Persistance Pays OffThe Owls, the Bear, and Me
by Dan Hartman
June 2, 2010
I returned to an area in the Beartooths where I had found an owl perch tree earlier in the week. It had 20 large pellets with several white wash splashes beneath it. Somewhere in this thick patch of timber I had discovered 2 stick nests 3 years ago. I wondered if the owls were using one of these nests.
Moving slowly up the steep slope over numerous deadfalls, I just couldn’t locate the nests. Sometimes they collapse under heavy wet snow. I worked my way to the top of the ridge then walked along the skyline peering down into the forest. No sign of the nest. There was however, fresh bear tracks. Farther along I came across a newly scraped out bear bed. Finally, I decided to abandon my search for the stick nests. I would sweep back through the area searching every likely snag and mistletoe. Also I would listen for chipmonks and songbirds that might be distressed by owls.
Suddenly a faint peep below me. Then another. Now a big bird disappearing through the trees. There 50 feet away, atop an 18’ snag, huddled 2 great gray owl chicks. What a beautiful nest! After a bit I picked out the big female owl. I then left the area to let things calm down.
I was returning to the nest area around 6PM, when I spotted a large brown bear loping through the trees ahead of me. I hesitated a minute, then continued up the steep hill. The bear growled from the timber. I wasn’t sure if it was a large cinnamon black or a grizzly. I hesitated again, then continued on to the nest. The bear was gone. Unfortunately, it started to rain. The chicks huddled against the back of the cavity for warmth. I’ll try again in the morning.
Next week I will post a daily log of what occurred at the nest over the past week.