It was a balmy 60 degrees when we pulled off the road in a remote section of the Ouachita National Forest in Southeast Oklahoma. I was following Morgan Pfander and Erica Perez, both researcher students from Oklahoma State University (OSU). Sara Lyda, a Senior Research Specialist with OSU, rode with me. She held a wealth of bear knowledge that I wanted to extract. She had conducted the first official research about bears in Oklahoma 10 years prior. I was all ears. “I love my job.” She said. “We’re the luckiest people in the world. Every time we get to do this I feel so blessed.”
When the truck rolled to a stop, the team prepared their operation with the seriousness of a Navy Seal team. They had a lot of bear gear. GPS units, batteries, trail cameras, tranquilizing drugs, bear collars, tiny temperature gauges, tarps, bear spray, syringes and jab sticks filled their backpacks. They were literally “loaded for bear.” Morgan looked up and said, “There’s a spot about hundred yards down where we can cross the creek.” She’d been to the den the week before and had mapped out a route to the radio-collared sow. It was a little less than a mile, straight up the mountain.
“This sow is young and we don’t think she has cubs,” she said. “With bears that don’t have cubs, we’re mainly doing denning ecology stuff. We’re