Ravens who build nests atop transmission towers no doubt feel safe and secure from bears.
This black bear climbed to the top of a transmission tower near Fort Smith on May 10 to raid a raven's nest. - photo courtesy of Linda Powell/O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.
After all, how could a bear climb a transmission tower? Well, one enterprising black bear did just that near Fort Smith, and an American hunter has the photos and video to prove it.
Linda Powell said it was a bizarre and totally amazing sight in the early evening of May 10 to see the bear climb the tower to raid a raven's nest at the top.
"I have to say he did it with pretty good skill and grace for the most part," she said. "It almost looked like it was something that he'd done before. He just did it with such ease."
Powell noted a couple of ravens were guarding the nest when the bear made its ascent.
"Obviously they realized or sensed there was danger, and they started immediately flying toward him," she said.
"They were very vocal, squawking at him. They were actually pecking at him. They just continued as he worked his way up and he never even gave them the time of day. It's like they weren't even there. He paid no attention to them at all."
Powell observed the bear very skillfully balance on two steel bars at the top of the tower and proceed to raid the nest of what appeared to be eggs.
"I would say the intensity of the ravens' attack escalated, but to no avail because again he didn't swat at them," she said.
"He didn't seem to even be aware that they were there, and he very efficiently emptied the nest and started his journey back down."
The bear seemed to struggle a little bit more on the descent, she said.
"But still there wasn't any time that it looked like he lost his balance, his grip. It was just a matter of him trying to figure out if it made more sense to back down or which way to go."
Once the bear was back on the ground and had sauntered off, Powell said it appeared the ravens were in mourning as they sat by the empty nest.
It was just heart-wrenching to see, she said.
"It was a very solemn, mournful scene."
Powell estimated the bear's climb up and descent took between 10 to 15 minutes in all. At the time, she was at a hunting camp set up in a transmission line clearcut along Highway 5, about a 15-minute drive from Fort Smith.
Powell, who is director of media relations with the firearms manufacturer O.F. Mossberg & Sons, was hosting an outdoor writer on a hunting trip. They and an outfitter were camping in
the NWT but hunting in Alberta. She said the three have decades of combined outdoor experience but neither had ever seen a bear climb a transmission tower.
"None of us could recall seeing anything just that incredible," she said.
Albert Bourque, the regional environmental co-ordinator for the South Slave with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said bears are well adapted to climbing, and he has previously seen signs they might climb transmission towers to get to nests.
"I'm originally from Fort Smith - that's my hometown - and I've gone up and down that highway many times in my life and I have seen evidence in the past where something had gotten at a raven's nest in a tower, where there were just remnants of the nest left behind and the materials that composed the nest were scattered on the ground underneath," Bourque said.
However, until the recent photos and video emerged, it was just a suspicion that bears were responsible.
"That confirms the suspicion of what was happening to those nests," he said.
In fact, as far as Bourque knows, there has never before been visual evidence of a bear climbing a transmission tower to get to a raven's nest. Black bears have been known to climb high into trees to get to eagles' nests.
Powell put some still images and the video of what she witnessed on her personal Facebook page.
The video quickly spread to a website for outdoorspeople, where it was viewed millions of times.
"It just so quickly went viral and continued to escalate and grow," Powell said. "I knew how amazing it was but I didn't think it would of that much interest to other people."
She has been contacted by numerous media outlets about the story, including from across Canada and the United States, and even the U.K.
As of May 28, the video had more than 112,000 views on the video-sharing website YouTube.