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Monday, December 7, 2015

Norway Adventure Part II: Lierne

Jan's cabin
It has been many months since I wrote Norway Adventure Part I: The Muskox and I decided I couldn't delay any longer. This post will focus on the second half of our trip, after leaving Kongsvoll. Our train ride to Grong was beautiful. We arrived on time and met our host for the next five days, Jan Totsas. We rented a cabin complete with sauna, mountain bikes and canoe on a private lake.

Jan has a beautiful set up and he was a fantastic host. He loves wildlife, American cars and metal music. He took us fishing on the lake. If you watch the video, you will see we had a fantastic time and caught more than enough for dinner. Laura and I took the mountain bikes out and discovered some young mountain hares.
Young mountain hare Norway
Mountain Hare

Norwegian Mountain Hares
Hares are born precocial. That means they are well-developed at birth: eyes open, fully furred and mobile. Compare that with rabbits which are born altricial: eyes closed, naked and helpless. So these hares were pretty young. They were everywhere. I used the GoPro to take this video of young mountain hares.

Norwegian Troll
One evening we biked to a stream hoping for beaver. We parked our bikes near the statues of trolls (apparently a Norwegian invention) and headed across the meadow. We didn't find any fresh beaver sign but had great sightings of moose, red fox and lots of birds. But it was the bike ride home that produced our best sighting. With Danika in the lead and Laura second, I somehow managed to miss seeing the European pine marten that crossed the road in front of us. It would have been a new mammal for me and an exciting addition to our trip list. Even Jan was impressed!

The gnats were fierce once the sun went down but fortunately for us the days were long. We went to bed knowing that tomorrow was our best chance to see a brown bear.

In Norwegian, this is an Elg. In English, it is a Moose
Norway, July 2015

The Van Niel family in Norway
July 2014
Our last full day before we headed home, it rained. And rained. This was our day to look for bears and bear sign. The bear sign was going to be easy to locate but the bears themselves proved elusive. Jan took us to a location where the bear sign was heavy. We went to a well-known area that contained numerous trees that were bit and scratched along a path. The path included places where the bears had stepped and re-stepped int he same spots so that well-worn footfalls were present. I would call this area a "ritual trail" and I have studied the ones made by black bears here in the US. If you are interested in learning more, check out these posts. They didnt photograph well and I have included no pictures here.

This first photo is a tree that has been bitten and scratched. The purpose of the markings is not entirely clear. Bears are not really territorial. 

Brown bear bites and scratches
Norway, July 2014
Here is a single bite mark on a sapling that tore a nice chip from this tree. Note the wood fibers that were torn by the bear's canine teeth. If you look VERY close you can see that the fibers point towards the center indicating canines moving in both directions rather than say a bullet grazing the tree and moving in one direction.
The clean bite of a brown bear.
Norway, July 2014
Brown bear hair left while rubbing
Norway, July 2014
On our way back to the vehicle Jan took me to a sandy hill with some older tracks that further suffered from rain. I sure wish we had seen these tracks when they were fresh. But I did my best to photograph these older sandy tracks. The closest track is a front. The next is a rear.
Old brown bear tracks in sand
Norway, July 2015
We had a fantastic time in Norway. We only saw nine species of mammals but most were new for me. We structured the first part of our trip around the musk ox and our second half around the area with the bear sign.

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