Wet counters, Spiders, and Bears, Oh My: TTOC August Trail Count Update

•Synchronized trail counts for the 2012 trail season are wrapping up! The final count is set to take place September 22, from 12PM to 2PM.
o August’s synchronized trail count was another success. We have lucked out for each trail count so far this year, by being graced with gorgeous weather (knock on wood). All locations except for two were covered by volunteers from all over the GAP trail.
•Manual trail counts are still underway, lasting up until the weather permits, sometime in early November.
o TTOC is in the process of recruiting volunteers to assist staff with manual trail counts in addition to the synchronized counts. So far, several regular volunteers have displayed interest in helping TTOC staff with this simple, yet time-consuming process.
•High humidity, random thunder storms, and moisture this summer has plagued the Ohiopyle and Garrett trail counters, causing a lack in data and even data inaccuracy. To try and solve this troublesome problem, kitty litter has been placed within each trail counter, as well as extra-large sized desiccant packs. TTOC is keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that this simple solution resolves the moisture-related counter damage. If these methods are unsuccessful, then counter post ‘roofs’ will be placed along each location; allowing water runoff to divert away from the counter’s opening.
•TTOC’s concoction of lavender oil and bio-degradable soap so far seems to be an effective spider deterrent. Each counter has been treated with this eco-friendly nuisance repellent in hopes of keeping spiders away from the trail counter’s scope.
•Spiders might not like lavender, but that doesn’t mean that other animals don’t enjoy it. This month in Rockwood, I was performing a monthly, manual trail count when to my surprise I was greeted by a not-so-uncommon resident of Somerset County: a black bear. We both were very surprised by each other’s company. When alone and encountering a black bear, it is important to think clearly and fast. Running away in fear might be most people’s initial response, but that’s a dumb and very dangerous idea. As much as I wanted to run, I thought back to the training I received in college about what to do when encountering a black bear (grizzly bear encounters are handled in a different manner, keep in mind).
1. The first and most important thing to remember is DO NOT PANIC. Panicking or running can elicit a chase response from the black bear, causing injury or even worse death.
2. Keep distance, back away from the bear slowly so you don’t spook it any further, talking softly to the animal while not making direct eye contact (a sign of aggression).
3. Lift your hands over your head to make yourself look larger, this often times will scare the bear away from you because they are docile and rarely aggressive in nature.
•Although it is rare that a black bear will attack, there exist extreme cases where bears are unpredictable; that’s why it’s important to keep your cool and keep a clear head. Respect the animal and it will respect you.
~Rachael Christie