Hamilton County Outdoors
By Ron Kolodziej

Black bear Number 56 died of natural causes

Back in July we discussed what was alleged to be the oldest -- or at least one of the oldest -- wild black bears in the United States. Affectionately known as Number 56, the number on the tag it received in 1981 when it was seven years old, the sow was 39-1/2 years old when it recently died of natural causes.

It was found by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources employees in a shady wooded spot where any bear would likely take an afternoon nap. Unfortunately, it never awoke from that nap. By the time she passed away, she was hard of hearing and her eyesight had faded as well. Her sense of smell was none too good either.

Between 1981 and 1995, Number 56 produced eight litters of cubs and successfully reared 21 of the 22 cubs to at least 18 months of age. For many years she was essentially off-limits to hunters, and they respected the DNR's request that she not be shot during the Minnesota hunting season. In recent years she had taken to occasionally visiting bait sites, but hunters who saw her would not shoot even though baiting is legal in Minnesota. Rest in peace, Number 56.


A 20-member New York state firefighting crew that traveled to Montana to assist in containing the Lolo Creek Complex wildfires returned safely to New York recently. The massive fires in Yosemite National Park received most of the attention from the press but the Montana conflagrations were no less threatening.

The crew, comprised of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers, employees and volunteers, had been working to contain the 10,900-acre wildfires outside Missoula, Mont. for the past two weeks.

The team joined crews from other states in battling the wildfires, which had grown from approximately 3,000 acres to more than 8,500 acres over a three-day period and threatened approximately 1,200 residences. When the New York team arrived there were approximately 80 firefighters and support personnel assigned to the fire, but that number rose to more than 500 as the wildfires spread.

The New York team assisted in creating control lines to contain the wildfires, clear materials from the path of the fires and protect residences. The crew worked in rough terrain and endured daily temperatures that approached 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

All personnel and travel expenses of the New York crew are either paid directly by the U.S. Forest Service or are reimbursed to New York based on a mutual aid agreement between states and federal land agencies.

Following their two-week stint in Montana, the crew was flown back to Manchester, N.H. and rested overnight before boarding buses for their return home Friday morning. The New York crew included rangers, employees and volunteers from across New York state. THE CREW

Members of the crew included:

Forest Ranger William Meehan, crew boss, Schuyler County; Forest Ranger Kevin Slade, squad boss, Suffolk County; Forest Ranger Ian Kerr, squad boss, Fulton County; Forest Ranger William Giraud, squad boss, Cortland County; Forest Ranger Justin Thaine, squad boss trainee, Allegany County; James Canevari, DEC Lands & Forests, sawyer, St. Lawrence County; Donald Nelson, DEC Materials Management, firefighter, Onondaga County; Anthony Leung, DEC Division of Water, firefighter, Suffolk County; Kraig Senter, volunteer, firefighter, Cayuga County; Matthew Vincent, volunteer, firefighter, Essex County; Christopher Sprague, DEC Lands & Forests, sawyer, Chenango County; Stephanie Larkin, DEC Fish & Wildlife, firefighter, Suffolk County; Teresa Copa, DEC Citizens Participation Specialist, firefighter, Suffolk County; Tyler Briggs, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, squad boss trainee, Albany County; Mark Solan, DEC Pesticides, firefighter, Saratoga County; Steven Brown, DEC Operations, sawyer, Delaware County; Joshua Utberg, DEC Remediation, firefighter, Schenectady County; Eric Kasza, DEC Lands & Forests, firefighter, Saratoga County; Aaron Graves, DEC Lands & Forests, firefighter, St. Lawrence County; and Paul Giachetti, DEC Division of Minerals, firefighter, Monroe County.