High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

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robertseeburger
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High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by robertseeburger » Thu Dec 27, 2018 9:53 am

I have been thinking about this for years..and I thought I would use this time of year to do a post on this. What is the highest you have ever seen bears ( or bear scat) in the sierra? Mostly just curious what others have experienced. But I also am thinking of a rule of thumb that I have used that I just dont worry about bears above tree line. (Worry more about marmots and mice). I think I saw a post earlier this year that mentioned bear scat at 12000 feet?

I will start with my experience..mentioning two items. I was at 10500 feet at Chamberlain Lake west of Selden Pass in the 1970's and a bear came into camp and grabbed a sack of food..didnt have food up in a tree. Also, I was at Barrett Lakes in 2002 above 11,000 feet and saw a bear wandering in the talus. It was a very small adult bear and I could not figure out why he would be that high. Nothing similar for me since these events.








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TurboHike
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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by TurboHike » Thu Dec 27, 2018 1:09 pm

There is some discussion and photos here by RoguePhotonic seeing a bear at 12,500 feet.

http://www.whitneyzone.com/wz/ubbthread ... n_do_bears

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Dec 27, 2018 4:02 pm

Non-habituated bears go where there is food or may travel high over a ridge to get from one drainage to the next. I was quite surprised to learn that insects, if thick, can provide bears with lots of calories. There is a glacier in Wyoming called the Grasshopper Glacier, and early explorers noted swarms of grasshoppers on the glaciers and grizzly feeding on them. I have driven through Montana on roads where grasshoppers an inch thick are on roadways- so slippery that you can actually hydro-plane off the road on a slippery bed of squished grasshoppers.

I have not heard of equivalent concentrations of insects in the high Sierra. I have seen bears in the Sierra rip apart fallen logs to get ants. Do black bears eat small rodents or other critters? As long as bears get sufficient food in their home range, I doubt they would go over an above-timber ridge into another, unless they were pressured to do so by food shortages or one individual is being driven out of his/her territory by a competitor bear.

Bears habituated to people food would go high if they have been successful at getting food from backpackers. It does not surprise me that bears would be found anywhere in the Whitney Zone or adjacent to the PCT/JMT. I have seen plenty of bears walking down trails to get places. They like the easy walking just like we do.

I have never seen a bear above timber in the Sierra.

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Harlen
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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by Harlen » Thu Dec 27, 2018 6:06 pm

Daisy wrote:
Bears habituated to people food would go high if they have been successful at getting food from backpackers. It does not surprise me that bears would be found anywhere in the Whitney Zone or adjacent to the PCT/JMT.
Lizzie and I once met a pair of East coast JMT'ers, whom I asked about their bear, and other animal encounters. I cringe to report that one of the guys said that regrettably, they hadn't seen any bears yet, (they were on Pinchot Pass going south) even though they had ...(cringe alert)... been hanging salami in the trees around their camps in the hope of seeing one. :(

The most interesting place I've seen a great pile of bear scat was off-route on the precipitous west slope of Mosquito Pass, and at the time I was searching about for a safe way up. That bear had to be climbing exposed class 3-4, which may be why he sh!t himself.

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by Lumbergh21 » Thu Dec 27, 2018 6:32 pm

I've never seen a bear above treeline, but I saw a nature documentary where they showed bears eating moths hatching well above treeline. I believe it was in either Glacier or Yellowstone. I dont think being above tree line is a valid reason not to protect your food from bears, which above treeline means a bear cannister.

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by bobby49 » Thu Dec 27, 2018 7:51 pm

Lumbergh21 wrote:
Thu Dec 27, 2018 6:32 pm
I believe it was in either Glacier or Yellowstone.
Eastern side of Yellowstone. Those were grizzly bears.

In the Sierra Nevada, I have never seen a black bear much above timber line, although I know that they do cross some of the high mountain passes.

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by wildhiker » Thu Dec 27, 2018 11:50 pm

My wife and daughter saw a bear using the trail on the very top of Peak 10825 in the Emigrant Wilderness, miles from any tree, on a trip in about 2012. I was dragging behind and missed it.
In 2010, my wife and I camped at Moose Lake in Sequoia Park, again miles from any trees, and encountered another group camped there who said they had scared off a bear the previous night.
My other sightings have all been in the forest zone, up to about 9,500 feet.

I have read that black bears in the Sierra are naturally forest animals, but they will go higher if they learn to get backpacker's food. Since bear canisters have become commonly used (since around 2000), I have seen far fewer bears anywhere in the Sierra.

-Phil

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by AlmostThere » Fri Dec 28, 2018 6:41 am

I've seen scat in a lot of alpine areas. We saw very plain bear tracks in one of the high chain of lakes in Bench Valley one year - the bear walked through the very shallow lake and you could see them preserved in the clear water in the sediment on the bottom.

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by Lumbergh21 » Fri Dec 28, 2018 10:38 am

I saw 2 sets of bear prints around the pond at the Peter Pande Lake outlet in 2018, a cub and an adult. I believe that's 10,000 feet.

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Re: High elevations and Bears in the Sierra

Post by SSSdave » Sat Dec 29, 2018 8:48 am

I watched a black bear moving through talus at Kearsarge Pass at 11.9k maybe 100 feet above the trail in order to avoid the few hikers on that stretch of trail. One needs to understand that decades of shooting bears before the recent era eliminated bears from many zones of the Sierra Nevada outside of national parks. So in significant regions they are expanding. As intelligent curious food seeking mammals, one ought to expect they might travel any of our human trails regardless of altitude. As someone with over 200 backpacking trips that is often exploring remote trail-less places, I've NEVER seen outside of national parks, a bear or signs of bears at timberline elevations more than say a quarter mile from trails. And that includes small zones of heavier forest at those elevations. That is at least one reason I often site my camps in such remote places in order to have peace of mind. Black bears have little reason to venture into such places because there is little natural food and no backpackers, while much more down below in lush stream canyons. Additionally black bears are strongly attracted to forest areas with tall large trees like red firs they can climb up.

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