Oregon is home to nearly 30,000 black bears, Ursus americanus, America’s most common bear species. They can grow up to six feet long and weight anything from 125 to 500 pounds. In fact, the name “black bear” is misleading, because they can have brown or gray coats.

If you’re on the lookout for bears in Oregon, you’ll only find black bears, since grizzlies haven’t been seen in the state since the 1930s. They make their home in Oregon’s abundant forests, where they create dens for hibernation, climb up trees, and forage. If you’re really looking to find one, try visiting areas that have been clear-cut and allowed to grow for a few years. They are easier to spot, and they feed on the grass and brush. They also feed on berries, nuts, and fruits; they can eat small mammals, insects, fish, and amphibians, but they are not usually actively hunting.

The best time to spot a black bear is in the middle of the summer, when their breeding season begins. Males and females will be more active, and yearling bears are becoming independent and can be seen roaming around roads and clear cuts. They are also independent animals, so don’t expect to see many in the same place.

 

Sources:

https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/black_bears.asp

http://www.oregonwild.org/wildlife/black-bear

http://ouroregoncoast.com/coast-notes-list/159-news/1309-black-bears-on-the-oreogn-coast.html

You might be surprised to hear about the importance of dairy to Oregon’s economy. Milk is actually Oregon’s official beverage and the third greatest agricultural commodity in the state, with more than 350 farms and 120,000 cows. As you can see in this photo from Google Maps, Tillamook is a mainly agricultural town with many plots of land. Oregon’s dairy industry contributes more than $1 billion to the economy every year. Milk has always been a largely produced product, but specialty cheeses are gaining worldwide recognition.

You may have heard the rumor that Tillamook has more cattle than people, as it is a bustling, dairy-producing county. This goes back to European settlement when 91% of wetlands were drained for agricultural, residential, and commercial development. The dairy farms are established along eight rivers, five bays, and the ocean, which can pose a major environmental problem. Check out the screenshot from Google Maps below!

One of these problems results from grazing livestock—the production of manure and urine. Fecal bacteria can pollute streams when directly deposited by livestock or through overland flow. Direct deposit is more common and more impactful, because the soil will not filter the bacteria. Overland flow occurs when rain or snow goes beyond infiltration capacity, or the rate at which water can be absorbed by soil and drains into a body of water instead of being absorbed. The nutrients and bacteria from runoff can be harmful to wildlife and people, as it drains into the water table and can carry harmful diseases.

One solution to this problem is the effective and affordable use of water tanks, which reduces the time that livestock spend drinking in natural bodies of water by more than 90%. This will decrease how much waste is directly deposited into water and also improves the health of the livestock.

There are many more problems associated with livestock and water runoff, so it is important to learn about how this affects people and wildlife, implement prevention techniques, and practice sustainable farming.

 

Sources:

https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/readers/2015/05/07/preserving-tillamook-countys-dairy-industry/70959238/

http://oregonexplorer.info/content/oregons-dairy-industry

Livestock Management and Water Quality

The Gross Way Water Pollution From Livestock Affects You

Erik Urdahl founded The Spout, an organization that provides information for whale watchers and whale enthusiasts, back in 2009. Urdahl realized that many people who lived in Oregon and along the coast had never seen a whale before—he wanted to get people excited about them. He describes The Spout as “a how-to guide for whale watching, because that was the thing I just kept discovering. People just don’t know when to come or where to look, but it’s really simple actually.”

Another one of Urdahl’s initiative is to make interpretation more exciting. From his experiences, interpretation can be pretty dry sometimes—it’s hard to get people excited about something. He suggests helping people spot the whales first, which gets them excited, and then trying to backfill with scientific information.

Another way that Urdahl believes science outreach can be done is through art and technology. “We have this approach of going up to somebody and throwing a lot of information at them, whereas you could share some images or maybe a video to get them excited about what’s out there. Once somebody gets an idea of what they could be looking at it seems easier to get them actively engaged in it. I think that interpretation can feel a little stale, particularly with certain generations so it’s sort of on us to find better ways to make connections and get them interested. I think art and tech can help immensely.”

When asked about the best part of running The Spout, Urdahl says, “I did a project one year where I took a bunch of people whale watching for the first time and documented their reactions, which ranged from squeals of delight to awe-struck tears. I followed up with some of those people afterward and discovered that some had taken more of an interest in ocean conservation, which is really the whole point of it. I don’t expect anyone to fall in love with whales after looking at a website or being told how big they are. But if we can get people to make some sort of emotional connection with these animals and their world and combine that with some knowledge, then hopefully they will make decisions in their everyday lives with ocean health and general conservation in mind.”

Check out https://thespout.org/ for more information and how to become a whale watcher!