Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Bears Will Wait

Heading back to the trucks post bear
There are fieldwork days and there are fieldwork days.  Site set-up days are the latter. Full of hauling, and hammering, and organization, all told, our set-ups this trip went pretty smoothly.  At our first, there were 12 of us eager and ready.  I pulled out my flagging tape and forged the path pre-delimited.  We trooped in with raw lumber, t-posts, weather station, electric fence supplies, nails, hammers, chainsaw, sample bags, spectral analysis equipment, water wells, augers, post-pounders, sphagnometers, resin tubes, hose clamps, funnels, nut-drivers, loppers.  Within 30 minutes everyone was smoothly onto jobs most have probably never done before.  It was to hit 31 C this day according to the newly deployed weather station and the horseflies provoked.

Our crew is great.  Our VU contingent is 7 strong – including two new undergrads who are experiencing the wilds up here for the first time.  Spencer and Eric are great additions to our team – they are already comfortable ID-ing Ledum, know leaves on bog rosemary are opposite and not alternate, and can tell Evernia from Usnea.  Power tools, hammers, chainsaws, big trucks – no problems.   I’m proud of everyone.  It has not always gone to plan on this trip, but it never does, and rolling with it and improvising have been and continue to be strengths for us all– qualities all field ecologists need in spades.  Joining our VU crew, the SIU team set up with us, and it was just right.  They are family.

But I digress….   the set up.  I heard a ring.  Jeremy was calling.  The SIU crew had just finished up and had headed to their diesel.  I had one more thing to do in the bog and the VU crew would be right behind them.  Jeremy is calm: “There is a bear in the cutline just hanging out – I don’t mean to be alarmist, but you should know.”  I decided the last thing on my agenda could wait.  I walked out of the bog with Caitlyn to where the crew waited and to where the bear decided to explore.  Eric was yelling at the bear and waving his arms.  Our group tried to look large.  The bear seemed nonplussed.  I hit the airhorn.  The bear just looked at us. Again, with the airhorn - to the point, where it became obvious to me that airhorns are good for notifying your friends that you might be in trouble, but might not be the best at motivating a bear to curb its enthusiasm.  Good to know.  Kel had his bear spray at the ready.  Ten meters away, the bear stared, curious, and ambled, slowly, into the bog. 

That was the second bear of the day for us – the first was a beautiful Cinnamon roused from its grazing near the road.  I personally saw 5 bears this trip – all but the curious one, from the safety of our F-150.  It could be an interesting year.
Jeremy Hartsock took this pic of the Cinnamon from the SIU truck. A Boreal beauty.
It is now 6 C and raining and we are driving back to Athabasca.  Thoughts of snow-tube extraction from Crow Lake niggled at us this past 24 hours or so, but today is not the day.  We have until October and hopefully conditions will be better next trip - or the next - I’m not complaining.  My joints are tired.  I think we are all ready to head home and take a day or two to realign our alternate realities back home;  I know I am.   For now, the bears, bugs, and bogs will have to wait.  The beers, however, will not.  Cheers from Alberta!  

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