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FiresideChats
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PostMon Feb 03, 2014 12:47 am 
I've come across black bear in the Salmo Basin and in the Washington Blues. I love bears and black bears are pretty harmless. But man are they fast through the rough country!

The wildest animal encounter I had was also likely my most dangerous. I headed up to Bead Lake, an hour north of Spokane. The early-spring weather was cold and I hiked alone around to the far end of the frozen lake. Deer and elk tracks and frozen scat everywhere. I hit three feet of snow in the long, shaded draw that drains into the lake's far end and pitched a lonely camp on a clear spot.

I had inadvertently picked up some voracious deer ticks with the dry wood I gathered from the lake shore below. I was huddled over my small fire and  trying to painfully pull those nasty, verminous parasites out of my hair as the sun set and a bitter cold breeze funneled down the snowy draw behind me. The frozen forest around me was dead silent.

Just as the last light started to fade, I heard a sound that made my blood run colder than my hands. A baby started to cry behind me. And I mean right behind me.

I drew my long knife and turned. "Hello?"

Just black forest and a steep hillside. The crying continued. A long human-baby-like wail, pause, and again. It went on for at least half-an-hour straight. Then silence.

My best guess (now) is that it was a baby cougar calling for mama cougar. It could also have been a male cougar calling for a female. The first possibility is, I think, the more dangerous option as I was very, very  close to the sound of the crying. (Did my presence perhaps cause it?) Mamas do tend to be a bit protective....while the latter option posed little danger as the animals would have been highly distracted.

I'll probably never know for sure, of course.

Any thoughts?

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meandering Wa
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PostMon Feb 03, 2014 5:44 am 
raccoons, particularly while mating, sounds like someone murdering a baby

though not sure coons would be in the environment you describe.

My one big wildlife encounter was up near Government Camp.  I was doing what bears do in the woods and I looked up

and there was a bear, about 50 feet away.

It was myopically sniffing the air and I held stock still trying to decide what it was deciding.  When it went back to browsing, I slowly departed in the opposite direction.

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PostMon Feb 03, 2014 4:45 pm 
I wasn't hinking, I was canoeing in Minnesota.   We were waiting for Mike & Tim to pull their canoe upstream over a 2' high beaver dam.   Mike stood on the dam, playfully taking a piss in our direction.  Not 20' behind him, a huge bull moose emerged silently from the forest and started wading across the pond, making almost no noise or splashing.
We pointed in amazement.  "Mike!  Behind you!  A moose!  A MOOSE!!"
"You think I'm gonna fall for that?" sneered Mike, insolently elevating his trajectory.  He never did see it, or believe us.

Supposedly, moose can be dangerous.  I hiked the Kekabic Trail in the Boundary Waters Wilderness one fall -- rutting season -- and saw a huge set of antlers trotting towards me above the brush of a small swamp.  Close.  Fast.  I turned and walked off the trail, never looking back.

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Blue Dome
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PostMon Feb 03, 2014 6:54 pm 
Strangest one I saw was late last summer. I was coming down Granite Mt. late in the day and standing in the middle of the trail was this odd looking, short feathered, brown bird, rather large with a body about the size of a rugby ball. I approached it and it casually walked about three feet off the trail and waited. It seemed unafraid.

Whatever it was, I'd never seen one before. Later, I searched for it online and couldn't find an example.

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PostMon Feb 03, 2014 7:05 pm 
wolffie wrote:
"You think I'm gonna fall for that?"

Funny! Ninja Moose....

I once came nose to nose with a moose. Jogging along through the open timber of the Dishman Hills Natural Area, adjacent to Spokane Valley, I rounded a small knoll when, suddenly, I smelled an animal, like you would a wet dog. A second later I skidded to a halt with a huge moose looming over me. Fortunately, it was a she-moose and her utter disregard for my presence was soon apparent. While I cautiously retreated, she just stood there and, a few minutes later, slowly moesied down to one of the swampy ponds for a drink. Amused I headed on my way.

Moose are ungainly from a distance, but they are just plain homely up close! I distinctly remember the impression of those long legs up to my shoulders - and that huge nose like an animal de Bergerac!

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PostMon Feb 03, 2014 11:51 pm 
Black Widow

Camping at Fort Robertson Nebraska late fall.  When I arrived the snow was just starting to really come down.  By the morning there was a foot on the ground.  As I opened my eyes the next morning warm in my sleeping bag , I looked directly over my head to see a black widow.  Adrenalin coursed though my system, and I was out the door in only my underwear and t shirt.  Crunch and a smear one less black widow in the world. Not exactly environmentally friendly I know.  An extremely through search and search again of everything in the tent commenced.  Must have come with me from home and been with me all night long.  Hate to think of how many times it crawled over me that night.  Supposedly being bitten is extremely painful.  One vivid description likens it to having your bones slowly twisted until they shatter.

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moonspots
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PostTue Feb 04, 2014 5:30 am 
Adohrn wrote:
Supposedly being bitten is extremely painful.  One vivid description likens it to having your bones slowly twisted until they shatter.

I don't know, and don't want to ever know first hand...grandma lived for a while in the Sacramento are for some time, and said she had been bitten by a BW once. Said it hurt, hand swelled up, but she didn't describe it as excruciating.

Still, I don't want to know....I despise spiders. They're the most vile things God ever invented, and the thought of one crawling all over all night (AND that it may have - probably did - come "from home", makes this story all the more gruesome.  paranoid.gif  eek.gif

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PostTue Feb 04, 2014 9:24 am 
Two grey wolves hunting at dusk in the upper Tieton River Meadows on the way out from the Goat Rocks Wilderness. No not Coyotes, I know the difference.

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PostTue Feb 04, 2014 11:38 am 
I've had a few benevolent encounters over the years.  Ran into a black bear in a boulder field south of Deception Lakes one morning a few years back.  He stood up and looked at me, I looked at him then he went bounding on down the boulders to some place elsewhere.  Had a couple elk bed down behind my tent one night up at Leland Creek, ran into them again on the trail just outside camp when I left.  Had a beaver out fishing one night in Talapus Lake scare the crap out of me by smacking his tail on the surface near my camp.  Run into otters and dear, of course, but only tracks from any cat bigger than a bobcat.  Had something big stumble into the side of my tent in the middle of the night up along Ingalls Creek last June.  Not sure what it was, but it practically fell on top of me while I was laying there, half asleep.  Fully awake for the next few minutes afterward, tho...

And not to forget the obligatory "Host Family" of goats hanging out with me whenever I hit the Enchantments.  Been serenaded to sleep by coyotes a few times, too.

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PostTue Feb 04, 2014 4:50 pm 
I once ran into a group of mountain goats on Mt. Elinor.

one of the little ones came up next to me before running back to the adult goat.

actually scared me, I know goats can be aggressive.

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PostWed Feb 05, 2014 12:31 am 
While bird hunting in MN a fisher crossed the trail in front of us a few yards away.  My friend and I looked at each other and said "what the hell was that?"  It didn't even glance at us.

Came face to face with a big bull moose last August near a pond by Mt Katahdin in Maine.  Was hiking with an older fellow and he thought it might charge and fell into the bushes while trying to step off the trail.  Ha!

Also in Maine, saw something running down the trail towards me.  Thought it was a dog, but it was a fawn.  It ran up to me and stopped a couple feet away.  It was close enough that I could have touched it with my trekking pole.  When I reached for a camera it took off running again.  Saw 2 hikers a few minutes later and it had done the same thing to them.  Very odd encounter!

Goat in Glacier NP that was so close I could have touched it.  Jet black eyes!  The marmots there aren't shy either.

Seen a few other moose on Isle Royale NP, a bear coming down Sourdough Mtn eating berries that wouldn't leave the trail 2 years ago.

No cats yet, but there's pictures of them in MN and WI where I hike and hunt often.  Had a wolf run in front on my truck once, that was pretty cool!

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PostWed Feb 05, 2014 12:54 am 
Since I got up here last summer I've seen a bear in the Capitol State Forest. Some Elk around Rainier. A coyote while walking my dogs in the neighborhood. And a couple of snakes in the State Forest. Other than some birds that ate out of my hand on Mt Rose, I haven't seen anything in the Olympics yet. Oh and the frickin yellowjackets that attacked me on Angry Mountain. mad.gif

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PostWed Feb 05, 2014 9:15 am 
I was hiking in the Grand Canyon down the Hermit trail and had thought I would overnight at the river near Boucher rapids but decided instead to leave my pack and just walk down Boucher to the river. At that point the "trail" to Boucher is just a narrow wash with steep walls. I heard a loud "Ca-whock" which was sort of like rockfall but somehow a bit hollow sounding. Rounding another bend I heard the "Ca-whock" again and this time I was sure it was an animal but I had no clue as to what it was. Finally, I rounded another corner and saw two Desert Bighorns butt heads just forty feet away. I watched them butt heads seven times with a few other Bighorns standing and watching. To continue to the river I had to pass within thirty feet of the two engaged animals and was very reluctant to do so. Fortunately there was a seven foot high shelf along the side of the wash and I passed on that (which made me feel better but probably offered no real protection).

Unfortunately my camera was in my pack 1000' above. It would have made for great photography. It was interesting watching the animals as they faced off and I was curious what the cue was that sent them off. It must have been the eyes as there was little else that moved until they suddenly rammed one another.

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Bedivere
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PostWed Feb 05, 2014 11:22 am 
Blue Dome wrote:
Strangest one I saw was late last summer. I was coming down Granite Mt. late in the day and standing in the middle of the trail was this odd looking, short feathered, brown bird, rather large with a body about the size of a rugby ball. I approached it and it casually walked about three feet off the trail and waited. It seemed unafraid.

Whatever it was, I'd never seen one before. Later, I searched for it online and couldn't find an example.

Wasn't a mountain chicken?


I'm sure you've seen them before so would know one if you saw it, but that sure is what your description sounds like, both in appearance and behavior.

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herdingcats
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PostWed Feb 05, 2014 12:11 pm 
To the OP hikinglover, yes there's lots of wildlife in these parts.  I've been hiking / adventuring since I was in Cub Scouts (6yo), so I've been exposed for a long time.  Add that my mother has always had a serious case of wanderlüst and we kids got quite a dose of nature when we were young.

In general and on any one given outing, I think it's not very likely that you'd come across something notable in Western Washington.  Yes, I'm ignoring the "mini bears" and mice of campsites - you'd be hard pressed not to come across those.  That said, the large stuff tends to stay clear of humans in general, though per some of the other posts I'd agree to expect Raccoons.  They're curious, unafraid, ornery and they are everywhere in this state.  I try to like them because there's something cute and funny about them... but they annoy me.  To the poster that used rocks, I'm right there with ya.  Rocks it is.

I've done much of my adventuring in Western Washington, a small amount in Eastern WA, a few years in the California Sierras when I was a very short pup, and a ton of time in Alaska (more or less this is where I grew up in my formative years).  I'll ignore experiences during vacation trips.  Here's a list of some of my more notable experiences.  I think #1 and #2 are especially good reads.  As you'll likely guess, most of these were in Alaska.  In addition to this "Top 11" list, I'd also add close experiences with Killer Whale, Beluga, Narwal, Humpback, Bowhead, many Porpoise / Dolphin, Spotted Seal, Bearded Seal, Harbor Seal, Harp Seal, Steller's Sea Lion, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Red Fox, many a Snowy Owl, Grizzly at Mt. McKinley / Denali Park, Mule Deer, all kinds of Sea and Land foul, many bald Eagles, Dall Sheep, Mountain Goat, Lynx, Raccoon, Rattlesnake, Sea Otter, a very long list of fish and crustacean species, an obnoxious list of various birds, and an endless list of mice, rodents, voles, rabbits and the such.  We've likely all seen evidence of Beavers, but I'm always amused when I realize that I've never seen one (I saw another fresh-cut tree just this last weekend near Cle Elum ... no Beaver or tracks in sight).  The one animal that I'm very surprised that I've never seen in the wild is a Wolf.  That's certainly understandable here, but they are (historically) much more prevalent in Alaska.  As much as I respect them, I don't know that I need to see one.  If I'm honest, they're one of the few animals that I am scared of.

Without further delay:

#11  A White Tail Deer crossed through my camp (Olympic Peninsula) while I was standing no more than 8 feet from it.  How could it not be afraid of me?  As it walked through, I was immediately looking to see if it was being pursued by a predator.  I didn't see anything.  Still, it was pretty cool to be so close.  My oldest son missed it.

#10  I ran into coyote tracks at Banks Lake, WA once and had the deep intelligence to track it.  I found it.  It found me.  I tracked it for another 2 miles before it crossed a body of water I just didn't care to get into.  In some ways I think of them like rats, but it was a true athlete of the wild.  I wish I could move with that much grace and athleticism.

#9  Caribou - lots of 'em.  The phone lines in Barrow, AK light up when the herd comes within 40 miles of the town.  They are really something to see when they move as a group in the hundreds.  The ground thunders when you're close enough.  Those moments are unforgettable.

#8  I saw a beautiful Cross Fox once.  The ending of that story would likely offend many on this forum.  Perhaps I get a little leeway because I was in Alaska, and the cold is unforgiving there.

#7  When I was doing commercial Salmon fishing in Prince William Sound, we'd take the boat's skiff to the shore when we had a weekend off.  One time I went alone.  Before I got more than 50 yards from the skiff, a Black Bear emerged from the woods about 150 yards up the shore from me.  I didn't immediately see it, but the guys on the boat yelled and got my attention.  I can't imagine why, but the Bear steadily came toward me.  It wasn't charging, but it wasn't ambling either... just curious I suppose.  I ran for the skiff and shoved off post haste.

#6  Does a shark encounter count?  Our commercial fishing boat had to take refuge in a Cove during a storm in the Gulf of Alaska.  While we were there we stupidly dropped the seine (net) to see what we could get.  Too shallow... dumb, dumb, dumb.  Along with every other odd shore-creature, we pulled up 3 Salmon shark that were all roughly 8 - 10 foot long.  Ugh.  Man they were powerful, and unhappy.  I'm sorry to say and I won't bore with the details, but we had no choice other than to kill them.  Bad moment.

#5  A Black Bear and it's 2 cubs walked very close to me at one point.  I tried to let the mama know I was there, but it was seemingly oblivious until it was pretty close.  Let's say, 50 feet.  They all quickly ran away.  I cleaned myself.
:-)

#4  Five or six years ago I was helping to supervise about 100 Cub Scouts in a snow field as they where having an epic snow ball fight (near Mt Rainier National Park).  A male Elk emerged from a thicket and came out to the middle of the snow field.  Some of the kids scattered, but some didn't notice and kept screaming and battling.  To my astonishment, the Elk just stood there looking over the mayhem.  I swear it looked like he was holding court.  He was nothing short of beautiful... raw power.  We cleared off, and that was the end of that.  But how peculiar.

#3  On the same trip and later that night we had a massive bonfire for the boys.  About half way through the singing and skits I heard the tell-tale scream of a mountain lion.  There's no mistaking that sound.  Once you've heard it, you know what it is.  It never showed itself, though from the sound it could not have been more than 30 feet from the closest boy.  It seemed like only 5 people in the audience turned their head to take note of it.  I think we 5 must have all been experienced outdoorsmen or hunters because every one of us had the correct look in our eyes.  This was odd behavior for a mountain cat.  It must have had something to protect.  In any case, I didn't take my hand off my pistol the rest of the night until we got back to our locked cabins.

#2  Oh man, this one was awful.  As you're all likely aware about Alaska, Moose live right in town.  Even in Anchorage.  There's no getting away from them if you're South of the Arctic Circle.  In general, I've seen and been around so many Moose I've lost count... over a hundred sightings and encounters at least.  However, I've been face to face in the wrong way on one notable occasion.  I was 15 years old walking home at midnight from my job at Popeye's chicken and biscuits in Eagle River.  No one would give me a ride home (I was not happy).  The walk home was 3 miles and the sun was still shining, albeit skating across the horizon (yup... sun at midnight).  As I mentioned, I was in a foul mood.  In addition, the first mile of the 3 miles home was entirely ... wait for it... up a very steep hill !!  Yes!  Keep in mind, I've been on my feet for a full 8 hour shift of fast-food delight at this point.  Approaching the end of that first mile, I'm now exhausted and pissed and dragging my feet up the slog.  A young (not quite a baby) moose trots across the street in front of me about 20 yards away.  I could have cared less and I kept going.  I was clearly ignoring the obvious thing that I should have immediately been looking for.  Mama arrived seconds later and looked right at me.  In my memories I still see the swing of her head in slow motion as she locked her big dumb eyes right on me.  I can still hear her deep breathing and forceful "herumph" of breath as she clearly was deciding I was a threat to her calf.  The steam from her breath was thick, and the drool was slopping off her jowls in streams.  Really - I can still see, smell and hear it all to this day.  I knew what was coming.  In a fraction of a moment and as her muscles tensed for the charge, I jumped off the road to my right and fell into an Alder grove that was growing in the 55 degree slope.  That was a very uncomfortable fall... lots of scrapes and bruises down the crazy-steep 40 feet.  In my mind I had already been swearing up a storm at all the people that needed me to work late but were not willing to give me a ride home.   Why stop now?  The explicatives flowed as poetry.  When I looked up to the road, I was right.  She was standing right where I had jumped from.  She had charged with every intent to crush me.  And she closed the distance in no time at all.  I was lucky.  After mama decided to leave me alone and get back to its young one, I climbed out and finished the additional 2 miles to home... now swearing out loud.  I still have not forgiven my mother or my Popey's manager for this one.  Maybe I could let it go?  Ah, memories.  :-)

#1  Absolutely the most chilling experience was a face to face with a Polar Bear.  I've been close enough to see them on 10 different occasions or so, but most were from a car and at a distance (all occasions were in and around Barrow, AK).  However, on one occasion I was on a 4-wheeler traveling slowly in smooth beach rock and a single adult Polar Bear was blocking my one and only exit back to civilization.  I am convinced the only reason I'm still alive is because it was eating a seal.  I put a .30-06 round over it's head to make sure it knew I was there... it only looked up at me for a brief moment and then went back to it's meal; ignoring me.  Can I tell you just how happy I was to get up to full speed once I could get to a normal road?!  That was 5 minutes of my life that felt like an eternity.  Still, that animal was nothing short of majestic.  I came face to face with the top of the food chain that day.

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