Are bears a concern?

Caves and caving, beginning caving, joining the NSS, etc.

Moderator: Moderators

Are bears a concern?

Postby rdube02 » Oct 6, 2019 10:56 am

Hi Everyone - I have a question for the experienced cavers on this board.

My wife and I are new to cave exploration - we've visited a few shallow caves while living in Maine but never anything as extensive as underground tunnels & caverns, so we were excited to move to Tennessee where the possibilities are almost unlimited. Using information I've learned over the years about how to locate high-likelihood cave hotspots, I took my wife this weekend to a dry river location where we could park on public land and essentially hike miles into a remote wildnerness area where I'd pinpointed as likely having caves.

We were shocked that within barely 2.5 miles of hiking the riverbed into the start of the wilderness area, we spotted a cliff on the left side of the riverbed with at least 4 caves (that we could see). The openings were on various levels of the cliff - some were smaller and round, but the one that surprised us was a v-shaped opening at ground level.

Growing up in Maine I'm *always* aware of bear threats so we started calling out to ensure there were no bears around. All was silent. So we donned our headlamps and peeked into the V shaped cave. To my surprise, after the immediately left turn it extended at least 40 feet to what I thought was a dead end (typical of the Maine caves we visited). But to my surprise I could see a passage going off to the right before the dead end. I carefully walked to it, constantly calling out in case a bear was in there, but it was all silent. At that passage, I peered down and saw it went about 4 feet and then turned left. I went and peeked down there and sure enough it went another 40 feet before turning again to the right.

At that point I couldn't overcome my concern about bears. The many spiders, crickets, and other critters, no problem. But I did NOT want to trap a bear in there. Despite my wife's pleading to continue on, I convinced her we'd come back when we were better prepared (and I could do more research! That's why I'm here...).

What concerned me was when we left the cave to continue hiking down the riverbed, we heard what we thought were baby goats bleating. I didn't think anything of it until about an hour later when we were headed back home and passing these caves, I *swear* I heard the sound coming from the caves. Then I realized where I'd heard the sound before -- when I was a kid and hiking in the woods in Maine, I came across bear cubs and they made that sound.

We left the area immediately. And now I'm here...my question is: I'm DYING to go back and explore this particular cave further. But is it safe? Do bears in Tennessee actually go really deep into passages like this (my wife and I could just fit in some of the shorter passages)? What is the danger level of stumbling across a bear as we get deeper into these tunnels?

Sorry if this sounds amateur or stupid but we're definitely new to caving in Tennessee and don't want to be stupid about it so I'm hoping for some expert advice from all of you. Thank you in advance!
rdube02
Infrequent Poster
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Oct 6, 2019 10:42 am
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby ohiocaver » Oct 14, 2019 7:19 pm

I'd worry more about raccoons (vicious when cornered), cave rats (they tend to run away), and other small critters once you're beyond the entrance area to a cave.
User avatar
ohiocaver
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 393
Joined: Mar 5, 2009 6:34 pm
Location: Ohio
Name: curt harler
NSS #: 22735RCL
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Cleveland Grotto
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Oct 14, 2019 8:43 pm

I don't know anyone who has run across a bear, though, of course, it could happen. I think human caves are too big for bears.

I, personally, have crossed paths with spiders and ticks, one rattlesnake, nesting owls, and, of course, bats. Those were in New Mexico. Other states may be different.
Barbara Anne am Ende

"Weird people are my people."
User avatar
Squirrel Girl
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 3179
Joined: Sep 5, 2005 5:34 am
Location: Albuquerque, NM
NSS #: 15789
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby bobby49 » Oct 14, 2019 9:42 pm

There were some cave bears back in prehistoric times, but they died off, probably in the bottom of some cave that they had used as a den. Yes, you see more small critters, bats, insects, and salamanders.
bobby49
Frequent Poster
 
Posts: 95
Joined: Jun 20, 2018 12:57 am
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby tncaver » Oct 18, 2019 6:36 am

I have recently seen a bear in the woods as well as tracks in Middle TN. I've never seen a bear in a cave but there are bear wallows in some caves. Evidence that bears have been in caves in the past. The two sightings were up high on the mountain in the Bangor/Pennington area. The bear I saw fortunately ran away from me. My only defense would have been my walking stick. Bears can move very fast through the woods, even while running uphill. Raccoons, beaver, foxes and snakes are more common in caves.
tncaver
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 2635
Joined: May 17, 2007 7:03 pm
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby bobby49 » Oct 20, 2019 3:25 pm

Bears do not go caving because they can't find a headlamp strap that will fit their head.
bobby49
Frequent Poster
 
Posts: 95
Joined: Jun 20, 2018 12:57 am
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby trogman » Oct 21, 2019 4:26 pm

bobby49 wrote:Bears do not go caving because they can't find a headlamp strap that will fit their head.


:laughing:

Trogman :helmet:
User avatar
trogman
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 995
Joined: May 2, 2008 8:35 am
Location: North Alabama
Name: Stephen Brewer
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Gadsden Grotto
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby trogman » Oct 21, 2019 4:34 pm

I've never encountered any bears. I have run into raccoons, a whole family of them. No fun at all, as they contaminated the cave with their feces. I've also had a contact with a very large beaver, in a rather snug passage. The cave had 2' of water, and he swam by and bumped into me. :yikes: That was a bit unnerving, but he never acted aggressive towards me.

I suppose the key is to be careful not to corner any of these animals. Of course that may be easier said than done. I wouldn't worry too much about bears, however.

Trogman :helmet:
User avatar
trogman
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 995
Joined: May 2, 2008 8:35 am
Location: North Alabama
Name: Stephen Brewer
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Gadsden Grotto
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby Vince » Oct 21, 2019 6:31 pm

Bear encounters may be uncommon but we did have a strange incident here in NW New Jersey. Check out these media reports:

https://www.cnn.com/2015/12/21/us/bear- ... index.html

https://www.dailyrecord.com/story/news/ ... /77680698/

https://www.nydailynews.com/news/nation ... -1.2472133

-V
Vince
Infrequent Poster
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Jan 2, 2007 8:56 am
NSS #: 7274 CL FE
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby trogman » Oct 22, 2019 4:54 am

Vince wrote:Bear encounters may be uncommon but we did have a strange incident here in NW New Jersey. Check out these media reports:

https://www.cnn.com/2015/12/21/us/bear- ... index.html

https://www.dailyrecord.com/story/news/ ... /77680698/

https://www.nydailynews.com/news/nation ... -1.2472133

-V



Wow, it seems as if bears are plentiful in NJ, enough so that the state allows a yearly bear hunt. I get the impression the main purpose of the hunt is to control the population. The article says they killed 500 bears in the state in the previous year's hunt. I live in AL, and I am pretty sure we don't even have that many bears in the whole state (which is several times larger than NJ).

I don't think looking out for bears is going to be my main concern the next time I go caving. But after reading that story it may be in the back of my mind.

Trogman :helmet:
User avatar
trogman
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 995
Joined: May 2, 2008 8:35 am
Location: North Alabama
Name: Stephen Brewer
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Gadsden Grotto
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby trogman » Oct 22, 2019 5:41 am

rdube02 wrote:Hi Everyone - I have a question for the experienced cavers on this board.

My wife and I are new to cave exploration - we've visited a few shallow caves while living in Maine but never anything as extensive as underground tunnels & caverns, so we were excited to move to Tennessee where the possibilities are almost unlimited. Using information I've learned over the years about how to locate high-likelihood cave hotspots, I took my wife this weekend to a dry river location where we could park on public land and essentially hike miles into a remote wildnerness area where I'd pinpointed as likely having caves.

We were shocked that within barely 2.5 miles of hiking the riverbed into the start of the wilderness area, we spotted a cliff on the left side of the riverbed with at least 4 caves (that we could see). The openings were on various levels of the cliff - some were smaller and round, but the one that surprised us was a v-shaped opening at ground level.

Growing up in Maine I'm *always* aware of bear threats so we started calling out to ensure there were no bears around. All was silent. So we donned our headlamps and peeked into the V shaped cave. To my surprise, after the immediately left turn it extended at least 40 feet to what I thought was a dead end (typical of the Maine caves we visited). But to my surprise I could see a passage going off to the right before the dead end. I carefully walked to it, constantly calling out in case a bear was in there, but it was all silent. At that passage, I peered down and saw it went about 4 feet and then turned left. I went and peeked down there and sure enough it went another 40 feet before turning again to the right.

At that point I couldn't overcome my concern about bears. The many spiders, crickets, and other critters, no problem. But I did NOT want to trap a bear in there. Despite my wife's pleading to continue on, I convinced her we'd come back when we were better prepared (and I could do more research! That's why I'm here...).

What concerned me was when we left the cave to continue hiking down the riverbed, we heard what we thought were baby goats bleating. I didn't think anything of it until about an hour later when we were headed back home and passing these caves, I *swear* I heard the sound coming from the caves. Then I realized where I'd heard the sound before -- when I was a kid and hiking in the woods in Maine, I came across bear cubs and they made that sound.

We left the area immediately. And now I'm here...my question is: I'm DYING to go back and explore this particular cave further. But is it safe? Do bears in Tennessee actually go really deep into passages like this (my wife and I could just fit in some of the shorter passages)? What is the danger level of stumbling across a bear as we get deeper into these tunnels?

Sorry if this sounds amateur or stupid but we're definitely new to caving in Tennessee and don't want to be stupid about it so I'm hoping for some expert advice from all of you. Thank you in advance!


I'm not sure what part of TN you are in, but there are a number of very good grottoes (local caving groups) in your state. If you and your wife are interested in hooking up with other cavers it would certainly be beneficial in pursuit of your new hobby. Fellow cavers can give you lots of guidance, from proper gear to where to go to find the best caves, as well as what types of animals to look out for.
Here is a listing of TN grottoes:
Grotto list

Happy caving!

Trogman :helmet:
User avatar
trogman
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 995
Joined: May 2, 2008 8:35 am
Location: North Alabama
Name: Stephen Brewer
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Gadsden Grotto
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby ohiocaver » Oct 30, 2019 7:02 pm

Need to modify my response...at Sarah Furnace Cave (Clarion County, PA) the Mid-Atlantic Karst Conservancy's game camera at the cave entrance has twice recently photographed a bear. Both times, it was between 6:20 and 7pm.
Image

Image
User avatar
ohiocaver
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 393
Joined: Mar 5, 2009 6:34 pm
Location: Ohio
Name: curt harler
NSS #: 22735RCL
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Cleveland Grotto
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby TorukoIshiBravo2Zulu » Nov 2, 2019 2:40 am

I've had yearly bear encounters starting in 2016. Discovered 2 den locations off trail I employ on state land open for public
use. Hair found was brown and black. Never saw the bears. Hear their huffing noise as annoyed by the bells I wear and
clank-noise of carried dig tools. Scat usually is seen downhill of den sites and amid valley floor grassy pasture. This is a
temperate rain forest with alpine views eastward of National Forest and Federal Wilderness. My county is being gifted 200
Grizzly Bears to raise the existing population count. Never met a Griz'. I always talk to bears I've heard. Calmly telling them
I'm not the prey they are seeking and keep walking. Bear hunting season firearm noise each Fall hasn't made them shy.
I carry a 10.2 ounce aerosol of bear pepper spray shoulder-holstered. I have carried a Savage Model 24 shotgun soon before
and after hibernation periods to halt appetite urges in the USA. Never in my British Columbia caving which for me is a 90
minute ride. On a Suzuki DR650SE using Dunlop 606 rubber. Bears in Canada probably prefer meeting Canadians, eh ?
TorukoIshiBravo2Zulu
Infrequent Poster
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Nov 1, 2019 12:07 pm
NSS #: 8275
Primary Grotto Affiliation: Southern California Grotto
  

Re: Are bears a concern?

Postby Caving Guru » Nov 10, 2019 6:44 pm

In 2015, I encountered a black bear as I was exiting this cave in West Virginia but it ran away as soon as it saw me.

In 2016, a friend of mine encountered a mother bear and her cub in a cave in Tennessee. I returned the next weekend to find the mother bear dead in the cave and the cub no where to be found. Bear encounters are pretty rare when exploring caves. I would think that bears generally would not want to venture very deep into a cave and want to stay near the daylight part of the cave.

I don't think that you need to worry about encountering a bear when exploring a cave. If there is a bear in a cave, you are most likely going to encounter it right at the entrance.
Caving Guru
NSS Hall Of Fame Poster
 
Posts: 355
Joined: Jun 21, 2012 2:57 pm
  


Return to Caving General Discussion and Questions Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users

cron