The American Black Bear, Ursus americanus, is known to range in Monterey County. The last several decades have seen infrequent sightings by people living in the Santa Lucia mountain range. Feynner, who has been living at Big Creek for 26 years, and is an excellent tracker, has never seen evidence of a bear. That’s why it was a big surprise to him when he saw scat on June 4 on the Gamoba trail. Full of manzanita berries, it was easy to determine it as a bear scat. Following the tracks was easy as they were making prints and laying down the dry grass. One print was seven inches from base to tip.
We have had motion-detecting wildlife cameras up in the Highlands Ridge area for nearly three years, capturing foxes, skunks, bobcats, birds, rabbits and mountain lions. We never expected to detect a bear, let alone the presentation it gave in this video clip. As far as I know, this is the first time a black bear has been photographed at Big Creek Reserve.
Click the photo below to link to the motion-activated camera video
It is clear from this video that a bear truly follows its nose. Why did it have so much interest in the camera? According to the CA Fish and Wildlife bear biology website, two of the more common food types for the southwestern California population of black bears are manzanita berries and ants. The housing of this camera had been taken over by ants a couple of times and I wonder if their scent was persisting? If so, that bear smelled the residuals from about 20 feet away.
Read more about CDFW’s information on general bear biology at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/hunting/bear/biology.html
Read “Ursus”, the academic journal on international bear research at http://www.bearbiology.com/index.php?id=ursusvol00