Two straight seasons of sub-quota mountain lion hunts suggest the Black Hills puma population is declining.

To keep the Hills thrill quotient high, here come bears:

Wyatt McCoy lives on the banks of the Belle Fourche River.

During the comings and goings of his young life he has seen all of the usual wildlife residents cross the roads in his headlight. Coons hop and bounce, porcupines waddle, coyote and fox lope, and bobcat and lions slink. But last week, he tells his folks that two black bear cubs crossed the road using the curious side-to side shuffle of bear that is distinct to their species [Bob Speirs, "Black Bears Returning to the Black Hills," South Dakota Hunting, 2014.10.09].

Bears! Black bears! Holy sh—

On the same weekend, while guiding an elk hunter along the Wyoming border I discovered further evidence.

We were scanning the trails for two days straight and categorizing all of the sign we came across. The unusual sign we discovered was chalk white, filled with hair, acorns, and bits of bone. I’d seen the same droppings in my several years of hunting around the borders of Glacier Park in Montana. My hunter has taken perhaps a dozen bear hunts during his life in Manitoba, Alaska, and Russia. We both recognized bear sign [Speirs, 2014.10.09].

Hey, Bomgaars! Better start stocking bear-proof trash cans.Kevin Woster reported on the possibility of black bears re-establishing habitat in the Black Hills after a false bear sighting near Keystone in 2010. Speirs says that new logging practices are clearing ponderosa overgrowth and opening more ground for acorn-producing oaks and other plant life that can feed those hungry bears. Expect Betty Olson to propose a bear-hunting season any day now....