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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bear Land

I'm home again, back with my family, who I missed while I was in Bear Land. Apparently, my ShyBear missed me too. She kept pulling out my clothing to lie on, and even chose to gnaw on a few things that smelled like me. I guess that's the ultimate canine compliment but I now need to replace a few chewed belongings!
Although I missed home, I had an amazing bear experience, closely observing wild black bears. These bears are habituated to having researchers hang around watching them.

This black bear is a mother who had two cubs high in a nearby tree as we observed her. As we watched, her attention continually swiveled back toward her cubs, as shown in this photo. She seemed to be listening for noises from the cubs while scenting the air for danger. She didn't view us as danger but seemed worried about other sources, like the sound of ATV's in the distance.
It poured rain for part of the time that we spent with her, yet no one seemed to notice. Her ursine presence completely overrode any notice of details like getting soaked.
She wore a radio collar. Indeed, that's how we found her in the forest. Without the collar, it would be impossible to observe her behavior because the researchers would rarely be able to find her. Bears are masters of remaining hidden when they want to.

As we watched her, a new sound hummed in the distance. She stood up on her hind limbs to look for the source. Standing up is not a threatening posture for a bear. Rather, it indicates interest and curiosity.
Eventually, she decided that it was time to go to her cubs. She had to search for them, scenting the air and grunting to them, hoping that they'd answer to tell her which tree they were in. I was a bit surprised that she didn't remember where they were.
Eventually, she and we spotted them, about 30' off the ground in a tree. This is the more gregarious cub who quickly came down to the ground after mom came to the base of the tree making mama bear noises that mean "come to me".
The other cub was more suspicious of humans and elected to stay perched in the tree. The cautious cub started to descend several times but couldn't quite muster the courage. As an aside, bears can descend from trees very fast! They use a combination of climbing downward, rump first, and sliding while using their claws to slow their descent.
Shortly after this photo, we departed. We didn't want the one cub to be stranded in the tree by himself so we left to allow him to rejoin his family on the ground.

The most amazing part of this is that I never felt even vaguely afraid while I was near the bears. Bears are generally timid, and if you behave reasonably around these research bears, they never show signs of nervousness. They aren't the "killers" that the media likes to portray them as. Rather, they get scared easily so "good human behavior" involves not making fast movements or loud noises. You also always leave the bears an open route to move away from you if they want to.

I'll write more about the experience because I saw multiple bear personalities in different situations over my days in Bear Land. I learned so much about bear behavior, and I expanded my knowledge of the signs that bears leave in the forest. Indeed, today, when I checked my trail cameras, I spotted some bear marking signs that I'd never noticed before (I also saw that the bears had been parading past my cameras in honor of the course I was taking!). Pretty cool!


  1. What a thrill to closely observe the bear and her cubs! And I laughed thinking of Shyla and your clothing. Glad you are home safe and sound after such an exciting experience.

  2. Wow....

    Pretty neat!

    Who was offering this workshop?

  3. Were the Minniesnowda bear people interested in your trail camera footage?

    I am glad you had a good and interesting time at Bear School and hope you can do it again someday.

    Shyla! Chewing Mom's clothes up? Thats a no-no!


  4. "Your" bears were testing your knowledge!!

  5. Woo Hoo I glad your back (my MOM is too, double woo hoo to that). And it sounds like you had a wonderful time. I am sure we all will benefit from your experience, can't wait.

  6. We've been watching a 3-part series on the bears in are so lucky to see them in the furs.

    XXXOOO Daisy, Bella & Roxy

  7. One great experience, super photos. Pity about your clothes, but a good sign you were missed. I'm sure there was a rapturous welcome on all sides. Cheers from Jean

  8. What an awesome experience!! Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

  9. The bear cubs are just adorable!
    We bet you got the biggest welcome home from Shyla! Has she left your side yet?!

    Love ya lots♥
    Mitch and Molly

  10. Those bears are amazing..
    Benny & Lily

  11. Glad you had a good time and learned lots! And right now I'll bet you and Shyla are out on the trails :)

  12. How amazing! It would be awesome to be able to observe them this closely!


  13. What an amazing experience! The course sounds very interesting. I hope you'll share lots more about it. That was sensitive, to leave so the shy cub could climb down.

  14. What an interesting life you lead!

  15. Sounds absolutely fascinating -- thanks for the great post and great photos!! I would give a toe to take a similar course here in SoCal, where 1) the bear population is growing, and 2) there are more bear sightings and bear/human interactions than ever, it seems. [Mainly bears coming into foothill neighborhoods around trash collection day :~( ]

    In Forest Falls, a small community in the San Bernardino Mountains near here, bears are spotted regularly. Problems occur when weekenders leave trashbags outside, and when some well-meaning resident [there always seems to be one] leaves food out "so the bears won't go hungry."

    Thanks again for a great post -- you're my go-to person for the latest on black bear behavior!

  16. Ah, Shyla sure missed you! (a great excuse to go shopping)

    Awesome bear photos. We have seen a few bears in the wilderness while hiking and camping, one a Momma with her cubs. She got up on her back legs then dropped and grunted to the cubs and all ran off. It was amazing!

  17. That is extremely cool! I knew you'd come back with great stories to share! I'm so glad you had such a rewarding experience!

  18. I'm in awe!

    I'm so glad you got this experience. But oh, how I wish it had been me!!!

  19. We came back to take another look at these amazing photos of the bears.

  20. Can I assume from the bear photos that you were visiting Lynn Rogers and company?

  21. This was great. Thanks for sharing! Now I know a little more about bears!


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