A while back, I asked you all for some advice on how I should spend my summer: working at a vet clinic, or interning with a grizzly bear research project? I followed your resounding advice, and now here I am. Halfway through the internship, I find myself a little wiser, a bit more stoic, and more bug bitten than ever before.
A typical day on the bear crew involves navigating poorly mapped Forest Service roads, hiking miles of trail with my partner if I’m lucky, or bushwhacking through the woods if not. Once we reach our desired location, we wrestle barbed wire into a circle around some trees and pour out bear lure, which is cattle blood and fish guts. It acquires quite a delicate perfume after a year of fermenting. Two weeks later we return to the same spot and collect the hair left behind after the bears have held a party there.
If any of you wildlife lovers out there find yourselves embarking on a life of field work (or any summer seasonal job), here are a few things to expect:
- You will be pushed to your very limit. At least, I know I am. I would never before have considered climbing 12 miles over a mountain pass buried in snow drifts. Having such an outdoor job means you will work regardless of whether it’s freezing rain, a blizzard, or 100+ degrees. All for the sake of collecting bear hair!
- You will make mistakes. Such as getting lost for three hours while bushwhacking across a mountainside because you forgot your GPS (don’t try that one, just take my word for it). Or failing to bring your gloves, and having to handle bear lure with your bare hands. Watch out for that pesky blood poisoning!
- A sense of humor (usually twisted) is key. I’m fortunate enough to work with an awesome partner who is great at making me laugh at myself. This is essential when you slide twenty feet down a mountain and rip the entire backside of your pants. I do my part by ducking when the hammer and nails start flying and my partner curses like a sailor.
- You won’t regret a thing. I’m meeting new people, learning about wildlife, swimming in freezing alpine lakes and streams, and sleeping out in a tent with some animal chewing all night long somewhere near my head. On my days off, I might go rock-climbing or kayaking, or pass out on a couch somewhere. No matter how bruised, beaten, and scratched up I get, at the end of the day I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Thirty seconds later, I’m asleep.
We're so proud and jealous of this adventurous Sparkler! Does this summer job sound appealing to you?