Where is Momma Bear?
December 1, 2017
By Colin Bailey
“Crunch crunch, crunch crunch.” The sounds of gravel beneath our feet became the ambient noise as we walked up a washed-out logging road. After an hour, the crunch crunch, became our background rhythm. “Shhk shhk, SNAP!” Dry grass, pine needles, and twigs crackle to our left – a disruption of the norm.
Luke calls, “bear!”, pointing towards an indistinct shape moving through the pines. There is one – no, two black bear cubs that are trundling through the woods, stumbling straight for us.
“S@$!, where is momma bear?” flashed through my mind. We swivelled back and forth, quickly scanning the forest around us. For now, momma bear was nowhere to be seen or heard. But the cubs were still working their way towards us.
We started making noise, “HEY BEAR, WHOA BEAR!”. The cubs paused, appearing confused. Was this mom? The noises didn’t sound like mom…
We continued walking, constantly scanning for momma bear. After ten minutes of walking we had left the bear cubs behind us. Momma bear was not around.
So, why were we walking up a washed-out logging road in the first place? We were there to place electronic water temperature-sensing and recording devices (temperature loggers) in the different rivers and streams in the Nicola River Watershed. We cable these small loggers (about the size of a walnut) to large boulders or logs in the streams we monitor. They collect water temperatures every hour, every day, until we pick them up again and download the data… unless flooding or humans destroy them. Whenever we set temperature loggers, we do so knowing we won’t get all of them back.
We are monitoring water temperature throughout the Nicola Valley as part of a larger, landscape ecology project. The overall goal of the project is to better understand the natural systems of the Nicola Valley for management purposes, from grasslands and forests to fish and streams. This project provides the opportunity to understand how things such as rain and snow affect water temperature over time and space. These patterns of stream temperature determine where fish can live, spawn, and how fast they can grow – fish that feed the bears that make for interesting field experiences.