Friday, November 5, 2010

Bearly Tracking in the Ozarks, Part 2

In one of last month's blogs I wrote about the Missouri Department of Conservation bear tracking project.  The goal was to trap 15 bears and attach GPS collars which will track their travel for a year before automatically coming off.  Our land on Bull Creek has attracted bears in the past and we set up a bait station to try and catch one.  Nearby sites had luck, in one case catching the same bear several times and recording its rapid weight gain.  GPS readings showed that it passed through our area but it never hit our food. 

The technique begins with attracting bears with desirable odors such as rotting shad and sardines, peanut butter and anise oil.  Bears have an acute (but apparently not sophisticated) sense of smell, seven times as sensitive as a bloodhounds.*   Once they arrive they would feast on out of date pastry which was replaced daily.  Jelly pastry is supposed to be especially savored, although its charm was lost on me after it sat in the barn for 1-2 weeks.

Click to enlarge
The pastry began disappearing daily and a game camera showed a raccoon who soon invited some of his friends for dinner.  Over two months we developed a supper club of six raccoons.  Several seemed to gain weight over the weeks and we had to start the two fattest ones on insulin.  Last week they built a small shrine and started worshiping me as the God of Food.  Incidentally, today's word from Mark Bower- a group of raccoons is called a "gaze".

Soon we had pictures of deer that came by to sniff but being strict vegans, they passed on the treats.  Then we had pictures of several visits from Wily Coyote and his friends, (a "band") apparently ignored the raccoons as their numbers never decreased.
The pastry was replaced every 1-2 days with the help of my neighbors, Larry, Doug and Willie.  I have several butt pictures of them at work.  Those will be the subject of a later blog if they don't pay up promptly.

After several months with no results we are winding down the effort.  We are close to the Cobb Ridge Campground where campers throw their food in the fire ring before they leave, so we had stiff competition.  And, I will be bring pastries to the next Master Naturalist meeting.


  1. Please don't leave the pastries in the barn for two weeks before the meeting...Thanks, Caryn

  2. Talked to an MDC worker at Busiek and he said that a 478lber was trapped 5 miles east of there..I wondered to myself if the scat peaks were snow capped year round?