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Friday, June 3, 2011

Bear family breaking up

I had a restful summertime breakfast with K and R snoozing at my feet, birds singing, and warm sun on my back. Yes, it's historic - I had breakfast on the deck - a favorite summertime tradition!

Then, K and I headed out for a mountain bike ride. We both had lots of fun but her energy lagged a bit.
I'd been noticing subtle signs of a recurrence of her urinary tract infection (the UTI saga started in late April) so both she and R went to the vet this afternoon. We discovered that K has a particularly nasty UTI and is now taking the cadillac of antibiotics to try to finally eradicate it. R's improvement since his surgery has slowed so he's continuing his antibiotics.

Maybe a wing of the Vet Hospital should be named after us?

Yesterday, I started to tell the story of a bear family breakup that is underway. I've captured images at several wildlife cameras that have given me a decent idea of what is going on.

This was the first image - a very small bear who I've never seen before approaching a bear whammy tree - a tree that bears mark by rubbing their backs on it. This marking gets most emphatic during mating season, which is now. To see how grown-up bears mark this tree, check out this post if you missed it.
This little guy, who I've dubbed "Socks", didn't seem to know how to mark the tree. The yearling got up on his/her hind legs, pawing and sniffing the tree. Then, Socks departed, heading east.
Late that afternoon, Socks passed another bear hot spot (there's a whammy tree in the background). He was just two minutes behind a bobcat who also passed this spot. I've never captured images of two different large mammal species so close together.

First the bobcat..
Then Socks followed almost on his heels.
But, before Socks was out of the camera's view, he/she turned around and headed eastward again.
Later that night, more than a mile west of the spot where Socks was in the late afternoon, a big bear passed a wildlife camera.
Trailing just behind the big bear, a Socks-look-alike walked past the camera (the resemblance is more obvious in other photos, included in the video below).
Then, to my utter surprise, yet another bear followed the sow and her yearling cub. This bear is a male who I've seen around for years. He does the most dramatic "cowboy walk" that I've ever seen, accentuated by his black and huge furry paws on the end of his relatively skinny legs. I've always thought of him as "The Cowboy".
I am fairly certain that this trio was Socks' mother, Socks' sibling, and a male who wanted to mate with Socks' mother. I'm not sure whether a male would harm a yearling cub who is traveling with a sow. I need to do some research to find out. However, I do know that the usual pattern is for the sow to drive away her yearling cubs before she starts attracting male suitors.

The next day, Socks was still more than a mile east of where his/her mother had passed the camera the previous night. Socks seemed to be circling in a very small area and repeatedly passing one camera.

In the morning...

In the afternoon...

Then, the following morning, Socks was still in the same very small radius. I wonder if this is where Socks last saw his/her mother.

Socks posed for the camera...
Then, Socks headed east.
It will be very interesting to see how long Socks stays in the same area. It's a hot area for mating bears so I suspect that it is a dangerous area for a young bear like Socks.

It's odd that I never caught this sow and her cubs on a camera last summer. They must have been in a different, perhaps safer, area when the cubs were very young.

I've compiled all the photos into a "flipbook" video that you can watch here or at Youtube.
I wonder if we'll see Socks again in the near future. I love my wildlife cameras - I'd have no idea that this drama was underway without them.


  1. Oh this is sad! I am worried about poor Socks!

    Your pal, Pip

  2. We know it is the way of nature for the family to break up, but it is sort of sad when we think about it. Guess we are still hung up on the story of Goldilocks:)

    No trouble with this post at all. Guess it was just some odd glitch.

    Have a great weekend.

  3. I am with the others. This is kind of sad. You feel bad for the little guy suddenly tossed into the world on his own.

    I hope he does what you said he should do and moves on to a safer area, but I will miss him.

    I like the Cowboy bear. I love that you know all your bears and you can walk us through their history.


  4. I love your wildlife camera too. Somehow the cowboy swagger reminds me a bit of our not to say it.

    I think you should seriously think about doing a book from the photographs. You have been able to capture amazing footage that few have been fortunate enough to see.

    Hope the duo get back to normal soon.

  5. Ohhhhhhhhhh... poor dear Socks! (Anthropomorphic us, but it's hard not to worry about him!) Know this must happen every Spring/early summer to countless #s of yearling bears, but it's hard to take! Hope he gets up some courage and learns the ropes in the high altitude of CO mts. You are incredible, KB, to put these marvelous vids and pix together for us bloggers! Incredible!
    Sammie, Ava and Mom

  6. He is just prowling around, he likes the neighborhood, wants a 2 BR w/vu . . .

    I know last year you were reading the blog of the Northern Minnesota Bear people, near Ely. Do you ever share pix or findings with them? Maybe too far away and too different areas?

    I'm thankin' you too for all these great photos!


    Jo, Stella and Zkhat

  7. "Cadillac of antibiotics" I know how expensive that can be. Maybe a wing for your pack would be appropriate!

    Bear drama is pretty exciting - such activity!

  8. I feel sad for Socks! I know it's all part of growing up, but sheesh! Do male and female bears both mark the whammy trees? I always thought it was just the males who did that!

    K and R, I hope you're both feeling better soon!

  9. We hope both the furbabies are feeling better with antibiotic treatments underway (and believe me we understand the vet wing thought).

    Even though it is the bear cycle of life the "momma" in me finds it sad that he is just suddenly pushed out of the nest and must fend for himself...probably a good thing I don't have human children, huh?

  10. Mom is totally loving the bear 'soap opera' as she calls it. "And these...are the bears...of our lives...". BOL!

    It is sad for Socks, growing up and becoming independent is tough! But think of the new cub that will be produced as part of this exciting drama!

    on a side note...have you tried giving K daily doses of cranberry tablets to help ward off her bladder infections? Either that or homemade kefir added to her food might help as well. Just a few things to think about if you haven't already.

    wags, wiggles & slobbers

  11. What would you call the wing at the hospital ? The romping and rolling wing ? Has a nice , positive , sound to it !

  12. Wonderful bear shots. We hope that Socks will figure things out soon.

    Sorry that both K&R are under the weather. Let's hope the meds will put everyone back to 100% very soon!


  13. When my vets office opened another one, I wondered to myself if the reason they were able to was because I brought all of my fosters there and my own dogs....

    Your pictures and posts really are amazing!! I didn't know that about the bears, and like you, I am pulling for young Socks instincts to kick in and for him to find his way in the world and stop walking in circles!

  14. I hope little Socks will be OK and not get into trouble with the big bears. Poor K (and your poor wallet). Those infections are so persistent.


  15. Breakfast on the deck! Summer has finally arrived....for now!
    Go Socks go!
    Hope the pack is feeling better! Naming a wing in the hospital would be nice.....:)

  16. We understand the wing at the vet. We know we are a priority customer at our vet. Sort of like a frequent flyer program.

    We are rooting for Socks, but realize we may never hear the end of the story.

  17. Skyrocketing vet bills...yikes....they know what they are doing...maybe a cap should be put on these fellers!
    The activity in your neighbourhood almost need stop lights!

  18. Those pictures are so cool!

    Mom was reading something a way back that said if you give your pup a little orange juice, it can help prevent UTI's. She doesn't know how true this is, but next time you are at your vet you may want to ask. We hope she has a speedy recovery!


  19. We hear you when it comes to giving vets green papers! Momma says that the expansion to the building should be named after us - we think so, too!

  20. Come on socks!!!! Find your way!!

  21. I'm sure Socks will be fine. Hope K & R feel better.

  22. I love your wildlife cameras too! What amazing footage. I hope Socks will be ok, and his look-alike too. Be careful out there amidst all that bear activity.

  23. I forgot to mention that I hope K and R are feeling better. I got all wrapped up in the bear drama. What is K lying on in that second picture. Looks like some kind of sedum??

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