30 The Red Deer Rut
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308 The Red Deer Rut The Gorbusha River. Caves. A Bear Harvests Acorns. The Papigouza River. Red Deer. A Tiger Hunts Deer. A Torch. Return to Camp. The Gorbusha River (or Dunmatsa in Chinese) is 8 kilometers long and generally flows along a curve from the east to the south. It takes on a nameless tributary on its right side, not far from its mouth, along which there are a number of expansive caves. They are arranged in two tiers and descend in a spiral. These caves are made very interesting by the diversityofdeepshafts,passageways,andcolumn-likestalactites.Inside, bas-relief mineral formations droop from the walls alongside druse and massive calcite crystals.1 There is a smaller cave on the Gorbusha’s left bank, just opposite the mouth of Bezymyanny [“nameless”] Creek. We found many bones inside, as well as fresh tiger tracks in the soft, alluvial soil. After exploring these caves, we continued on. Thereare well-developedriverterracesthatstretchtheentirelength of the Gorbusha River valley; they alternate from one side of the river to the other. There was once an impressive mixed forest here, but this has now been destroyed by fire. It soon became clear that the Gorbusha River flows alongside the Sikhote-Alin, with its source practically at the divide. 1. Druse is a small fracture in rock that is layered with crystals (Parker 2003). 30 The Red Deer Rut 309 In the afternoon, Dersu and I went on ahead as usual. The trail ascendedtheslopeabitaftercrossingtheriver .Wesattheretotakeabreak. Istartedtochangemyfootwear,andDersuloadedsometobaccointohis pipe. He was about to put it to his mouth when he suddenly stopped and looked intently toward the forest. After a minute he laughed and said: “Clever fellow! He understand!” “Who?” I asked. Hepointedsilently.Ilookedinthedirectionheindicatedbutdidnot see anything. Dersu suggested I look up, in the trees, not on the ground. Then I noticed one tree shake for a moment, then again and again. We stoodandmovedforwardquietly.Sooneverythingbecameclear—there was an Asiatic black bear sitting in an oak tree feasting on acorns. This animal is significantly smaller in stature than the brown bear. Its maximum length is 1.8 meters, it is 0.7 meters tall at the shoulder, and it has a maximum weight of 160 kilograms.2 It has a shiny black coat with a white patch on its chest that extends to the neck. On rare occasions, individuals with fully white bellies (and sometimes even paws) are encountered . The animal’s head is cone-shaped, and it has small eyes and big ears. Long hairs around the head form a lush collar. Asiatic black bears den in the cavities of old-growth poplars. Consequently , their distribution is closely tied to the Manchurian flora. The northern boundary of their range roughly extends from the mouth of the Ussuri River to the source of the Iman River, and from there along the coast to Cape Olimpiada [“Olympics”]. Their primary food source in spring is sundew roots and butterbur leaves.3 In summer they favor acorns and berries from kolomikta vine and Amur chokecherry. In autumn they prefer hazel, Manchurian walnuts, Korean pine nuts, and wild apples. This bear species hibernates relatively early. Once it enters a tree cavity to hibernate, it gnaws a small hole above itself to act as a vent. The heat given off by the animal causes the fringes of this hole to 2. With increased study since Arsenyev’s time, larger measurements are now known for Asiatic black bears: they can reach 230 kilograms (very rarely up to 250 kilograms), reach 2 meters in length, and are up to a meter tall when on all fours (I. Serёdkin pers. comm.). 3. One bear biologist (Ivan Serёdkin) has never heard of Asiatic black bears feeding on sundew roots. 310 The 1906 Expedition collect frost, which is a tell-tale sign showing bear hunters which trees have their quarry in them. We walked closer to the bear by about a hundred paces, and then stopped to watch. “Clumsy” (as we nicknamed it) climbed to the top of the tree, where it had broken off branches and created a comfortable -looking “day bed” for itself.4 There were a number of acorns on the branchesyet,butoutofreach,sothebearshookthetreeandthenlooked downtowardtheground.Itsassessmentswereaccurate;theacornswere ripe (but not overly so) and had not yet dropped on their own. After a while, the bear descended and started to search among the grass under the tree. “What people are you?” Dersu shouted at it. The bear spun briskly with ears erect and inhaled deeply to smell the...


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Subject Headings

  • Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China) -- Description and travel.
  • Natural history -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
  • Dersu Uzala.
  • Arsenʹev, V. K. (Vladimir Klavdievich), 1872-1930 -- Travel -- Ussuri River Valley (Russia and China).
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