Friday, October 24, 2014

The Bears of Hall Mountain

By Kennon McClintock, North Idaho field representative

Several years ago, The Nature Conservancy purchased 320 acres of forestland at the base of Hall Mountain located in northern Boundary County, Idaho, just five miles from the Canada/USA border.

Hall Creek Forest. Photo by Lisa Eller/TNC.

This property, which was named the “Hall Creek Forest,” was destined to be subdivided — the long-term owners, who were exceptional stewards of this land for 40 years, had recently passed away and it had been listed with local realtors. It is a unique piece of ground with large trees, wetlands, spectacular mountain and valley views, located in the sunniest part of the county. This property shoulders up to Hall Mountain to the east which is mostly U.S. Forest Service forest lands. The Conservancy recognized the conservation values and was able to purchase it with the intent of placing a conservation easement on the property and eventually re-selling it to a like-minded buyer.

This low elevation property has a large, secluded, hardwood wetland, which provides quality habitat to a wide array of wildlife, especially bears: both black bears and the occasional grizzly bear. During the dry summer and fall months, there is readily available water and forbs — and bears are frequent visitors. Ample huckleberry patches can be found on Hall Mountain to the east, providing the main diet for the bears during summer and fall, and sustaining them during winter hibernation.

Remote cameras were placed in the wetlands and over the past two years we have taken many photos of bears – all black bears so far. There are many pictures of single bears, mostly browsing, climbing, and scratching on the cedar trees.

Images from Hall Creek Forest camera trap.

Surprisingly, many family units have shown up on film. This summer we had pictures of a mother and three cubs. The mother was teaching her offspring to climb a tree to seek safety and would continually push them up the tree from where she was standing. Most family pictures are of twins or single cubs, all practicing their climbing skills on these large cedar and cottonwood trees. In this part of Idaho, cubs can be subject to predation by other black bears, grizzly bears, and mountain lion, all which prowl on this property.

The Conservancy has been working with many private landowners in this part of Boundary County to acquire conservation easements in an attempt to keep the larger tracts intact and free of development.  These low-elevation valley lands, which offer water, food, security and thermal cover, provide important seasonal habitat for all types of wildlife. With the permanent protection of the Hall Creek Forest, the bears of Hall Mountain will always have a special place to come down to and visit. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the pictures! Remembering a couple bear cubs in the trees out the bedroom window one night............