Nature Notes

Vol. XIV September - 1936 No. 3

The Bear - Our Problem Child

The bear of the park have made some decided changes in their behavior in the last few years. In 1921, when I first entered the Park as a Ranger-Naturalist, the bear were very shy creatures and encountered only occasionally in the woods along the trails. An occasional wanderer, more bold than his fellows, came from time to time into Longmire.

The next season saw more bear about the camp and hotels. Word had evidently gone out to brothers, cousins, aunts, and uncles that here was to be found "easy pickings" and that man was not to be feared.

As the seasons passed the bear increased in number, and rapidly lost their native shyness. Where in earlier periods he shyly took only what was offered him, he, in later periods, came to demand his share. Like the hobo, which he became, if food was not given him he began to break into houses, cars, and hotels. He also became surly and even menacing at times.

Then came the period of ease and plenty for the bear. To keep him out of the camps, feeding grounds were established at both Longmire and Paradise. This ushered in "The Life of Riley" for the bear. At the sound of the gong (garbage cans) the bear poured forth from the surrounding environs, a motley horde. This was even easier than raiding garbage cans.

Wisdom comes by experience and soon the free feeding stations were abandoned. But this didn't solve the problem. Park bear did not want to go back to the woods and work for a living. Garbage cans were still at hand. The bear still retains much of his native shyness but has largely lost his fear of man. He is a loveable creature in many respects and the playful antics of the young cubs is a perennial source of amusement. He has his rights but man has invaded his domain.

The present policy toward the bear is non-commital. When a particuliar obstreperous individual outlaws himself by his conduct he is transported to his native woods to commune with nature and perhaps his ways.

Chas. Landes,

Glacial Lakes

In mountainous areas where glaciers have existed lakes are a characteristic feature of the landscape. Such is true in Mt. Rainier National Park where countless lakes are found. Most of these are small but all are typical alpine gems in a rugged setting.

Glacial lakes are due to various activities of the ice to which they owe their origin. Possibly the most characteristic are those found in tarns at the base of great amphitheater cliffs or cirques. Where a glacier heads or originates against a cliff it quarries backward and downward, gradually undermining the cliff and carrying away the resulting debris. As it moves downward and away from the cliff it gouges a channel which is relatively more deep at the base of the cliff because of the greater accumulation of snow and ice and rock debris at that point. When the glacier has disappeared this basin will contain a lake which, because of its rugged background, will invariably be extremely picturesque.

The largest lake in the park, Mowich Lake, is typical. Surrounded almost entirely by towering cliffs extending upward to sharp peaks, it is so completely enclosed that it had originally been named "Crater Lake" until the error in this was pointed out. A broad opening through which a small stream now flows reveals where the ancient glacier made its escape. Lake George, familiar to fishermen, lying under the walls of Mt. Wow and smaller Lake Allen, similarly placed, are further examples. Under the Sourdough Range which rises above Yakima Park numerous shallow ponds and areas where the more verdant vegetation indicates poor drainage reveal similar tarns while several lakes visible from the road are further examples.

sketch of Mount Rainier

When a snout of a glacier remains for long periods of time in one place the debris released by the melting ice will accumulate across the valley at that point. With the subsequent retreat of the glacier, water will be held behind this dam. Mystic Lake, on the north side of the mountain, lies in a small valley. In approaching the lake from below the trail suddenly zigzags up an abrupt rise and the lake is revealed above this ridge. Forest trees and brush grew thickly upon the ridge but its origin as a glacial dam may be readily identified.

When a glacier makes a temporary advance it may force the debris in front of it into a ridge behind which a lake will later form. In the morainal debris at the snout of the Flett Glacier, above Spray Park, lying upon a comparatively low gradient, a small lake has been formed. The rock mass is not yet covered with vegetation and the water is muddy with silt released from the melting ice which still rests upon the upper margin of the lake.

Lakes in glaciated regions may owe their origin to other causes but most of the lakes in Mt. Rainier National Park are due to the factors herein discussed.

Earl U. Homuth,

sketch of Mount Rainier

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