BWCA Trip Report - Moose to Knife - Pack Stealing Bears Boundary Waters Trip Reports
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member (12)member
07/15/2011 12:51AM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
New Trip Report posted by Pintailed

Trip Name: Moose to Knife - Pack Stealing Bears.

Entry Point: G

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07/15/2011 01:48AM  
Interesting encounter. Thanks for sharing. People heading into that area should be aware of the risk. Sounds like the Forest Service needs to step in on this one.

20 years ago my then girlfriend (now wife) and I had a very similar encounter in that same neck of the woods = Momma bear and her cub. In our case they got our food pack and we were a 2 day paddle from the outfitter.

The part that had bothered us was, similar to your experience, the bears came in during the day. We expected them at night and weren't prepared for them during the day.

Thanks for sharing.


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07/15/2011 02:25AM  
I understand your temperament after the bear encounter. When my wife and I had a bear take our duluth pack and contents in 91, it rattled our cage enough to go home. We were in our mid 20's, and a bit frightened by the whole thing. We certainly didn't feel like sleeping in a tent with a 400 lb bear sneaking around. We tracked that bear 1/2 a mile back in the woods, and while we found traces of our stuff, we never found the pack. In subsequent years I made additional ventures, but it really wasn't worth getting lost that far back in the woods, trying to find it. I was just really really curious.

I suspect your pack is long long gone. I'm not familiar with the area, but momma probably took her deep. Perhaps not, as there wasn't a ton of food in it. But if the donuts got a little messy in there, I'm guessing she'd keep that pack with her for a little while. I'm sure stuff dropped out of it here and there as well.

I'm sorry you lost some of your gear, but am impressed you were able to part with it, and still have a reasonably good trip.
07/15/2011 04:02AM  
I have only been on three trips and never seen a bear.
If I ever do I haope it is while I am on the water headed the opposite direction...the thought of them "bothers me" It doesnt when i am with others, but REALLY does when solo.

Cant say I enjyed your report :) as reading it gave me goosebumps.

distinguished member(779)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
07/15/2011 06:52AM  
We were in that area just last summer. What a scary encounter. I do not know a lot about bears, but I don't think you or your partner did anything wrong here. I've only had one bear encounter in camp. That was my wife's first night in the BWCA. It was very scary but as time goes on it is a great story to share.

It goes to show, no matter how much you prepare, you never know what is going to happen out there. I hope that you can "get back on your bike" soon.
07/15/2011 08:21AM  
If you go to Ely, you might consider going to the North American Bear Center. You can learn a lot of things there about black bears, like how black bear mothers don't protect their cubs like grizzly bears do. I wonder if what you saw was a male and a female mating pair rather than a sow and her yearling; typically family break up has happened earlier, though I suppose it's not unheard of that they are still together in June. Mating bears go around together for a few days/a week. Black bears also get used to people in certain specific areas...they are used to humans being in the area of that campsite, which is why they don't scare off as easily. Might be a good idea next time to mace them and give them a negative association with the campsite. I wonder if one can of bear spray is enough for two bears? Hmm. for sure will never forget this trip!
07/15/2011 10:53AM  
We had a similar experience on Ensign back in the 80's. Came back to camp from fishing for lunch. Totally our fault as we did not secure our food at all. Dad was using the facilities. I was securing the canoes and my uncle hollers down to me saying to stay there as there is a bear in the camp. Being a teenager, I started coming up the trail to the site and replied "You're funny" and my uncle told me to get a#$ down to the canoes now. My uncle yelled out to my dad who I am sure had no problem finishing using the facilities at that point. :-) My uncle yelled at the bear and he left. We were on the big island at the west end of Ensign which has 4 campsites on it. We gathered in our campsite at that point and saw that our collapsible water container was bitten (interesting) along with a loaf of bread. After catching our breath, my uncle and canoed over to another small island to clean the morning catch. From this spot we had a view of another campsite on the island and the bear came strolling in there essentially making his rounds. It was a very large black bear appearing to be over 6 ft tall if he stood up. We could see him trying to open a steel cooler knocking it around the camp. The folks using that campsite paddled up at that time and we warned them. They paddled into their camp anyhow and started yelling at the bear. He must have been hungry because he stood his ground and growled. They eventually convinced him to leave and they took stock of their camp. The steel cooler was banged up pretty good but stayed locked.

Those folks packed up and left, we stayed for two more (sleepless for me) nights but made sure we hung the food pack and kept a clean camp. Not real bright on our part.

That trip was one for the ages for us. Dad and I are headed back in two weeks with my two boys and my wife but will probably stay away from "Bear Island". :-)
07/15/2011 05:33PM  
i can relate pintailed.

07/15/2011 07:19PM  
Thanks for the report!
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07/16/2011 05:31PM  
I have been lucky and careful to not have a Bear in camp yet. I always hang my food pack using the pulley system. We keep a pretty clean camp.
07/16/2011 07:49PM  
Use the spray man, use the spray. But glad you didn't turn around and head home. Spray goes with daypack and is always close now days. I am not leaving a site because of a bear without a coming to J meeting.
07/17/2011 09:48PM  
Stay away from this area. It's had camp bears forever. You didn't do anything wrong. Bears have always been a problem here. Dorothy Molter had a problems here. I had two packs dragged away 25 years ago at this spot. The authorities won't trap and remove these bears unless someone gets hurt, which hasn't happened yet. But the bears keep harassing campers.
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07/20/2011 12:26AM  
I've never hunted bear. The season this year is 9/1 to 10/16, sounds about perfect for a fall trip. Only problem is you have to shoot it 150 yds from camp. But I guess I could just follow it out of camp. I suppose the lottery has passed this year, so it would have to be next year.

We don't have to wait for someone to get hurt. As far as I know, with proper licensing, it's perfectly legal for us to take em out on our own during the season.
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07/29/2011 01:19PM  
Very interesting story! Last year when we were potaging out of Polly Lake we ran into 3 bears on the trail. Two of the bears ran off the other one walked slowly the other way. when be got back to the canoes we saw one of the bears dissapear back into the woods. It had stolen our equipment pack with our fishing gear(probably smelled of fish). with out thought my dad took off after the bear and i raced to catch up to him. I caught up to him about 75 yards from the portage to see my dad and the bear standing off. My Father with a club in hand and the bear bluffing. I couldnt believe what I was seeing. But the bear dropped our Duluth pack and walked away!! minus a few tears from his teeth everything was there.
07/29/2011 03:04PM  
I have been to the bwca many times and it seems that the only encounters I've had with bears have been on knife and mainly in the south arm. In 86 I lost a food pack to a bear, around 90 I had one in camp but didn't cause any problems. I ve been to knife 3 of the last 5 years and seen bear every year but not at my camp. The bear population on knife is a healthy one
07/30/2011 12:02PM  
Just got back from the Ensign area. Bear swam across the western narrows about 300 yards in front of us. he was in quite a hurry it seemed. Very cool to watch.
07/30/2011 11:26PM  
I found a ransacked duluth pack in while hiking in the woods off crooked lake. It was covered in moss with old trash lying all around. It'd been there a while. I packed it out cleaned it up and use it today. I guess a bear must be to blame.
member (13)member
08/25/2011 07:12PM  
Thank you for your story--have to admit, it scared the s*** out of me, as my boyfriend and I just returned from a "Moose to Knife" trip yesterday. I had read this to him before we left. :) Oh dear. We usually go up on the Grand Marais side--have heard the Ely side (particularly this area) was more known to have bear visits. I was slightly nervous to say the least...

We did not have any bear encounters. Whew! Although, when we went in, the Outfitter did everything BUT say "Don't stay on these particular campsites" so many words, anyway. He did get out a map and pointed out a number of them on the south shore of Knife (including the one you mention) and said--"hmmm...lots of persistent bears. Lots." Many people we passed coming out said they had multiple bears in their camps throughout the night/day. We ended up staying on a site on the western side of Knife. Took a daytrip to Thunderpoint and realized that NOBODY was camping anywhere on the south shore.

Your story certainly had us thinking more proactively (and wiser) about how we keep camp. :) Thank you.
jb in the wild
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08/26/2011 10:59PM  
quote kanoes: "i can relate pintailed.


Well, well, well, now we know why we have so many problem bears. Jan you didn't tell us that you gave the bears a map to all the camp sites in the area:)

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