A “BIG” New Year Surprise!

This morning I went to the Bashakill to try for some new year birds. I hiked a couple of spots before heading to the “Birch Trail” heading east from the Main Boat Launch. I spoke with a couple of women at the launch, Linda and Marie I believe, and then headed out the trail. As I reached the woods again, just before the Birch Trail Tower, a “BIG” bear charged out of the Barberries and across the trail in front of me. It literally scared me half to death! It disappeared in the Barberries near the tower. I decided to wait on the trail as the bear certainly had to cross it again, hopefully farther down the trail this time. That didn’t happen. I suddenly heard ice crashing. It couldn’t be trying to cross the Bash, it has only been freezing a couple of days and the ice is only two inches thick. I ran to a partial opening in the trees where I was able to see the bear crossing the kill. It broke through the ice periodically, but made quick progress across. When it reached the channel everything changed. As I watched, the bear crashed through the ice at the channel. It flailed all over, trying to get a grip on the ice. This seemed to go on forever, when the bear suddenly disappeared under the water and ice. It seemed like an eternity and I was sure the bear had drowned. Suddenly the bear burst up through the ice! Again It tried repeatedly to get a grip, but the ice was to slippery. The whole scene played out several times over the next ten minutes. I felt so helpless, holding my breath for the bear. Just when I thought the writing was on the wall, the bear got a grip on the ice and managed to pull itself out of the water. It shook, and water flew twenty feet in every direction! The bear got itself together for a moment and then began to walk toward the shore, still a hundred feet or more away. I held my breath, taking pics every few seconds until the bear made it to shore and lumbered off into the woods. What an experience! I have only seen a bear in January once before, last January 6th at Oil City Road in Orange County. This is my first January bear in Sullivan County. Hopefully he warms up and settles down for a long winters nap! Here are just a few of the dozens of photos I took of this unexpected event.

The bear had just crashed through the ice on the channel at the Bashakill.

The bear had just crashed through the ice on the channel at the Bashakill.


The channel is at least ten feet deep and twenty feet wide, so the bear had nothing to hold him up.

The channel is at least ten feet deep and twenty feet wide, so the bear had nothing to hold him up.


There were two muskrat mounds within twenty feet of the bear and I kept hoping he would get on one of them, but he never went near them.

There were two muskrat mounds within twenty feet of the bear and I kept hoping he would get on one of them, but he never went near them.


The bear finally got a grip that held and hoisted himself up on the ice.

The bear finally got a grip that held and hoisted himself up on the ice.


The bear just stood there for a couple minutes, dripping water and shaking it off.

The bear just stood there for a couple minutes, dripping water and shaking it off.


The bear finally seemed to tiptoe off toward the woods. It seemed to take forever, the distance is much farther than it appears in the photos.  He finally made it without further incident.

The bear finally seemed to tiptoe off toward the woods. It seemed to take forever, the distance is much farther than it appears in the photos. He finally made it without further incident.

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18 Responses to A “BIG” New Year Surprise!

  1. Kathleen Ashman says:

    All I can say is “Wow!”. Between yesterday and today, you’ve had an eventful start to your new year!

  2. zeller-hyden says:

    HOLY COW er..BEAR! what a fantastic story and pics to boot. Glad both the bear AND you are in one piece.

  3. truffle99 says:

    Wow, what a story!

  4. scott baldinger says:

    John, between your Pied-billed Grebe rescue experience from Haven Rd, and now this, you certainly have been in the moment! I’m shocked at a January Black Bear sighting in Sullivan. You certainly have been “johnny on the spot”. Paula and I enjoyed your account of the event!
    Scotty

  5. Truth Muller says:

    Poor bear, He must have wished he’s stayed in bed after that! How big would you say he was?

  6. Deb Kral says:

    Wow, John – that was quite a day for you and the bear!!!!!

  7. Dale Dancis says:

    Any pics? You described the last scene of Hobbit 3 ( of course it was an Orc instead of a bear…) !

  8. Karen C M says:

    That’s an amazing story, John. Another chapter for your next book.
    Karen C Miller

  9. Linda Scrima says:

    We left the Bash shortly after seeing you that morning. I am glad that I did not see the BIG bear struggle, as that would have been heart breaking! Glad that the bear was able to recover and climb out of the ice. That would have been a sight that I never would have forgotten! Linda

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