Yes, as the title suggest this post sure promise bears ♥ … I got the great opportunity to shadow the Wildlife Ranger during a Bear release and a procedure known as Bear Check-Up. As I may have mentioned on my previous post, at Great Smoky Mountains there are approximately 1,600 American black bears, Ursus americanus
As an aspiring Wildlife Biologist, this shadowing was a dream come true experience. It all happened when I arrived at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, when there was a rumor among my co-workers about a bear being brought to Headquarters, and that one of the interns went to see it. I asked my supervisor at the Visitor Center about it, and she told me it had happened earlier, before I arrived. I got sad, but continued my day normally. Then. the intern that assisted on the bear returned showing off these amazing pictures, when he mentions that the wildlife ranger returning for anyone who wants to assist to the release. My face expression changed from serious and disappointed to excited and grinning.
It was funny, because my supervisor came outside to ask me if I was interested in attending a bear release, and before she finished the question, I said: “Yes!, of course!” , and she replied: “Oh, ok you are clearly excited. You are definitely going.”
When the wildlife ranger arrived, they had the bear on the “bear cage”. People were gathering up around, causing a “bear jam” on the parking. Another intern and I went on the ride to release the bear in Chimney Tops Picnic Area, where this bear was caught the night before. It was around lunch time so as you can imagine, it was crowded and the cage caught everyone’s attention. This was good though, as the wildlife ranger had a big audience to educate about the importance of making sure that when out in the field, you want to make sure that you leave no trace behind. Leaving “human” food leads to unfortunate consequences to wildlife. On this case, for bears, they can get sick from it and also it can lead to a harming attack.
Bears in general are omnivorous animals, they can eat everything. Although, commonly they eat berries, if given the chance of a burger or a something sweet such as a donut, they’ll choose it over berries (I would!). Black bears are not aggressive but if they get used to humans, they could fight them over the food. That’s the most common cause for human incidents, at least at the Smokies. These results not only bad for the human but for the bear too, for the management action would be relocation which can result very stressful, and on a worse case and last resort, euthanization.
When the bear got release, it was obviously scared but even more with a huge crowd yelling at you. He ran off the hill, hopefully not roaming around the picnic area again.
We went back to the warehouse, where the wildlife ranger station is, and for my surprise, they had another bear trap from a campground. For this one, I got to assist on the whole process of the Bear Check Up:
- Carrying the bear inside
- Taking physical measurements: Paws, the whole arm, head, neck, body
- Hair and Blood samples for DNA data
- Body Temperature
- Tooth, for accurate aging
- Ear Tag
- Tattoo on the inner lip of the mouth for Id.
The main purpose of the bear check up not only is to monitor in the future the “misbehaved” bear but also making a bad human impression so the bear gets scare of us enough to not to get closer.
After that, we returned to the visitor center to continue with our day. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about this experience. It made me appreciate the opportunities that this internship has to offer and how to use these as a motivation to continue on this career path.
“The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves” – Jane Goodall