Floods and bears

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Two topics are always on our minds during spring breakup: bear sightings and the possibility of a flood.

Bears are mostly a matter of curiosity, and flooding is a matter of immediate concern with possible effects on the fire season later in the year.

Well, the bears are out. As usual, I have not seen one yet, but many of my neighbors have. Some of the neighbors have even taken pretty good photos. It wasn’t that long ago that a girzzly photo was really rare, but now almost everybody has one - or more.

There are those who believe this is because more folks have good cameras. I don’t buy that. I have almost always carried a camera since my high school days. I never got a single photo of a griz until 1992 and I get multiple photos of bears every year, especially in recent years. I am convinced there are two reasons for this.

Number one is there are more bears. A lot more bears. So many bears that locals name them, and see the same bear or bears multiple times each year. The Whale Creek bear has had several sets of twins that survived into adulthood. Many of us have enjoyed seeing them and mourned when one of them died. That leads to the second reason we see more bears.

All of us, myself included, have contributed to habituating the bears to people. Instead of watching them and taking pictures, we should actively chase them away with noise, whistles, or even gunshots. Let them think they are in danger. In the long run that would probably be safer for the bears and maybe for people too.

Spring runoff is a matter of more concern. I was told this week that our snowpack is 120 percent of normal. Doesn’t mean we will have a flood but it does increase the odds a little.

If the spring continues wet and cool, the snow will melt more slowly. If that occurs and then the weather warms all at once, a flood is somewhat more likely. If a slow runoff is followed by above normal temperatures, and then we get HEAVY rains - hold on to your hat, don your raingear, and man the lifeboats.

That is what happened in 1964. Slow runoff, major warming, accompanied by several inches of rain, and we had what has been called a 500-year flood.

Could it happen again? You bet.

In 1964, flooding did millions of dollars of damage. A similar event in 2017 would cost much more.

Today, more folks have buildings close to the river. Evergreen has many more homes. Highways, bridges, and rails are more expensive.

I’m glad my cabin is a mile from the river and two benches higher. How about you?

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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