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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Make that 19 bears

The season is a'changing. I know that winter is on the way when my shadow becomes a tall and skinny caricature of me and K looks like a lion sitting next to me.
It was 40 degrees when I headed out this morning, most definitely not balmy summer weather.

Last fall, for reasons that I'd prefer to forget, I didn't have wildlife cameras on the main animal routes. Because I am fascinated by learning where our wildlife go as the seasons change, losing that chunk of data was disappointing. This year is different because I've strategically staked out the animal routes to keep collecting photos. I'm learning that the bears have started moving around like ants in a colony. They're following their mating season routes - but their goal now is to eat as much as possible before hibernation.

Lots of people around here think that we have 1-2 bears in the area. My cameras have told me that, so far this year, at least 19 individual bears have been in our forest. I'm being very conservative in that count - never counting a bear as a new individual unless I am absolutely sure. Moreover, I feel sure that shy bears are lurking in the forest, avoiding my cameras - so the actual census is probably higher.

On a recent evening, I captured photos of our third sow with cub(s). Based on my first photo of her huge head, I would have guessed that she was a male.
As she walked past my camera, her front paws showed a distinctive feature of a bear walk, their toes point inward.
It's most obvious if you look at her left front paw in the next photo.
Then, five seconds later, this powerful sow's cub followed obediently behind her.
And, being a curious youngster, he paused to glance toward the camera.
It's not too common for a bear to have only one cub, unless its the sow's first litter (unlikely based on the size of this sow) or she lost a cub earlier in the season. Perhaps another cub scampered behind the camera. I hope that we see them again this season to find out.

A day later, a big fat bear with a black glossy coat who I think that we've seen before passed a bear whammy tree. He headed directly for the base of it.
He seemed to purposely arch his back upward to rub it on the overhanging branches of the adjacent tree as his nose started to sniff the base of the whammy tree.
 He was fascinated with the whammy tree. I'll spare you the many photos of him sniffing it.
Later that night, I captured another photo some distance away. I think that it's the same bear, probably foraging as he traveled slowly through the forest since it's high eating season for bears.

Early the next morning, Socks returned!!!!!! You might remember Socks from mating season, when we saw many appearances by him just after his mother had paired up with a suitor, and consequently, her yearling cubs had to leave her.

The first photo showed his black socks most obviously. He was sniffing the overhanging branches that the huge bear had rubbed his arched back on just a few hours earlier.
Next, Socks investigated the bear whammy tree, sniffing its trunk carefully.
After a quick perusal, he hightailed it away from the tree. I'm guessing that he could smell the dominance of the huge bear who had stood in the same spot earlier.
Here's the most intriguing part. Another bear was following Socks. I think that the soft red glow from my camera scared the bear because I captured only one photo of him/her. You can barely see the bear head and muzzle in the far right of the photo below.
I wonder if this bear is Socks' littermate. Alternatively, the researchers in Ely, Minnesota have documented cases of unrelated yearling males banding together for the season after they leave their mothers. This bear could be another young male. A final idea is that it's a more dominant bear who is chasing Socks out of his/her territory.

I hope that we get more glimpses into this ursine world!


  1. beautiful images of your bears!
    and love the long shadow...

  2. Hi Y'all,

    I've been so facinated with your documentation of the bears.

    As I've mentioned we have a female, who had 2 cubs a couple of years ago, in the forested ridge above us. A neighbor hunting there had snapped a pic of the 3 of them. Another neighbor, below us by the creek, found a bear using a a barrel, in which that neighbor stored plant food, for a pillow.

    We've seen no bear sign around the yard or house, but something has been making Hawk very, very unhappy, especially at night. It's gotten so bad, even though temps are in the 50's at night, we've had to close up and turn the air conditioning on so we can sleep through the night.

    Do they hunt bear there?

    Here they not only hunt them, but trappers have been seen for a couple of years in the National Forest that encompasses most of these mountains higher elevations.

    Of course it could be just deer or turkey coming down for the acorns. :)

    BrownDog's Human

  3. I am happy to see all the critters coming back for one thing or another. I look forward to the elk, especially!

    Fun to see the bears parading around, too.


  4. I think I might have walked in front of one of your cameras today. Hope I didn't leave too much of a scent in front of the tree. Tall guy with two girls.

  5. The second bear, the big male is wonderful. He looks so healthy, his coat is sleek and beautiful.

    I so love your posts

    Berts My Vickie

  6. Wonderful! I really love Black Bears and it's great to see them walking unawares.

  7. I sure hopes dat bear is a furiend of Socks and not one dat is chasin' him away. :( Great post!

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  8. Holy crap that bear on September fifth was a brute!

    Great pictures!!

  9. Awesome photos! Always look forward to reading & checking out the pics on your blog!!! Keep on posting!!
    Love it!!
    Ernie,Sasha,Chica,Lucas & Mom Barb

  10. Wow! That is amazing!
    I think you have your wildlife cameras in the right spot!

  11. I always love seeing your bear photos and learning more about them. I sort of hope Socks was accompanied by his sibling. It just seems a less lonely way to spend the winter!

    It's hard to believe that autumn is upon us, but after the heat we had here this summer, I'm ready for it!

  12. Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for letting me know! I appreciate it.


  13. Amazing photos of the bears!!!!

    Um 40 degrees? It was 103 when we headed out for the kids baseball practice today! Holy moly it was hot!

  14. *gulp*
    That was an incredibly large bear.

    Amazing views into their world.

  15. That was an absolutely fascinating post, KB. What fun, looking into the secret lives of bears.

  16. I always love seeing your wildlife photos!

  17. Hi Hawk,

    Yes, they hunt bear here but it's very prevalent in our neck of the woods. Baiting them is illegal (unlike in most states) which makes hunting them a lot harder.

    Thanks for the question!


  18. Hi KB
    The bears are so big and beautiful.
    I think I found a tree stump that the bears were rubbing they "hinney" on.
    It is short and had black fur sticking to it,, and well,,,
    me the Tweedles thought it smelled very interesting

  19. Fascinating. We've been coming across a bit of scat this summer as we ride, and there have been a couple of sightings in that area. So now you've got me wondering if it's one or more than one. Wish we could have the treasured peeks into the ursine world you're grabbing!

  20. Kia ora KB,
    When I was little I got kidded by kids because I walked pigeon toed. It always really bothered me till one day my grandma quietly told me bears walk pigeon toed as well, and that I must really be a bear. I have never forgotten that and I still think at times I must be a bear :) Rave On e hoa. Kia kaha.


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