Ever since I visited Montana I’ve been dreaming about bears

Dick

I am a Swedish ecology student currently working with arctic foxes at Stockholm University. I’ve been collaborating with Dr. Scott Mills and Marketa Zimova since the fall of 2014 on a color molt phenology project on arctic foxes. Within this project Marketa has visited us in Stockholm on multiple occasions and helped us both in the field and in the lab. This summer it was my turn to visit Montana and the Mills lab group.

My visit started with Scott’s PhD student Alex Kumar picking me up at the airport in Missoula and then driving me directly to Dr. Mills house for a barbeque. At the barbeque I met the whole Mills family (including the pet dog and bunny), learnt how to wrap a burrito and also got to know some of the people I would come to work with in the field.

I very much enjoyed the warm and dry weather in Montana when in the field (I’m used to walking in the boggy tundra, in the rain, with wet feet all summer). But more than that I had a great time when working with all the knowledgeable, professional and friendly colleagues on the hare crew. We trapped hares and installed camera traps during the day and ate burgers, drank craft beer and huckleberry milkshakes in the evening.

However, probably one of the most memorable parst of the trip was the bear encounter I had in the forest. We were done trapping and were collecting the traps so I was down on my knees with one of the traps when I thought I heard something big running towards me. First I thought it was my mind playing tricks on me, but then I suddenly saw a black bear coming running straight towards were I was standing. Luckily, I remembered what I had read in the field manual and didn’t start running or playing dead. I just stood up, waived my hands and made noises at the bear to get its attention. The bear then stopped and stared at me approximately 20 meters in front of me. I kept waiving my hands and got the bear spray ready, but the bear didn’t move. Fortunately, after a couple of seconds (it felt more like hours) it started running in another direction. My hand was shaking when I announced on the radio that there was a bear on the grid. I got a calm answer back: “Was it a black bear? Don’t worry, black bears just run away when they see you.”

Even though the bear meeting made a big impact on me, the new friends and the experience is what I take back home from Montana. I’m alive, I had a great time and I really hope I can go back to Montana to meet all the nice people in the Mills lab again soon.

Dick Moberg, M.S.

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Feature Image.  A picture of me doing fieldwork in Sweden. Photo: Håkan Wike

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Image 1. Baking pinnbröd (”stick bread”), a Swedish field speciality we used to do in kindergarten when visiting the woods. You eat it with butter, cinnamon and sugar. Photo: Dick Moberg

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Image 2. Alex showing me how to make a proper American field lunch, peanut butter banana/jam sandwiches. Photo: Dick Moberg

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Image 3. Alex with another home made American speciality, mac and cheese. photo: Dick Moberg