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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day from a Bear's Perspective

Since it's Valentine's Day, our Blogville Mayors have asked us to post something related to wildlife and this holiday. Because bears have the most visible patterns of mating and raising their young, I thought that I'd tell you about what I've observed of bear mating season and cub raising.

Every spring, I look forward to the love parade by the bears during their mating season in May and June. The male bears vigorously mark certain trees along a bear trail, going up on their hind legs and rubbing their backs on the trees.

Here's a series of photos of a young male bear marking one of the "bear trees" during mating season.

Then, other bears sniff the tree, getting information about who has been marking the tree.
Females who are looking for a mate follow the scent trail laid down by a male bear like the one shown above. Some evidence shows that females choose their mates rather than vice versa. So, a female who liked the scent on this tree might follow the male bear until she finds him.

If you want to see a video of bears marking trees, I have made a few. Here's a link to one of them.You can look through my YouTube account to see more.

After mating, female bears start eating, almost continuously, for the rest of the summer. If they are fat and healthy when they go into a den, the fertilized egg develops into a fetus that is born in January.

One of our local female bears, who I've watched for years, is due to have cubs this winter. If I'm lucky, I'll capture photos of her with her tiny cubs in early spring. Four years ago, I was lucky. First she walked to the east with her cubs (one is lagging behind).
Here's the lagging one. Actually, he showed a streak of independence all summer so some readers dubbed him "Rebel".
And then, a minute later, she walked back to the west with her cubs. This time, Rebel stayed close.
Raising cubs is not an easy task for a mother bear. Cubs can't walk far early in the spring and are very vulnerable to predators. So the mother often sends them up a "babysitting tree". Around here, that tree might be a tall Ponderosa Pine. Then, she somehow tells them to stay there, and she goes out foraging on her own.

This is the same sow, hours later. She must have left her cubs in a tree.
Female bears stay with their cubs for about 18 months so they den with their cubs the next winter. I was lucky enough to find a den with a mother and two yearling cubs a few years ago. I placed a trail camera outside their den and got priceless photos of the mother and yearlings playing at the mouth of the den in the spring.

After the yearlings and mother leave the den, they stay together for another month or so. Then the mother sends the yearlings off on their own, and she embarks on finding a mate for her next litter of cubs.

I can't wait to see the bears emerge. I love seeing who has new cubs and who is on the mating trail. Bears are my favorite animals!!!!

Happy Valentine's Day! This was Shyla's Valentine's Dance that she did recently.


  1. love the healthy looking bears! the cubs are cute, too. :)

  2. Love it! Nature is so fascinating! Thanks!!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  3. The bears are amazing! Happy Valentine's Day from all of us!!!

  4. Hari OM
    ....errr..ahem.... that would be favourite AFTER dogs...&*> Of course, they are distant relatives, so quite understandable. These are delightful shots and we look forward as you do, to finding out who emerges! YAM xx

  5. The bears are so neat and I love that picture of Shyla!

  6. Happy Valentine's Day ~ Hope you get lots of hugs and kisses.
    Sweet William The Scot

  7. Wonder just what you will find soon, truly fascinating nature at its best. Happy Feb 14th to you all in the Colorado as well.

  8. Oh my bears
    We have never ever no never seen anything like this! Thanks for sharing. Nature is amazing
    Madi your bfff

  9. You really know how to rock and roll Shyla! (and what a beautiful sky behind you.)

    We are so fascinated by your beautiful bears. We too are hoping for a glimpse of some babies.

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    Lily Belle & Muffin

  10. Great post. Happy ♥ Day!

    Wyatt and Stanzie

  11. "Love parade" made me chuckle :) And you do have such great snaps and footage of the bears!
    I've had a mamabear visit with 3 cubs, and everyone was playing and lounging around and eating (that's why my metal birdfeeder looks like it's been run over by a truck - I had left it up til May which was too late) when suddenly all three cubs dashed to the biggest red oak and right up the trunk. I didn't hear what that mamabear told her youngsters, but it must have started with "UP" and ended with "NOW!"

  12. We love your dance, Shyla! Happy Valentine's Day ♥

  13. will you be(ar) my valentine lol thanks for sharing this wonderful photos, I never saw bears that way, it's better than to watch the animal channel in tv
    easy rider

  14. I called my boyfriend over to see that photo of Shyla. It is beautiful. And I squealed out loud at the baby bears.

  15. The bear photos are great. How fun that you can watch their coming and goings on the trail cam.

  16. So interesting to hear the story and see the photos. Hoping you get some more good shots this spring.

  17. What a great post! I did not know that about bear mamas! We can't wait to see your local female with her babies in Spring!

  18. I would say that is a perfect ♥ day story. The love between the mother bear and her cubs is so sweet. I didn't realize they spent that much time together. I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day!

  19. Happy belated Valentine's Day....Mona, Prissy & Angel Weenie

  20. Happy belated Valentine's Day....Mona, Prissy & Angel Weenie

  21. Fantastic photos of the bears!! What treasures those photos are!
    We also love Shyla's dance!

  22. Great shots and story about the Black Bears. I do love them.

  23. Crikey ...... how interesting is that?? Mum's going to read more about bears. They sure are beautiful, aye??

  24. What a great site it must have been to see the Mama with her cubs!!!

    Fingers crossed that you get to see some cubs this Spring!


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