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Sunday, May 29, 2011

The bear mating season begins!

Last year, the bears started their emphatic mating season marking on May 30. This year, it appears that they started two days earlier.

A male, not the same one as marked a tree earlier this month, walked past a broken bear marking tree and toward another. Notice that he has no ear tags, unlike the one who we saw previously. That means that he hasn't been getting into birdfeeders or garbage.
Then, he went into full back-rubbing mode. Look at his huge paws in the air and his mouth wide open. I wish that my camera had audio because I'd guess that he was making some interesting noises, kind of like a dog ecstatically wriggling on his back. His goal was to advertise that he was a big handsome male searching for a sow in heat. Based on my reading, I'd guess that he was urinating as he did this whole display to add to the olfactory message.
He then walked about a mile and passed another of my cameras. I made a flipbook video of his antics which you can watch below or at Youtube.
The spot where he marked is the same spot where I captured photos of the bear sow and cubs the other day. Pip asked why a male bear would harm cubs. I don't think that anyone truly knows the answer to that question but some scientists have guessed that a male bear will kill cubs to send the mothers into estrus. That would make the sow available to mate with him and give him a chance to pass his genes to a new generation.

Also, Pip asked about how long bear cubs stay with their mothers. A female bear mates in May-June, and the fertilized eggs stay in "suspended animation" until she goes into hibernation in late fall. If she's fat and healthy, the fertilized egg will implant in the wall of the uterus while she's in the den. The cubs are born in January. Then, they stay with their mom for about 17 months. They spend their first summer, fall, and winter with her. The yearling cubs and mother emerge from hibernation together. In late May when the sow's hormones tell her that it's mating season, she separates from the yearling cubs so that she can find a mate. She spends the rest of that summer alone and drives away her yearling cubs if she sees them lurking too close to her.

Female cubs will spend their lives in the same area as their mother, carving out a part of their mother's territory as their own. For that reason, I think that we may see the female cub from the den that I monitored in early 2010 cruising for a mate in our area this mating season (that "cub" is now more than 2 years old and is probably sexually mature). In contrast, male cubs travel far away to establish independent territories so we won't see the male cub cruising our paths.

If the bear action calms down, I still want to post more about our desert trip. For the moment, we are enjoying what feels almost like spring here. K and I have been enjoying our mountain bike rides and hikes together while R is resting, trying to let his paw heal. Thanks for all of your good wishes for him. I think that he's recovering well - and the remaining big questions are how fast we'll be able to eradicate the nailbed/bone infection that had already started and whether the nail will grow back even vaguely normally. Only time will tell.

From the desert (where there are no bears but there are lots of beautiful vistas)...


  1. Another really interesting post with great pictures!!! But all I could think of in watching the video was the bear was getting ready to 'romp and roll in the rockies...' Sorry, I know it's a bad joke! :-)))

  2. Thanks for sharing things that many of us will never have the opportunity to see in real life.

    Enjoy the great days to come as my Vickie says the weather is going to change for the good in the coming week.


  3. Hi Y'all,

    Hope y'all are enjoying the Memorial Day weekend.

    Wonderful pics of the bear!

    Glad to hear R is healing...hope quickly. So sorry about his nail.

    We'll be heading to the mountains for a few days later in the week. I imagine our bear on the ridge behind our house there will be mating this year.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  4. Great and interesting post. Thanks for answering Pip's questions. We enjoyed learning more about baby bear making:)

    What a beautiful photo of K! All good thoughts for R to heal well.

  5. In addition to all da beootiful fotos on dis blog, mom and me always learn sumptin' new when we visits here. :)
    Just hearing about R's injury :( I am sendin' puppy prayers to him to helps him feel better!

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  6. so cool, love the video and pictures from your spy camera you have set up in the woods.
    Benny & Lily

  7. I can't stop giggling over that bear picture! I just keep imagining a Tarzan yell coming out of his mouth while he's doing all that rolling around. I guess there are lots of reasons to look forward to bear mating season!

    Are you sure R doesn't have SLO? He sure seems to have a lot of nail problems, the poor guy! I hope he's not down for the count for too long.

    K looks like the desert agrees with her, although I don't think she looks bad anywhere!

  8. That photo looks like the bear is in a testosterone-driven frenzy! I have to smile just looking at it! Good one, KB! Glad you're having spring-like temps. Send some to Breck!

  9. The big bear is beautiful and with that dance,,, I am sure he attracted a lot of sows to come visit.!
    He is so beautiful and your photos are fantastic

  10. Thanks for educating me on the ways of bears! My heart dropped when you said she drives them away at a certain age. I know this is nature's way, but it is still so sad to think about!

    Your pal, Pip

  11. Most interesting post, as always. Hope the bear cubs survive until it's time to leave home.

    So sorry about R's injury. Hope he's better.

    Dream Valley Ranch's URL is not available; are they ok?

  12. Thinkin who needs tv at your house? ;)

    Great natural entertainment. Fun! Thanks for sharing :)

    Waggin at ya,

  13. That bear sure knows how to mark a tree. Looks like it feels good too. Must not be easy to be a mom bear and have to watch out for those randy he-bears wanting to get her cubs.

    Mango Momma

  14. Great video of the bear...I just enjoy watching your wildlife so much! Gorgeous shot of K...and so glad to hear R is healing.

  15. You always have such wonderful posts!! Those bears are very interesting to watch although I wouldn't want to run into one!! Love the pictures! Lots of love, Debbie & Holly

  16. I do love the bear photographs! Glad you also gave us a glimpse of your beautiful K.

  17. Captivating post and photos.

    A joy to read and view.

  18. K looks so dreamy in that last photo! "Do we HAVE to go home to winter?!?"

    That bear certainly has character. One of my coworkers passed by while I was looking at the video and had me play the whole thing again. He said your videos are incredible! I agree.


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