Sunday, February 24, 2008

Black Bear Sense of Smell- Earthwatch Trip Notes Part 1

The following is the first part of a random series taken from my notebooks kept during an Earthwatch expedition that took place in 2001 & 2002 in the Appalachian forests of North Carolina.

Our group found out from one of the game wardens that a black bear had been breaking into cars that belonged to campers at a local campground. Signs were palstered everywhere alerting those that camped there not to leave food out near the campsite, which also meant not in your car. You wouldn't think that a bear could pick up the scent of food through a sealed up auto, but think again. It is said that the keen sense of smell in black bears is "seven times greater than that of a bloodhound" and they can detect odors over a mile away.
The bear in question had acquired the scent of a box of pancake mix in one car and shattered the driver's side window by prying its long, thick claws beneath the gasket and the glass. After snacking on the mix it left evidence behind in the form of pancake mix tracks as seen in the photo.
A bear trap on wheels known as a culvert trap was put in place in the parking area that was baited with a bag of food inside to encourage the bear to enter. Once it pulls on the bag it trips the door, safely containing the bear. We found out later that it succeeded in capturing it, which was then transported to an undisclosed area and released.
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