K and I had a glorious hike, under bluebird skies with towering snowy mountains watching over us. I spent almost the whole hike without my neck brace, and I can literally feel my neck muscles relearning how to control my head movements. The docs and PT have emphasized that important muscles for controlling my head motion were cut during my fusion surgery. As the muscles heal, my body must relearn how to use them. In any case, I can feel that process speeding along.
K had to use her neck muscles to look over her shoulder at the view today.Then, K impishly surveyed the top of Hug Hill and created a new trick. I love when she takes initiative and then looks so proud of herself!After returning from our hike and completing my indoor bike ride, I spent hours researching bear hibernation. I'll save the fun details for later since I'm short of time today but I'd like to finish recounting our den visit from yesterday.
First, yesterday I thought that I hadn't seen a trace of the yearling cub. However, upon closer examination of my first photo into the bear den, I realized that I could see the yearling cub in the background. In fact, Stella alerted me to it, by pointing out that she'd seen a pair of eyes when she magnified the photo. When I looked hard, I felt certain that it was the cub's eyes and not the mom's. Part of the reason is that mom has lost the fur around her eyes (see yesterday's photos) probably due to a common dermatitis that some bears get during hibernation. The eyes visible in the photo below don't have the same tan circles around them as the mom's eyes have. Click on the photo to magnify it.As we approached the den yesterday, we realized that a bear had walked out of the den (upper right corner of photo) very recently. Paw prints tromped out and a spot of deep yellow urine had melted a tunnel down into the snow. Deep yellow indicates a lack of hydration but the fact that the bear urinated at all is surprising. Yes, now I have photos of urine on my blog as well as scat - more ammunition for my funny friends.Bear's bodies have special tricks to recycle the toxins that are usually excreted in urine so that bears can go all winter without drinking or urinating. I'm a little surprised that the sow has been eating snow and peeing. I'm going to do more research to find out if scientists have observed that some bears do these things during hibernation - so far I haven't found reports of bears getting up to pee.
In the video below, the sow emerges from the den on the evening after a warm day. Because of the darkness, she spotted the red light emitted by my infrared camera. She seemed rattled by the new sight. However, after exiting the den very cautiously, she took care of business. It fascinated me how she walked to almost the identical spot to urinate as on 2/17/10, propping her hind paws on a log so that her urine didn't soil her fur. I wonder if she's used this den for a number of years and has figured out the ideal routine for a quick pee outside the den.
Now, I must patiently wait, letting our bears hibernate in peace. Believe it or not, that waiting is hard for me - I love being in the presence of the powerful bear souls.