BWCA 2010 - Leadership Challenge #1 (Bear Island) Boundary Waters Group Forum: Wilderness Challenges
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      2010 - Leadership Challenge #1 (Bear Island)     



distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 10:03AM  
This is 1 of 12 Leadership Challenges I will be posting. The purpose of these is to get feedback on what you would do under these circumstances. I'm not looking for a "Right Answer" I'm looking to see how the many very knowledgeable people here on would react in a time of decision in Canoe Country.

Challenge #1: (Bear Island)

Situation: Your are traveling in Canoe Country and decide to set up camp on a small island (15-20 acres). There are Six people in your group. You have just completed setting up your camp and the need to find the latrine hits you. You walk deeper into the woods and see just 35 yards ahead of you a VERY large black Bear grazing on Blueberries. You slowly back away with the Bear unaware of your presence.

Now What? (please choose one)

a. You go back to camp and get the crew to form a pot banging gauntlet to "drive" the bear off the island.

b. You decide to just hope that the bear does not drift into your camp over the next 12 hours, but will take extra precautions with your food pack and insure that your camp is extra clean and will deal only with Bear when/if he shows up.

c. Immediately pack up your gear and move to another campsite.

d. Your idea? (free flow thoughts)

NEXT Challenge "Destroyed Canoe"
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That Guy
distinguished member(532)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 10:42AM  
D.) I will free flow my thoughts.
Later I will realize I should have chosen C.)
distinguished member(752)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 10:52AM  
I would go right with C. No need to be doing something you love and accept that kinda risk when it is not necessary.
12/14/2009 10:59AM  
b. Unless the five other people in my crew are not able to participate in the dealing with the bear/camp. (Children, elderly… chickens)
distinguished member (436)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 11:08AM  
c. if the bear beat me to the campsite it belongs to the bear...
12/14/2009 11:36AM  
A. I probably would not have slunk away in the first place.
12/14/2009 11:36AM  
c. Found a campsite on Finger lake in June that had a lot of skat that looked like bear. Moved on.
12/14/2009 11:49AM  
d) I'd look to try and determine if the campsite had just recently been occupied. If so, I'd figure the bear might be there for that reason. In that case, I'd go with c), keeping in mind that if it is a problem bear, I'd should move more than just a few campsites away.

If the campsite did not appear to have been recently occupied, then I would have some reason to believe that the bear is just a random bear in the woods. Since most bears are not "problem bears," I'd go with b) in that case.
12/14/2009 12:18PM  
d. The only way I'd stay is if the site were not on an island. Since it is, and there's no information suggesting an emergency (other than needing to use the latrine, which I can satisfy without a sit-down facility), or the presence of a "bear whisperer" in the group, then it's time to pack back up and move on. With only 15-20 acres and a large, curious, nocturnal and intelligent animal (the bear) on it, any competitive or adventurous instincts would quickly yield to my sense of safety, not to mention everyone's need to get some sleep overnight. That decision would not be a democratic one.
distinguished member(1396)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 12:26PM  
a, ..along with the defensive actions in b.
12/14/2009 12:53PM  
C. The bear has a right to eat also. Wherever I go, I will have my food with me. To scare the bear off, may drive it so some other person's campsite. To stay there with the bear may require me to share my food with him also.
12/14/2009 01:22PM  
b and hang the food pack in a tree that looks like it has not been used before.
12/14/2009 01:29PM  
My answer is clearly D:

Need one piece of critical information, is the bear from Chicago? If it is in fact a Chicago Bear then my choice would clearly be to stay put as this bear is surely impotent, weak and having one heck of a disappointing year. This poor guy is just happy to have found some blueberries, let him be. He is clearly preparing to pack it in for the year, looking forward to next season, once again. No need to leave a beautiful campsite out of fear of a running or passing attack from this bear. ;-))
Guest Paddler
12/14/2009 01:33PM  
After having relieved myself into my pants: C.
Arkansas Man
12/14/2009 01:54PM  
Since you have placed stipulations on the decision by including others in the group. And I am assuming that you are on the trail to the latrine, and not just wandering aimlessly through the woods looking for it. And the longest distance I have seen a latrine from camp is about 70 yds, (there are some that could be farther away)that would place the bear about 100 yards from camp. Being as you and the others were setting up camp and probably made enough noise that the bear heard you, and he was still there eating Blueberries... that can only mean, he is not afraid of man as such and will be difficult to displace from his meal (choice A).
Therefore the only prudent decision would be C. to pack up and move to another campsite, and not take the chance of ruining everyone else's trip!

If you were solo you could sneak some of the Blueberries and soak them in Everclear, place them in the path to camp where the bear would be sure to find them... he would eat the alcohol sodden Blueberries, pass out from alcohol poisoning. Then you would be safe for the night!!! ;-) (sorry could not resist!)


12/14/2009 02:19PM  
My first instinct was to say I'd do A. But, the longer I thought about it I decided C. Because once night fell, I'd have a pretty hard time sleeping. Why risk it?
senior member (86)senior membersenior member
12/14/2009 02:59PM  
Seems to me first thing to do is let the rest of the group know what just happened. Engage the others in discussion and arrive at consensus.
If I'm the group leader, designated or implied, I'd want all to support the decision reached. B or C sound likely...moving might depend on weather, time of day, proximity of other campsites,etc
distinguished member(1757)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 03:19PM  
I pick "C." ...and I can't wait to find out if the next challenge (Destroyed Canoe) has anything to do with the group's NOT selecting C.
distinguished member(992)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 03:32PM  

I would pick C. If Bruce's proximity description is even close to being accurate, this bear has heard his share of pots and pans. Six people probably made sufficient noise to scare off any bear that would be scared of pots and pans. I generally set up camp around mid afternoon. I would have plenty of time to find another "less occupied" site.
distinguished member(14135)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
12/14/2009 03:41PM  
C No thought process needed !
distinguished member (360)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 03:43PM  
D. If anyone in the group disagrees we vote.
C. if its up to me.
12/14/2009 04:12PM  
the only answer is c.

the heck with leadership. if I am not the trip leader, I'm starting a mutiny. Presence of a firearm in the group is immaterial.

Great post bojibob. Looking forward to the others.
12/14/2009 04:53PM  
d. paddle upwind along the main lake shoreline a ways. crack open the everclear nalgene and sprinkle a little on a rock. close the bottle and cover with heavy rocks.

the bear will leave the island in no time.
senior member (59)senior membersenior member
12/14/2009 05:15PM  
Fresh Bear sign means Move On, C
distinguished member(585)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 05:43PM  
Shoot the bear and make blueberry pancakes. Kidding.
As group leader, one of my responsibilities is the safety of the group. Why risk it? My answer is C. (after the canoes were loaded and sitting in the water I might go back for a photo)
distinguished member(931)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 05:48PM  
Thank you Badger boy a truer statement has not been an uttered on this post. If you do not pick c then let darwinism take you out one less clown to deal with.
12/14/2009 05:58PM  
distinguished member(1168)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 06:16PM  
Hey this actually happened to us. We were camped on an island on Cummings lake and found that we were sharing it with a bear. We chose to stay put. I assume the bear left on its own because we had no more problems after the first night. We didn't chase it away, we just acknowledged what we had in camp and tried to go back to sleep. Key word was TRIED.
12/14/2009 06:37PM  
12/14/2009 06:51PM  
Go to camp, get camera and tri-pod and photograph bear while he eats. If he minds his own business we will mind ours. Assuming in US, will have back up to encourage positive bear behaviors. As long as bear is happy, we will be happy. Would only leave if campsite was trashed and it was obvious bear was interested in people food or he was aggressive. Would not go blueberry picking.
distinguished member(3311)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/14/2009 09:17PM  
12/15/2009 02:29PM  
I'm with whiteh20, I would definately have to go back & get my camera and take some pictures before he runs off back in the woods or runs after my food bag. I have yet to see or run into a bear up there so I still don't believe there are any bears up there!
Actually, in hindsight, I would probably do C.
12/15/2009 05:55PM  
Bears have the right of way I pick C
distinguished member (191)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/15/2009 06:04PM  
This sounds like more fun then some recent threads, thanks! Will look forward to your next 11. No question about it for me- A,
Have had to do this more then just a few times, but 2 years ago with a bear on the big island of South Arm of Knife, which has two campsites, I figured he would stay close to the other one, as he had been successful in eating their walleyes earlier, I was either right or just lucky. The wife did not get much sleep though.
distinguished member (312)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/16/2009 06:52AM  
Great Thread!

I would go with B. Would be a differnet story if there were cubs around though.
distinguished member(2340)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/16/2009 09:23AM  
Yep, packing up and leaving even if that means traveling at night. With all the smells of our camp, that bear would come a-calling sometime while we were there, and if it were like one of those bears that was more raccoon then Ursa, he already knows all the tricks. Why take the chance of having my trip called short because a bear took my pack with all my food?

But, I would snap a couple pictures before leaving, and if he decided to take off in a frightened manner at that time, then I might consider staying.
distinguished member (395)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/16/2009 12:42PM  
I would let the group decide but I think everyone would pick C since we're all from Illinois and don't have alot of run ins with bears.
12/16/2009 03:00PM  
B, but I would take a lot of precautions, and probably have pots/pans/stones at the ready before I go to bed that night.
C if the site is very well used as it may be a bear used to making meals off of people.
distinguished member (220)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/16/2009 03:05PM  
I would choose C -- I don't want any potential hassles.
member (24)member
12/16/2009 03:34PM  
Only one right answer - c) get out of there. For those who think there is room for other solutions, read books by Stephen Herrero, a University of Calgary Biologist who is the world's top bear expert, or try books by Gary Shelton, who trains governemnt workers in Canada on how to deal with bears.
12/17/2009 03:22PM  
Too much drama, drive the bear off imediately!
If he returns you have a problem if not it was just another bear.
We live with bears about all the time....they usually aren't a problem.
Rapid Runner
distinguished member(622)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/17/2009 06:13PM  
wheres the wind blowing?

from camp to the bear? good possibility you will have a guest.
move out to keep the BEAR safe. C

from the bear to camp. B he will be busy with berries for a while. prepare for a surprise visit just incase.

chasing the bear around an island with pots and pans would be fun to watch. that bears going to run the land where he can move fast and hide maybe right back into your tent. not a smart thing to let the group do. specially if he turns like most animals do when they are chased and gets inbetween you and the camp and hides.

Do you set up camp and go through the woods banging pots and pans to clear the area everytime you set up camp? I dont
12/18/2009 07:55PM  
C: The bear was at the site before me. I will yield to him.
12/19/2009 06:52AM  
For me, most definitely C, but only after I've snapped some photos or taken some video :). He was there first - leave well enough alone.
12/19/2009 07:03AM  
c. - heck, you don't even need the latrine anymore...
12/19/2009 07:58AM  
B. This is a Black Bear, not a Grizz. Black Bears are near sighted, but have a great sense of smell. They really like Blueberries - he or she will be occupied all day.

Keep a spotless camp, secure the food either in bear barrels or hung in an unlikely tree and just be aware.

I've chased a lot of Black Bears out of camps.
distinguished member (409)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/19/2009 02:59PM  
C. Leave and find another site. No use risking an encounter that may not be a happy one for all involved.
distinguished member(688)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/19/2009 05:06PM  
C not worth the possilbities of of Bear eating berries and hanging out til they're all gone

12/20/2009 03:29PM  
Fishguts, that's a good pic. Where was it taken?
12/20/2009 04:38PM  

That bear print picture was taken on the Pistol River here in Oregon, 7 miles from the ocean....the salmon are spawning and the bear are cruising for free is a pic of my buddy Dave with a fish he caught and released last week.
member (9)member
12/29/2009 12:11PM  
I would find another campsite.
distinguished member(1857)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/30/2009 01:58AM  
All bears are different, just like humans. You need to get the crew ready and have one guy challenge the bear to see if it thinks of itself as owner of the island. If one person can chase it away, the island is yours. If not; pick whats left of your friend off the ground and move on.
senior member (87)senior membersenior member
12/30/2009 09:56AM  
I pick D. Since I have had this happen to me, Crooked Lake, Saturday Bay island campsite, that island is a little bigger if I were to guess, maybe a mile long and half mile wide. We got done setting up camp and I came across my frisebee and went to go throw it to my brother. I threw it right over his head and into the woods. He went after it and I saw him stop and not move for a good minute and I knew somthing was not right so I went up to go and see what was going on and there was "yogi". He was about 60 or 70 yards from us just looking at us, after a few minutes he went wandering in to the woods. We went back down to the rest of our group and it was decided that no matter where we camp that there will be bears. I was a little uneasy about staying but they are right about there are bears every where, and I felt I guess lucky to see one, pretty cool. We saw the bear there a couple of more times during the week, he would look at us, week look back and try to get a picture of him, I got one but this is before digital cameras otherwise I would post it. Side note we have been back to that campsite several times now and have seen "yogi" on most of our trips back to that campsite. Probably one of my most favorite campsites in the BW.
jb in the wild
distinguished member(2651)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/30/2009 08:47PM  
C bear wins the site first come first served.I would try for a picture.
jb in the wild
distinguished member(2651)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
12/30/2009 08:47PM  
distinguished member(1722)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/05/2010 11:13AM  
I generally camp with my wife and 4 daughters.

Based on that, I would pick C.
Old Hoosier
distinguished member(636)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/07/2010 09:35PM  
Would likely select b and stay. I usually have only adults in my groups, but women or children would likely move me to make a c choice (for their peace of mind.) Unless an unusually dry or barren summer when food is scarce, I would keep the radar tuned up, but stay. We all are near bears much more than we are aware, and unless we do foolish things that attract them they present little risk IMO.
senior member (91)senior membersenior member
01/07/2010 10:43PM  
I pick B unless there is a big buster or sow with cubs, then I move to C.
01/08/2010 02:55PM  
Ok, I'm going to give my responses before I read the others so I'm not to influenced by the other comments.
First; I answer natures call. What I do next would really depend on my group. I've guided people who would love to see a bear up close and others who would beg me with tears (my wife), to head straight back to the entry point. Answer A brings tears to my eyes (tears of laughter) imagining half a dozen people or more charging down the trail banging pots together. That poor bear would probably keel over dead from shock on the spot. If I chose this option I would be the guy holding the video camera.
Answer B I might like so I could be waiting around in camp with the video camera in hand so when the bear shows up I could record everyone freaking out.
Answer C I don't like since I just went through the effort of setting up camp. This would only be an options if the bear did' leave when he realized he was sharing his island with us and decided to come see what we were cooking for dinner and didn't want to leave.
D; I usually ask (in advance) those I'm guiding how they feel about running into bears because I have sometimes left my food packs in camp with a pot alarm on top so as to scare off an intruder. If they are really nervous about them I might discreetly go back there myself or take one of the party who I wasn't worried about to scare off our furry friend. If I knew that I had some folks that wanted to see a bear I'd take them all back for a look and maybe a photo before we started our pot parade. Problem is most groups have a mix of those who would be very uptight and some who might think it exciting. So I think I would take someone who I trust won't flip out and we would send Yogi on his way. If the others hear us and want to know what's going on we calmly explain what happened and ensure them that all is safe. If I have a group of teenagers though I definitely wait with camera in had for Mr. bear to wonder into camp. Just kidding Mom.
01/08/2010 03:39PM  
Holy cow, didn't mean for that to be so long.
01/08/2010 04:18PM  
I would hold C in reserve and not set up camp or unpack immediately, considering once he gets his belly full and can see the situation around him, he may decide to pack up camp and move on. If he is not intimidated by the presence of a large group of people then he would be a problem bear.
01/11/2010 04:26PM  
Since it's an Island, and soon to be Dark...I wander if the bear will swim away or go with the "low hanging fruit" our food??? If it wasn't an island. I would stay, but since it's an island, I would pack up and leave. Not enough room on 15-20 acres in a "confined" area for me and a bear I know nothing about. I don't know his upbringing, his parents, his siblings, grandparent's...(just kidding)
I would skid-daddle, and it would be fairly quickly.
member (28)member
01/11/2010 06:57PM  
If there was a good alternative for a campsite off the island, I would pick up and move. If I was going to be seriously pressed to find an alternative, I would likely attempt to "drive" the bear from the island. If I could see it swimming away I would stay put and just make extra sure my food pack was hung with extreme care. If I could not be sure the bear was swimming away from the island, I would pick up and move on.
distinguished member (221)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/20/2010 01:43PM  
My answer is C, and here is why.

If the bear found blueberries on the island than he has found a good food source for himself. While chances are he will not bother me, he will, more than likely, be hanging around the island to eat more berries. That incresases the chances of me or another member of my party "accidently" running into the bear and risking injury.

I would let the other people in my group have their say. Then I would let them know that I am taking my tent, my canoe and my packs to a different site.
01/22/2010 05:40PM  
This happened to us about ten years ago on Lake Polly I believe. We had heard there was a problem bear in the area and when we arrived at the island site and were having lunch, I was on the edge of camp when we saw a bear about ten yards away with its nose in the air sniffing. Our immediate reaction was to start banging pots and oars to chase it off. Myself and my buddy ended up being in the front chasing it away (I ripped my pants climbing over a log). After dinner, we loaded the food pack into the canoe and were setting off to hang the pack in a tree on the shore opposite the island.
Just when we were pushing off from the landing the bear came strolling through camp about ten feet from us. My same friend who helped chase it away initially jumped out of the canoe and started running after the bear screaming his head off. After a tense minute or so not knowing what was happening, we heard a big splash. After another minute, my buddy came back and we went and hung the pack on the opposite shore.
We didn't see or hear the bear again that night, but we went to bed not really caring either way, if you know what I mean. In hindsight, it was a small bear and if it had been bigger we probably would've went with option C.
How's that for long winded Preacher?
02/03/2010 02:29AM  
d. Your idea? (free flow thoughts)
Return to the group and inform them that we are not alone, there is a bear feeding on Blue Berry's up the trail. Since the island is only 20 acres one of use needs to leave. If we try to chase him off he mite defend his Blue Berry's, if him did leave the patch we probably couldn't flush him out of the woods. There for we should.

c. Immediately pack up your gear and move to another campsite.
our safety is more important then the Blue Berry's.
02/23/2010 01:21AM  
My group and I had a situation very similar to this happen a few years back on Ensign Lake. We could not find a site anywhere and then happened upon a nice one on one of the islands. I got out of the boat to look around and caught a glimpse of a black bear cub. We were out of there. It took another few hours but we found a site further down the lake.

I will deal with most animals but in the case of a bear, I take option C. Sure there are bears in the BW, and there have probably been one or two walk through our site during the middle of the night, but I am going to take no chances with them if I see them. It is much less stressful to find another site then it is to be half way through a trip and have your food stores depleted because you provided an easy meal for a hungry bear.
04/18/2010 12:46AM  
D. similar to your B, tho.

Decide to stay, keep it clean (even hang my barrel) and have folks ready to scare the bear if necessary. I think 6 people ought to be able to make more than enough noise to frighten off a bear :)
distinguished member (248)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/12/2010 01:21PM  
d. Tear off my shirt and charge the bear! If he turns and charges me too, then I wish I would have just stuck with C. If not I'm not worried
07/28/2010 02:54PM  
I say D. Move to another site, this is his yard and I'm a visitor. Not having access to the potty is not a good situation for me.
distinguished member(7653)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/08/2011 09:14AM  

And if I had someone in the group who picked any letter other than C., I'd feel the same way about sharing an island with them as I felt about sharing an island with the bear.
01/08/2011 09:31AM  
Sorry kind of a long- but good story to tell!!

We had an incident when we hiked Yellowstone that tested our bear decision making process- that imprinted us forever...

We were on day 7 of 10 of a 75 mile backcountry hike. We had hiked most of the Thorofare trail and were headed up the Snake River area to Heart Lake.

We had hiked 12 miled into the site we were designated to be at- a very HARD 12 miles up and down a mountain for the entire day. We were hiking in two groups- 4 kids (age 15 to 25) were ahead of my husband and I by about an hour. When they arrived at the site, they had set up tents and settled in. My husband surveyed the area and saw a large amount of bear scat, long grey (grizzly fur) on the trees around the area and promptly ordered everyone to pack up. The kids were furious, having even started dinner. I was exhausted and tried to argue that maybe we would just have a big bon fire to ward off bears. Yellowstone has a very strict policy that you camp only at the site you have a permit for- so I argued we would be in trouble as well.

He wouldn't back down and made us hike out- in the failing light, for another 30 min to an area he decided was far enough away. We set up and had an uneventful night at an undesignated site.

On our final hiking day we met up with a ranger at the Heart Lake ranger station- he checked our permit while we chatted with him. He was impressed with our itnerary and had lots of back country questions- one of which was "How was the site E2" That was the site we left, so we explained what we saw and how we dealt. He agreed it was the right thing to do and then just to comfirm our fears he let us know that someone had been charged by a large male grizzly at that site about 1 week before we were there.

The follow up to the story- is the real point...

When we had arrived to pick up our permit at the beginning of the hike, the rangers told us we were hiking an unusually large amount of a remote area- and reserachers were collecting data on how the radio collared bears responded to humans in Yellowstone. They asked if we would be ok with carring a GPS to collect data? We were happy to participate and they offered us a report of the bear behavior if we wanted.

The report came back about 2 months later- with a description of all kinds of near miss encounters with black bears around our camp sites at night, or checking areas we stopped and ate. Nothing too dangerous as they seemed to be just checking for something easy- and then taking off. One of the black bears seemed to follow us along the Yellowstone Lake area and checked the 3 camp sites we were at a few hours after we left.

The scary data was- the site my husband made us leave... We had missed a large male grizzly by about an hour. He had been at the site for a day and left the area just before the kids had arrived. He did not return to the site that night- but did later the next day.

The other scary miss was on on the last day of the hike. Our final day we had begun our hike just before dawn so that we could get to the hot spring area and soak in the springs. We were excited to spend time there , but really wanted to clean up before hiking out to to get to the Old Faithful Lodge- and enjoy a day in the historic lodge.

That morning we sang at the top of our lungs on the trail, because we knew that it was the more likely time to have bears out and we had been told that there had been sightings in the Heart Lake area. The bear report told us that we had missed a mother and 3 cubs by minutes on the trail- I am sure our singing was what kept her headed the other way.

Bears rule- I will NEVER stay at a site that I know they are in the habit of being at. The wilderness is big- I will move along no matter how big a pain it seems to be.
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