones science
    To back up such tales with science, Ishmael and Roth traveled the Baraboo Hills in a pickup truck Thursday, rumbling down dead-end dirt two-tracks to remote, woodsy spots
     where they had wired two-pound net bags of beef tallow to trees seven days before. Altogether they strung up 50 of the bait stations from Columbia County in the East to the hills
     and coulees in southwestern Wisconsin.
    The research isn't fancy or technical. Find the orange ribbon along the road that marks the location of a station, grab a red bucket from the back of the truck, scramble through the
     forest to find the tree with the bait bag, check the tree trunk and the bait for evidence of bear, turn the red bucket upside down and stand on it to snip the wire that holds the bait to
     the tree, put what's left of the bait in the bucket, record the data on a sheet on a clipboard. Repeat at the next tree.
    Thus, from the leafy shadows of the woods on Thursday came the very first information for what will become a database on bears in southern Wisconsin. Such transects will now be
    conducted every year, according to Ishmael, and the data will help with management decisions on everything from hunting to crop damage payments as bears continue to make themselves at home.
    Ishmael cautioned that the transects, which have been conducted for years in northern Wisconsin bear country, are more of a survey tool than a way to estimate populations. They give rough glimpses
     of bear activity from year to year, including information on where bears have established territories. More definitive population estimates comes from combining the survey data with information such
     as age and sex collected from bears killed during hunting season — about 4,900 bears last year out of the state's total population of around 30,000. Additional information may be gained by winter
     visits to dens in this part of the state, Ishmael said, to take a closeup look at moms and their cubs.
    Future uncertain
    Beginning to collect such data in southern Wisconsin, Ishmael said, is crucial.
    "If there is going to be this increasing population trend, then how are we going to manage bears? Especially down here where there are more people."
    Such research data takes on a much more intense meaning, of course, if you are someone such as Jan Swartz who stared down from her deck at the muzzle of a bear as it clawed its way up the post to
     her bird feeder. And as for how to manage and live with bear populations, John Swartz said it didn't take much in the way of science to prompt a change in certain habits.
    "We're putting the garbage out in the morning now instead of leaving it out all night the night before," he said.

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