Bears and Drought

October 15, 2014

Three_WorldsClear with just a wisp of clouds here this early Wednesday on California’s north coast — big thunderous-looking clouds floating just in sight eastward, though, back over the mountains, but the view west, Pacific-Ocean way, looking nice.
The NWS has forecast “showers” the next couple of days, ‘scattered‘ right now, ‘isolated‘ tonight, ‘slight chance‘ tomorrow, up to a ‘chance‘ Thursday night. Whatever version suits the time.

An off-cantor, terrifying tragedy has come to light this week up here: Apparently a pretty-well known and respected local man, who lived in a rural spot in south Humboldt County — which there are way-many — died of natural causes, and a bear dragged his body off, ate nearly-all of his remains.

Reportedly, Rainbow Mountain Walker was last seen a week ago today, his remains discovered this past Monday — he failed to show up at a motorcycle rally on Saturday, a search ensued.

(Illustration: M.C. Escher’s ‘Three Worlds‘ found here).

The incident is being investigated by the Humboldt County Humboldt County Coroner’s Office and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Some thoughts on the situation from Deputy Coroner Roy Horton, via the Lost Coast Outpost this morning. Horton believes Walker “collapsed naturally” somewhere on the property:

Horton thinks after his death Walker may have been dragged off and eaten by the creature.
However, there is a slight possibility that the bear may have attacked Walker and that scenario is being examined as part of the investigation.
But there have been no fatalities as the result of wild bear attacks in California since 1875 and neither the Department of Fish and Wildlife nor the Coroner’s Office consider that Walker’s death was the result of one.
Horton crawled through bushes with a flashlight attempting to locate all Walker’s remains, mostly bones.
He said the remains were found in a place where the bear had apparently bedded down for awhile.
Bits of bear fur were found in the area.
“I think [Walker] died a natural death,” explained Horton.
“Most likely scenario is he was somewhere near home between his house and where he gets his water [from a springbox.]
The bear drug him into where he has been bedding down.”
There, Horton said, the bear consumed the remains.
Walker’s door was open and some of the contents of his home might have been disturbed by wild animals.
However, Horton said that Walker “had a handgun where he sleeps” and there was no indication that he attempted to access it.
Nor, Horton said was there “any indication that [Walker] was dragged from the trailer.”
Horton says that during Thursday’s autopsy the examiner will be looking for anything to indicate that there was a struggle, i.e. broken bones.
This, he said, would indicate that a bear had attacked and Walker had tried to defend himself.

I didn’t know of Walker until this story appeared, but from all the reports, he was well-liked and popular among the local folk, a past vice president of the Southern Humboldt Kiwanis, and a volunteer for many local charities. A bizarre, terrible episode — grief for a lot of people.

Bears have become a common problem in south Humboldt and Mendocino counties. I’ve a couple of good, longtime friends who live near Laytonville and have a history of bears foraging too close to the homestead — tearing into trash containers, going after livestock, whatnot. And a number are hit by vehicles on the 101. Animals in the wild, and a persistent drought don’t mix — and human/bear incidents seem to be increasing in frequency.
Jason Holley, a supervising wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and animal nature:

“The one thing we do suspect, is that since this drought is so severe and it’s gone on so long, we do suspect that it has increased the need for bears to wander farther in finding their food and finding their daily water needs,” he said.
“And in turn, that increases the likelihood that they come across people or they come across roads.”
Using an extraordinary sense of smell, bears can find natural food resources on their own, which is why wildlife officials stress to residents that it’s vital not to feed them.
It’s also important to secure food and garbage appropriately.
“If they are fed, they can become quickly food habituated which means they’re reliant upon us for the food and they keep coming back for those same food items,” Holley said.

Innate in the process in the quest for food in a drying planet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.