“It seems to me they all want to see a black bear,” she said. “I feel like there’s a big association of the Adirondacks with bears.”
Opportunities to see wild animals abound in the Park, but miles of wilderness also make a good hiding place. Although fall is typically the season when large mammals are more active, finding mates and searching out food to pack on the pounds for the long winter, some Adirondack wildlife remain elusively out of view of the public.
Just about the only time a bear will come into contact with humans is when humans are providing a food source, said state Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife biologist Joe Racette, who works out of the DEC’s Ray Brook office.
“They will move off before you even approach them, before you even see them,” Racette said. “Your chances of seeing a bear in the natural habitat are slim unless you have good stalking skills and lots of patience.”
Last fall, a cow moose was a roadside attraction near the Cascade Ski Center, just outside of Lake Placid. At the time, several people commented that the return of the animals, which had been extirpated from the area in the 1800s, would be a boon for tourism. But James McKenna, president of the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau said seeing wildlife is not a deciding factor when visitors are planning a vacation to the Park.
“It’s something people ask about, but it doesn’t seem to be a driver,” he said. “It didn’t come up in our research as a component.”
McKenna added that using iconic Adirondack wildlife as a marketing tool is tricky. An encounter with wildlife is something that is impossible to guarantee to a visitor. Still, McKenna said the resurgence of moose and recent stories about a local bear named Yellow-Yellow that can open supposedly bear-proof canisters, have piqued visitors’ interest.
“We have the smartest bears in the country,” he said.
One animal lover in Wilmington has set up a motion-sensored camera in his backyard to try to get a glimpse of the wildlife that lives near his home. On the night of Feb. 19, 2009, Steve Corvelli’s Dead Eye trail camera captured three images of common but rarely seen wildlife: a fisher and a coyote. Although Corvelli has been living in the area for 10 years, he had never seen a fisher until his camera caught one wandering through his property at about 11 p.m. that night.
“It’s just a fun thing to do to see what’s roaming around at night,” he said. “I do not hunt. I just wanted to see what wildlife was out there.”
The “Corvelli Critter Camera” has also taken photos of a red fox, a raccoon and a white-tailed deer. Corvelli and his wife Maria are both lovers of nature (Maria works with Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, a rehabilitation and education center in Wilmington) for whom viewing wildlife is a hobby.
The Corvellis have even admired a bear that found its way onto their deck, attracted by a forgotten bird-feeder, Corvelli said. There’s still one animal that has escaped Corvelli’s camera lens.
“I’m dying to see a moose,” he said. “I’ve never seen a moose.”
Observing animals, it seems, has long been a part of Adirondack tourism. At Santa’s Workshop in Wilmington, a favorite kids activity is feeding rye crackers to Santa’s reindeer. Holderied said she remembers a Lake Placid attraction from her childhood called “Home of 1,000 Animals.”
“They had these big, tall pedestals and the bears would climb up and sit,” she said. “It was like a zoo, but you could feed them. It was such a hoot because you’d drive by and the bears would often be up on those platforms.”
In the wild, Holderied has only seen a black bear twice — once while running and once while riding her bike. Although black bears and moose may be the most famous and popular Adirondack wildlife, Holderied said many of her guests are happy viewing less glamourous species, even the mallard ducks that frequent the Golden Arrow’s beach.
“People get incredibly excited about the loons on Mirror Lake,” she said. “I get asked almost every day what kind of fish are in the lake. Beaver dams are something I think children, in particular, find fascinating. It’s because they don’t have it where they live.”
Fact BoxFall wildlife viewing tips: Wildlife, particularly deer and moose, are more active during the fall since it will soon be their breeding season. Racette advises drivers to slow down during dawn and dusk to avoid a collision with these animals. Since deer often travel in groups, slow down when you see one because there are likely more close behind.
White-tailed Deer: Deer are common throughout most of the Park, and can be seen, especially in fields or near water, at dawn and dusk. “If you’re up early in the morning, you don’t have to look hard to find a deer.” Racette said.
Moose: Moose can be spotted feeding in marshy, swampy areas. Although a moose attacking a human is unusual, Racette said if a mother perceives you as a threat to her calf, you could be in danger. Observe these animals from a distance, do not approach them and if a moose displays signs of agitation or aggression, move away slowly. The real danger with moose, Racette said is that because of their large size, a vehicle collision could prove fatal for the moose and motorist, making it important to slow down at night in known moose territory.
Black Bears: Bears are seldom seen in the wild unless they are seeking human food. If you do spot one, admire it from a distance and don’t try to attract it. Racette likes to remind people that a fed bear is a dead bear. People providing a food source for a bear has been blamed for most of the eight “nuisance” bear killings in the Adirondack Park this summer.
Coyotes: The Eastern Coyote is the only Adirondack animal that would be considered at all dangerous, Racette said, since there have been reports of coyotes attacking humans or pets. Still, he said the chances of having a negative encounter with one is slim. If a coyote becomes habituated to a human-created food source, like garbage, they could become habituated, lose their fear of humans and would have to be trapped and destroyed, Racette said.
Geese: Now is also the time migratory birds are on the move, Racette said. Keep an eye and an ear out for honking Canada geese flying south.