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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bears and a ridge hike

I've got bear fever - I can't forget my moments at the den or the precious video of the sow coming outside the den that I've posted on the past two days.

I realized that it was fascinating that NO other animals visited the bear den even just to sniff the entrance. I expected to see at least a few, perhaps a cat or coyote. However, the other forest animals left the bears in peace.

I also have researched other den observations to find out whether other bears exit the den to relieve themselves. I've found reports of bears exiting and then eating snow or defecating. However, I haven't yet found any reports of urination. It seems like a crazy thing to be researching but I really want to know whether something's going awry with our sow's health. Several of you mentioned insulin and possible diabetes, and that's one of the issues that I'm researching. So far, the various studies don't completely agree with each other - so I'm working on distilling a common conclusion.

Several of you commented on my last two posts about the danger of going so near a den, especially one containing a sow with a cub. Yet, I never felt afraid in my last two visits. I think that the main reason is that the bears are deeply sleepy. In fact, in my videos of the sow exiting the den for brief periods, she moved in slow motion, probably because her heart rate and respiratory rate were still sloth-like. A bear can't rev up her metabolism to normal levels very rapidly.

I think that a second factor might be at work. The sow and yearling have seen me three times now, and I wonder if they recognized me. I felt certain that, if I'd relaxed tranquilly by the den on Friday, the sow would've simply snoozed and ignored me. According to researchers at the North American Bear Center, a bear can learn to recognize individual people - and remember whether that person was a threat in the past. According to the anecdotal reports of those researchers, bears do NOT generalize this trust to all people but limit it to the individual who they know. I hope that's true.

At that Bear Center, they've placed a live video camera inside the den of a bear who gave birth to a cub earlier this year. Most of the time, the live feed shows a deeply sleeping mama bear with the cub hidden underneath her. She breathes so slowly, only a few times a minute, that it's sometimes hard to tell that she's alive.

However, they also have a gallery of video clips of the more interesting moments.

Today, our whole pack climbed up to a ridge that I frequently ride on my mountain bike. Of course, I haven't ridden it in close to two months. But, it's one of my favorite ridges close to our house with stupendous views to the west...
... and to the east.
K had never visited this trail despite how often I mountain bike on it because it's too far from home to ride to it with her. She and I tend to ride on the trails accessible directly from our house. I have a serious aversion to driving someplace to go for a bike ride!
The snow conditions varied dramatically, from no snow... packed snow that R sprinted across... deep loose snow that K porpoised through.
The Labraduo frolicked in the intense rays from the sun, arcing so high in the sky these days. Notice the short shadows of the dogs in the previous photos.
And then, both panted to cool off after sprinting around like puppies.
Being a dark colored dog in the intense Colorado sun can lead to getting hot very easily!
No doubt, spring-time is sneaking up on us. However, I looked back at my photos from March 7 a few years ago, and we had a fresh 2 ft of snow. March and April frequently bring us our biggest snow storms, like last April's 4' of heavy wet snow. So, the forecast is uncertain, except that it will eventually be spring. And, I intend to ride my bike in the spring! There's no stopping me!


  1. Bear Fever!

    That is certainly better than swine or bird flu!

    Thanks for sharing what you've discovered through your research!

    Of course, the great pics were nice too!

  2. I'd say you have a serious case of bear fever! I do hope that the bear is fine.

    I love the pictures of K and R having fun today! They're both just so gorgeous!

  3. I am so with you - some of our biggest storms have arrived in April. But it's nice to dream isn't it?
    It sounds like I need to befriend our local bears to be safe biking this year. If you don't hear from me again, know that I did my best. ;)

  4. I enjoyed your mountain views both east and west. I, too, have an aversion to driving my bike somewhere to ride! We mostly leave from the house. That warm sun on the dogs surely signals spring (unless we get a dreaded spring snow storm!). Bob skied with 4 of the Grankids today and said it was "warm" and sunny. Good night, KB - I've finally caught up with the posts I've missed!

  5. I'm having trouble with the bears
    "knowing" you. Remember that Treadwell (?) guy who thought all the grizzlies knew him? I have heard of too many wild critters who Knew somebody and then forgot them all of a sudden. So bear fever or no, be you very careful, please!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  6. i find the bears movements fascinating too! i bet some animal biologist would find your videos fascinating as well!
    hope we get some info on the urinating activity....
    looked like a beauty of a weekend in CO...
    hope your week is equally beautiful!

  7. If the weather here is anything to go by you may be on the receiving end of more snow. It was 20 degrees yesterday and today we've had 3 inches of crisp, white powdery snow. So much for this mornings forecast that winter had gone for good. Love the picture with the two of them carrying the stick.

  8. Again...amazing footage in the previous post and beautiful pictures in this one! It must be an incredible feeling being so close to something so wild and so special.
    Hope the pain levels are manageable.
    Love from your friends in SA

  9. Such neat info on bears, KB. I'm always learning on your blog.

    The picture on K and R with their stick made my morning! I'd be curios as to how you handle outings with your dogs during warmer months. Do your mornings and evenings stay cool enough during the summer to not have to worry about the dogs overheating? A few days ago, Kona belly flopped onto a pile of shady grass on our run. She stayed there panting for nearly five minutes. It was only 65 degrees, which makes me worry about summertime.

    I can't wait to read your first Spring bike post!

  10. Love your attitude. There's no stopping you. It fits your personality :) I'm have bear fever too. I'm off to watch the link. I can't get enough. Thank you

  11. Sorry - just catching up on blogs from the past several days. Somewhere between work, dealing with things around my father's health, and the normal course of life, I have just gotten behind.

    But I loved the bear videos (and laughed at the reference to urine in the snow - these funny friends will file it away for a future parody).

    Really enjoyed seeing your hints of spring. We have gotten really warm in the last few days and our snow is melting rapidly. But I know better than to relax and assume spring is here. Mother Nature loves to lull us into relaxation.

  12. Stella: Don't worry, I'm no Treadwell. That guy was nuts. Researchers have actually climbed into dens with hibernating bears for years to collect data. The bears are so sleepy that no one has been seriously hurt. Now, I have no plans to climb in with them but all of the information available on denning black bears says that my little project is very safe!

    AC: I find that K starts complaining about the 'heat' at around 60 deg or so. In the summer, we get out very early. And, if it's warm, I douse her in water before the ride. Then, I give her drinks from my camelbak as regularly as I drink. It's a huge concern. We have no water to ride near around here but a perfect solution would be to plan your route so it passes streams and ponds frequently. If Kona seems to be panting too much, go to one asap. When I lived in CA, I trained my dogs to jump into horse drinking troughs to cool off. It really worked!!

    Anyway, it's a huge concern, and you're right to worry about it. A dog can overheat and die very fast if you're not paying attention.

  13. Your sounding more energetic and ready for the next challenge. I hope we can keep up with you.


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