Thousands of visitors head into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) every year for a myriad of reasons. Some go for fishing, some just look forward to the solitude of the lakes and rivers, but almost every paddler wants to see wildlife. In my mind the big three of wildlife sightings in Minnesota are wolves, moose, and of course the friendly black bear.
Ursus americanus is North America’s smallest and most common species of bear, and they can be found all over the BWCAW. The majority of human encounters with black bears are completely harmless, and most can be chalked up to a great experience. However, there are a few pesky bears that could make your wilderness adventure somewhat more exciting.
Here is a quick report (July 1, 2011) of a couple bears not working and playing well with others:
On Basswood Lake, across from Washington Island there is a bear cleaning up fish guts and food remains from a dirty campsite. This is another great reminder to keep your campsite clean and dispose of fish remains in a proper manner. Also, never take food into your tent; you don’t want a late night visit in your nylon home.
Along the middle arm of Knife Lake and the middle section of Kekekabic Lake there has been a sow and her cub cruising campsites looking for food. Good advice would be anytime you see a mother and her cub give them a nice, wide berth.
On Disappointment Lake there is a very persistent and vocal bear staking out one of the campsites. Apparently, this bear knows and remembers which trees have hidden food in the past. The bear comes into the campsite, checks out the pack-hanging trees, and will woof if confronted.
Hanging your food pack at night is a good idea, and the bear on Disappointment Lake brings up a couple of things to remember. First, choose a branch high enough off the ground that even if a bear does come into camp he can’t play “piñata” with your food pack. Second, keep the pack away from the trunk of the tree so when he climbs his long arms can’t just reach out and rip the pack open. Third, if you leave during the day take your food pack with you; there is just no reason to tempt a hungry bear.
Have a great time out in the woods this summer, and remember: you are a visitor in the BWCAW. The bears live there.