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.
Humans have a love-hate relationship with Largemouth bass. How can the most popular game fish in North America also be an invasive species?
Largemouth bass are carnivorous freshwater found in lakes, ponds, and rivers. Coastal fish in our region can exceed 25-inches and weigh 12 lbs. The longest ever largemouth bass recorded at 39.2 inches; the heaviest at 22 lbs.
The original largemouth bass North American range included the St. Lawrence River, Great Lakes, Hudson Bay-Red River, and Mississippi River basin. Largemouth bass are found North Carolina to Florida and into northern Mexico.
Bass are considered to be one of the world’s most tolerant freshwater fish that easily adapt to lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, and sloughs. They are also tolerant of various water temperatures (both hot and cold). This flexibility has helped these fish become year-around favorites in many areas. Georgia and Mississippi chose largemouth bass as their ‘State Fish.’ Florida and Alabama chose the bass for their ‘State Freshwater Fish.’
Bass look for areas with weedy or overhanging cover, submerged structures, and varying depths. They look for sandy, mucky, or gravelly bottoms. Rock and weedy bottoms are using for nesting. Too much weed cover hampers hunting and feeding activities and can cause the fish to starve.
Adult Largemouth bass are opportunistic Apex predators. They have the capability of outcompeting native fish and other species when transplanted to a new environment. This has led to declines and extinctions of native frogs, salamanders, and a wide variety of fish species in some lakes.
As adults, they hunt smaller fish and younger members of large fish species. Other prey include snails, crawfish, snakes, water birds/fledglings, and mammals (bats, etc.). Prey may be as large as 50 percent of the fish’s body or larger.
There will be no question if you hook a Largemouth bass. When hooked, bass will leap, dive, and put up a good fight. These antics and powerful fight has helped make them one of the most popular recreational fish species in the world.
Bass fishing is a multi-million dollar industry in the U.S. Competitive bass fishing is popular in the U.S., Japan, Korea, Italy, Australia, and South Africa. The popularity of bass fishing has encouraged the development of specialized gear such as:
electronic “depth” finder and “fish” finding instruments,
drift boats, float tubes, and bass boats.
These fish are very tolerant to careful catch and release fishing. Large largemouth bass are often adult breeding females that should be released when possible.
Can you eat them?
Why yes. In the spring, the smaller largemouth (around 10-14 inches) typically have higher quality meat. The meat has few bones making it a choice for grilling, frying, or adding to other recipes. Cooking odors may say ‘outdoor barbeque’ for many, and the taste may be a little too ‘fishy’ for some (based on the individual fish’s diet).
Where to fish them?
There are fantastic fishing areas in our region. Some areas to visit include: Tenmile Lakes in Lakeside (premier), and Loon, Tahkenitch, Siltcoos, and Lytle Lakes. For more information see your Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife regulations and license requirements.
REFERENCES: –Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, largemouth bass (https://myodfw.com/fishing/species/largemouth-bass) –Canada BC Invasive Fish (https://bcinvasives.ca/invasive-species/identify/invasive-fish/largemouth-bass) –Best Fishing in America, Largemouth bass fishing in Western Oregon (https://www.bestfishinginamerica.com/OR-largemouth-bass-fishing-in-western-oregon.html) –Wikipedia, largemouth bass (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Largemouth_bass) –USDA, Fish and Wildlife Service, Freshwater Fish of America (https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/freshwater-fish-of-america/largemouth_bass.html) –Can you eat largemouth bass (https://btycc.org/can-you-eat-largemouth-bass/#Is-largemouth-bass-good-to-eat?)
What’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys? River otters!
River otters are the life of the party and know how to have fun! They are one of the largest and more social members of the weasel (or Mustelidae) family.
The weasel family has been around for a long time and first appeared about 15 million years ago. This group includes nearly 60 different species including mink, ferrets, badgers, martens, wolverines, and more.
The Mustelidae family inhabits every continent except Antarctica and Australia. All are primarily carnivorous and most are active year around.
River otters are relatively small mammals (overall length can be up to 50 inches) with heavily-muscled, elongated streamlined bodies. They live in water most of the time and are superb swimmers.
They have adapted for a semiaquatic lifestyle in several ways: –Short powerful legs and webbed toes make fast swimmers (up to eight miles per hour). They are further helped along by their long-thick tapered tail that can also propel them and act as a rudder. –Dense fur keeps them warm and must be dried and frequently groomed to maintain the insulating properties and water resistance. –Eyes and ears are set high on the head supporting surface swimming. The eyes also have a third protective eyelid for swimming under water. Otters are also nearsighted. –Even the small rounded ears and nostrils close when the otter is under water. Allowing them to spend up to eight minutes under water and dive 60 feet!
Range & Habitat
River otters range includes rivers, streams, lakes, estuaries, bogs, and large marine waterways primarily west of the Cascade Range.
Previously, this species was hunted extensively. There was also significant habitat losses due to pollution.
Otters are no longer found in many States. Several States have very successful recovery programs.
The home range for a River Otter can be as large as 30 square miles. Otters tend to follow a regular circuit across watersheds and tributaries and may travel up to 18 miles in a day.
On the Move
Otters are constantly on the move, particularly the males, which are known to travel up to 150 miles each year. Females with young will travel but not nearly that far.
A good part of the movement is hunting. River Otters have an amazing sense of smell and are able to sniff out and pursue concentrations of upstream fish from long distances.
Otters spend most of their time in the water. They are on dry land about one-third of the time.
They often will make extensive overland excursions from one habitat to another. One would wonder how much time is spent building slides.
While fish is the favorite, River Otters will also eat: Crustaceans (like crab, shrimp, and barnacles), Amphibians (think frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts), Invertebrates (such as water insects, worms, snails, snakes), small mammals, birds (eggs, nestlings), and even plant matter.
They are also rather ‘tidy’ eaters and always wash themselves after every meal.
Mustelidae also have very different reproduction patterns. Females control when embryos are implanted and may extend normal gestation for up to a year.
Survival is the name of the game. This delay gives the female a better chance at keeping the young alive with favorable food and weather conditions.
Even if you are unable to see these animals frolic in the wild, be sure to see them at your local zoo or wildlife reserve. Their antics, dances, and rambunctious play puts a smile on everyone’s face.
REFERENCES: –Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/weasels-skunks-badgers-and-otters and ) –Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/lutra-canadensis) –Washington Post, River Otters Aren’t Just Cute They are a Sign of Hope for the Environment (https://wapo.st/2ON5vBZ) –Wikipedia, North American River Otter (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_river_otter)
Associate Professor - Tourism and Business Development
College of Forest Ecosystems & Society
Oregon State University Extension - Oregon Sea Grant
Equal Opportunity/Accessibility https://extension.oregonstate.edu/equal-opportunity-accessibility