Nature Notes

Volume VI No. 1 - April, 1933

A Bear Story
By David H. Canfield, Chief Ranger

Despite the fact that we who live regularly in the park think no more of seeing a bear nosing around than the average would of seeing a dog about a farm, those of us privileged to watch the bruins at their post-fall convention near the messhall kitchen door were furnished a tremendous amount of entertainment.

During the summer fewer of these friends, the black bears, made the Government Camp area with its nearby garbage pit (which when conversing with visitors must be officially toned up to "bear feeding grounds") their headquarters than in recently previous years. But coincident with the first heavy snows that hindered natural foraging at their scattered summer habitats the convention call was evidently sounded. To the slope back of the messhall came the delegates. Two one day, one the next, until all told, one and/or all grunting, fourteen answered the roll call. All appeared qualified members except two minors, not yet out of their weans, who accompanied their mother, patently a suffragette leader, and, if you ask me - an old bear to them.

Soft, deep snow stilled the roaming impulse while luscious garbage provided added incentive to stay nearby. An area approximately fifty feet in diameter embracing a woodpile and numerous splendid rocks for lounging places was soon packed smooth and hard by their paws and the little cubs' Ma. Into this convenient arena we could see from the sleeping quarters on the second floor and spare moments always found some of us at the window watching the proceedings below.

Eating, playing, and loafing. That a life for a bear! Fine garbage with scarcely the effort of raising a finger except to slap down some intruder who had designs on the same choice tidbit.

Complete insouciance seemed the order of the day they lolled about. Laughable indeed were some of the positions of utter repose they would assume. One would be lying lengthwise on the edge of the woodpile, two legs hanging off into space and his head cushioned on his other front paw; another would be lying with his head propped up by a big rock; still another would be lying on his bark with a rock pillow for head support, nonchalantly scratching his tummy.

One of our favorite actors was a coal black fellow slightly smaller than the average among them, but a regular little rowdy who seemingly never tired of rough play. Wrestling, boxing, and general scuffling were his idea of a real time and as long as he could find a prospect he was in some kind of melee. He would rouse another bear from a pleasant after dinner lethargy and the bout would begin. First they would stand up and box.

This would inevitably result in a clinch sooner or later, and down they would go, rolling over and over down the sidehill, and the bout would continue as a wrestling match.

Finally they one challenged would tire of all this horseplay, and indicate his decision by an extra hard nip or cuff, thereby terminating that contest. So our little rowdy would approach another spectator who had comfortably and drowsily been watching the fracas. An exploratory feint or two without a snappy comeback was deemed a good omen as to the intended victim's disposition; so with a prompt pounce this little roughneck would have a new battle on his hands. These individual affrays would last anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour and as long as he could find a willing contestant he was continually embroiled in a good-natured scuffle.

Gradually as the snow became deeper one or two would fail to appear at mealtime, having left the enclave to begin their winter's hibernation. By December 20 all had left except one old buck who seemingly preferred good food and regular meals over the sweetness of sleep. One morning he did not appear at the cook's breakfast cry, and it had been storming hard since the afternoon previous so we assumed he had gone the way of the rest.

Late that afternoon as I glanced out my window something well up in a big fir tree nearby caught my eye. There, some forty feet above the ground, reclining on a big limb on the lee side of the tree was our old buck, waiting out the storm. He lay at full length, two legs hanging grotesquely into space.

By the next morning the storm had broken, leaving some three feet of soft, fluffy snow on the ground. And as cook give his come and get it cry, over, or rather, through the snow came old Buck. A combination of swimming and wallowing was the only way he could get through the snow, and it was obvious that he did not like having his upraised snout making a furrow. But after having spent at least 36 hours in the same tree and with nothing to eat we did not begrudge him a wee bit of temper which was soon to be dispelled by his pleasure at having a big pan of food that he need share with no one.

On the last day of the year he disappeared for the winter. In a few weeks we will see some of the again, for while the snow will be fourteen to fifteen feet deep and will be months before they can forage for themselves, they seem to know as they wake up that they can go over to the messhall where Jesse will be big hearted and find some splendid handouts.

Ice Ribbons At Crater Lake
By D. S. Libbey

ice ribbons

Have you ever seen the frosted white ice ribbons with which Jack Frost adorns the stems of plants and weeds on frosty mornings? Ice ribbons are prone to occur in the chill of early winter when the ground is neither frozen nor covered with snow. The Cunila - Cunila origanoides - found up and down the Appalachian highland system is the favorite plant on which the ribbons form. Frequently similar ice ribbons have been observed growing from the stems of dead plants and weeds on the frosty slopes of the "hill" of our central plateaus.

The past winter very warm and moist weather occurred the last two weeks of November and the first few days of December. As a result the pumice slopes and bogs along the margins of Crater Lake National Park became thoroughly saturated with water from the nearly incessant mantle of fog and mist. Then came slightly colder weather with frost and ice. The chill of early mornings is the time to look for the ribbons which are tied by jolly old Jack Frost.

Ice ribbons were found in the bogs and in the canyon floors of the park to delight the lover of Nature. The ribbons observed were about two to three inches long and one inch wide, some transparent but most of them were frozen white, colored as the hoar frost of the dead of winter. It appears that the ribbons grow from the sides of dead stems and the water is supplied by the large sap tubes in the thin woody shell of the stems and not by the central pith. Since the ribbons are frequently found in dead stems broken off with one end sticking in a pool of water or a saturated bog, it is evident that a root system is not essential for the formation of these curious ice festoons.

Many partially formed ribbons were found, and from the various stages in the development observed, it is evident that the ribbons begin as a row, vertical with the stem, of closely space hair-like spicules of ice -- show a fibrous structure running length-wise with a silky sheen and the ribbon in each case growing from the contact with the saturated stem. The stem is fed with the necessary water by capillary action; the moisture being conducted up through the sap ducts of the woody stems. The graceful curves develop as the knife blade thin ribbon is forced out by the freezing moisture as it is continuously fed from the saturated pores.

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