Mys­tery bear shows up at To­ma­les Bay

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - OUTDOORS - Tom Stienstra is The Chron­i­cle’s out­doors writer. Email: tstien­stra@sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @Stien­straTom

Does a bear poop in the woods?

“Ap­par­ently, yes they do,” said Deb­bie Viess, who, with her hus­band, David Rust, were as­ton­ished last week when they found fresh bear scat at To­ma­les Bay State Park.

“We were hik­ing along Pierce Point Road when my hus­band and I found this rather fresh pile of bear scat,” Viess said.

Judg­ing by the photo — you can roughly de­ter­mine the size and age of the bear by the di­am­e­ter of the pel­lets, ref­er­enced by a pine cone in the photo — the best pro­jec­tion is that it was from a young bear, prob­a­bly about 200 pounds.

Nobody has been able to pho­to­graph this lat­est sight­ing of a bear in the Bay Area.

To­ma­les Bay State Park is along the shore of To­ma­les Bay in west­ern Marin County and ad­joins Point Reyes Na­tional Seashore. For the bear to reach the area, it most likely would have trav­eled from the north flank of Mount Ta­mal­pais and the Marin Wa­ter­shed.

Marin has had a mys­tery bear for years. John Buck­ley, an avid cy­clist, found a pile of bear scat near Fair­fax in the Marin Wa­ter­shed, where he was rid­ing on the fire road from 5 Cor­ners to Deer Park. Moun­tain bik­ers have also re­ported and pho­tographed scat on the Alpine-Kent Pump Road near the pump house at Kent Lake.

In more tra­di­tional bear coun­try in the moun­tains of Cal­i­for­nia, it is com­mon for many bears in late Septem­ber through Oc­to­ber to mi­grate out of the high-el­e­va­tion for­est ar­eas. Ac­cord­ing to GPS mi­gra­tory stud­ies, bears will de­scend into the foothills to search for fallen ap­ples, ripe black­ber­ries and acorns.

To put on the pounds for win­ter, bears eat as many ap­ples, berries and acorns as they can find. When the food be­comes scarce and the tem­per­a­tures drop, the bears re­turn to the moun­tain coun­try, ready for snow, and to hi­ber­nate in their snow caves; or, ab­sent of snow, a wellse­creted hol­low. The fe­males, fat­tened up for their win­ter slum­ber, give birth dur­ing hi­ber­na­tion.

Sleigh ride on the bay

On the kayak trip from Sausal­ito to An­gel Is­land, I’ve al­ways done this pad­dle on wind­less morn­ings, at the bot­tom of the tide when the dif­fer­ence be­tween the high and low tides is be­nign. It’s of­ten eas­i­est with a part­ner in a long tan­dem. You head out to An­gel Is­land dur­ing slack water that feeds into a light in­com­ing tide, then re­turn dur­ing slack water that feeds into a light outgoing tide. That makes it an easy, fun cruise across Rac­coon Strait, both ways, and we even did this once for a TV show for CBS.

Night­mare: Bad tim­ing can make this trip a night­mare. One year, I re­mem­ber a group that tried to swim across to An­gel Is­land with­out cal­cu­lat­ing the tides: All the swim­mers were caught in a big outgoing tide (that ended in a mi­nus), and they were swept out to the Golden Gate Bridge and picked up by sup­port boats. Last week, James Purvis wrote in and re­ported that his group hit the pad­dle dur­ing a big outgoing tide, and found it im­pos­si­ble to ven­ture against the ebb. His ad­vice: “In­ex­pe­ri­enced kayak­ers un­aware of the need for sea kayaks or the need for a late flood tide might get in trou­ble. Re­mem­ber that once on An­gel Is­land, there will be a need to re­turn, which should be with an ebb.”

Sur­prise weather

While Hur­ri­cane Florence cap­tured the at­ten­tion of the na­tion, a weather anom­aly in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia this past week caught the eye of weather spe­cial­ists. A low-pres­sure trough from the Gulf of Alaska dropped across the Pa­cific North­west and into North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, drop­ping tem­per­a­tures to the 20s in Truc­kee and to the high 40s at moun­tain­tops around the Bay Area. “This kind of thing usu­ally ar­rives in late Septem­ber, early Oc­to­ber, and it’s a few weeks ahead of nor­mal,” said Michael Pech­ner of Golden West Me­te­o­rol­ogy. “The hope is that it will help bring an end to the fire sea­son.”

Deer sea­son opens

The moun­tain deer sea­sons open this week­end in the north state, where fires have burned 400,000 acres and many ar­eas are closed to ac­cess. That will com­press hunters into re­gions that are un­touched by fire, and pro­vides good rea­son for non­hunters to avoid ar­eas where deer camps are set up at trail­heads. Dates, places: In the north state, the gi­ant B zone opens this week­end. On the west flank of the Sierra Ne­vada, most of the D zones open next Satur­day, Sept. 22. Most of the zones in north­east­ern Cal­i­for­nia and the Eastern Sierra, what are called the X zones, all east of the crests, open in Oc­to­ber. Other hunt dates: For the most part, here are the sea­son-open­ing dates, species by species: quail (most ar­eas), Sept. 29; water­fowl (most ar­eas), Oct. 20; pheas­ant, Nov. 10; wild turkey, Nov. 10. Note: Wild pig is open year-round, with most hunts on pri­vate prop­erty. For elk and an­te­lope, most sea­sons are very short and in re­mote ar­eas, and af­ter this week­end nearly all will have closed. For all dates of con­cern, go to www. wildlife.ca.gov.

Fal­con in hot tub

In Moun­tain View, John Met­zger said he was work­ing from home, sensed some move­ment and looked out the back win­dow. He then watched a pere­grine fal­con land next to his swim­ming pool and hot tub. “The fal­con took about 15 min­utes to de­cide if the pool or the hot tub was the best bet and fi­nally de­cided on the hot tub. You can see (with photos he pro­vided) where the fal­con looks into the tub and then en­ters. It was in for about four min­utes, bathing, and hops out and shakes off. The fal­con then stood in the sun for about two min­utes and fi­nally flew off.”

Bird watch­ing tours

Elkhorn Slough: The Mon­terey Bay Bird­ing Fes­ti­val takes place Sept. 28-30 out of Elkhorn Slough and Moss Land­ing, timed for an ar­ray of mi­gra­tory shore­birds, and will in­clude field trips, work­shops and out­door fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties. www.mon­terey­bay­bird­ing.org.

Sand­hill cranes: Reg­is­tra­tion for tours is open for the Sand­hill Crane Fes­ti­val, based out of Lodi at the nearby Wood­bridge Eco­log­i­cal Area. The dawn fly-out and dusk fly­outs are spec­tac­u­lar. www. crane­fes­ti­val.com.

Cal OHOF open

In the past week, with­out prompt­ing, we re­ceived three nom­i­na­tions for the Cal­i­for­nia Out­doors Hall Fame, so we de­cided to open the process early for nom­i­nees. The premise to win in­duc­tion is twofold: Win­ners have in­spired thou­sands of Cal­i­for­ni­ans to take part in the great out­doors and/or con­ser­va­tion; they have taken part in a para­mount scope of ad­ven­tures. Nom­i­na­tions must in­clude a 200-word bio and con­tact in­for­ma­tion. Peo­ple can nom­i­nate them­selves. Nom­i­na­tions should be sent to me at tstien­stra@sfchron­i­cle.com or through the web­site at www.co­hof.org. The awards will be pre­sented at the Sacra­mento In­ter­na­tional Sports­men’s Expo in Jan­uary.

For youth: Last year’s new cat­e­gory is now per­ma­nent: Movers and Shak­ers. The award is de­signed to honor young Cal­i­for­ni­ans who have in­jected seis­mic ef­fects into the land­scape of out­doors re­cre­ation, yet who may not have the ten­ure to win life­time recog­ni­tion.

Chris Fich­tel / Na­ture Con­ser­vancy

A bear emerges in a clear­ing near Squaw Val­ley in the High Sierra. Bears are com­mon in the moun­tains, but not in Marin.

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