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Colden bears

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  • Colden bears

    While weather year-to-year can be all over the map, I was wondering if there is a normal or usual time to know how bear activity around Colden Lake is year-to-year? Didn't come up last year because of the human crazies that descended on you guys and gals, but am hoping this year will be more "normal". I am looking at early September, non weekend. Came up a few weeks ago for six nights and that was great (didn't backpack, stayed at Art Devlins), but day hikes and backpacking are two different animals. I will once more be accompanied by my dog Maggie.

    I think I have backpacked into Colden maybe 5 times. Once a bear walked past our lean to and completely ate everything in the next lean to because they didn't hang their food (many years ago). Another time a bear ripped apart our two Ursack bags (the new improved ones. Ours were their first failures). I am pretty sure the other three times we didn't encounter any. It's probably been 8 years at least since I last packed in there.
    Last edited by rbi99; 06-07-2021, 08:39 PM.
    Are you hiding in the shadows - forget the pain, forget the sorrow.

  • #2
    My experience has been that the height of the nuisance bear activity around Lake Colden is usually in June/July. I think by August enough berries/nuts have ripened that they are often able to find food elsewhere- but that also assumes a healthy crop of berries and nuts that season. September is usually fairly quiet as far as bear activity goes- but that's never a given. Adherence to the regulations- and proper use of the bear canisters- is essential during the entire timeframe which bear canisters are required.

    As a reminder, Ursacks are not (and never have been) compliant with the DEC's bear canister regulations- it must be a commercially produced, hard-shelled container specifically designed to store and protect food from bears. The see-through blue canisters (BearVault brand) are strongly discouraged- they have failed repeatedly in the High Peaks. The failure of these canisters in part contributed to the situation last season in which Lake Colden had to be closed to all camping for a period. (I know some outfitters in the High Peaks area will rent alternative model canisters for free if you show them a BearVault.)

    Bringing a bear canister is only half the battle. Proper use of the canister is equally as important- and a lot of visitors to the Lake Colden area don't really know how to properly use them. All food, trash, toiletries, and alcohol must be store in the canister (I mention alcohol specifically because this has been an ongoing stumbling block for many who've failed to store beer and bagged wine in canisters- alcohol is high in calories and bears actually really like it). Keep the lid on the canister and secured at all times- proper use of the canister is to open the canister, take out only the food you need for that specific meal and then immediately reseal the canister. This minimizes the amount of food that is accessible at any given time.

    What a lot of folks end up doing that is really bad is they leave the canister open and unattended- or worse, they'll take out all of their food to sort and organize through it, essentially providing the bear with a five course buffet when it shows up. Part of the issue also is that visitors aren't able to fully comprehend the consequences of failing to properly store food- most assume that in the worst case, they'll be forced to hike out hungry. The reality is far more dire: With each food reward, bears are encouraged to act increasingly aggressive over time. The situation last season involved a bear that was ripping tents open, climbing into occupied lean-tos, etc. Unfortunately, the aforementioned camping closure only ended when this particular bear was euthanized. So the ultimate consequence of failing to carry and properly use a canister is a legacy of dead wildlife as a direct result of our actions... hence the phrase, "a fed bear is a dead bear."

    rbi99: I'm sure that you are probably well versed in most of the above and this is more information than you really needed, but undoubtedly there will be others perusing this thread who will benefit from reading what I've written above. It seemed like a good topic to go as in detail as possible in my response.


    • #3
      Thanks so much for that info. The Ursack bag was very many years ago. We were literally the only two people in the entire area (a very nice rarity). The Colden care taker later said something like 50 people or more had been camping there the previous weekend (per usual we came in on a Monday or Tuesday). Almost as soon as we got to our lean to the largest black bear I had ever seen came strolling down the trail toward us, then took a right up the hill past where the old food bag hanging wire was. He got our Ursacks that night, but we never heard a thing. I am pretty sure that at that time the Ursacks were legal (could be that this was even before bear canisters were required by law). They had had several failures in the Adirondacks and redesigned them specifically because of those failures. Like I mentioned above, when the bear got both of our bags they were the first failures of their new bags which had been out over a year at that time.

      Last couple of times I wanted to backpack into Colden the bear activity seemed too high for me to risk going in alone or putting my dog in danger. As I have just turned 70, I am grateful to be in very good shape, but regardless, that window of opportunity isn't nearly what it was years ago for me. On the other hand, I have backpacked many times into the John Brook area without ever coming in contact with any bears.
      Last edited by rbi99; 06-10-2021, 07:23 AM.
      Are you hiding in the shadows - forget the pain, forget the sorrow.


      • #4
        Now that we are knocking on August already, any bear updates regarding the Colden Lake area?
        Are you hiding in the shadows - forget the pain, forget the sorrow.


        • #5
          Quick question on the Bear Vault.

          As has been discussed before they are not an issue for bears to access. Do the bears find these easier than other types. i.e. not as efficient at reducing odor's, or do they find them with the same frequency as the others, but are just easier to break into?


          • #6
            I think bears, especially bears habituated to raiding campers, will find any of the bear canisters. For the most part the canister does nothing to contain the scent of food. I'm pretty confident their nose will be able to pinpoint the source of the delicious smells.


            • #7
              Packing into Lake Colden this coming Monday, and was just curious if there is any bear info regarding the area?
              Are you hiding in the shadows - forget the pain, forget the sorrow.


              • #8
                You should plan for bears to be present. In fact, you should assume that a bear will wander over to your meal prep site at meal time, hoping that you left your bear canister open. You would then move away without closing it first. Seriously.

                Open the canister, remove what you need for the meal, then immediately close it up. And take your meals well away from where you are camped.


                • #9
                  DSettahr thank you for the details. Our only two known bear encounters were both in Massasauga in Ontario. As you said we messed up with the rules. Had all food and toiletries in the bear canister nice and safe. Had the eucalyptus bug spray out because, well, it was Canada and night! But the bug spray was stored in the same zip lock baggies as the pina colada scented sun screen. THAT is what he snatched and ran with.

                  rbi99 I never understood the engineering behind the Ursack and similar. Sure, it may be bear proof but it is certainly bear portable. The Garcia is designed so those without opposing thumbs have trouble picking it up and such. Certainly easier to carry for the hiker but possible for the bruin too.
                  Eyes on the Forest, not on the Trees