I've had the bear den on my mind, where surprising activity has occurred this winter. I'm going to let the story unfold for you a little at a time. The bear never left the den until near the end of January. Earlier in the winter, the bear occasionally ate snow by reaching outside the den and biting into the snow that was within reach.
Then, the bear had a couple of very restless days, walking
outside the den to eat snow. We saw a little activity like this back in 2010, the last time this den was occupied but not so early in the winter.
At about 10 AM on 1/30, the bear first decided to leave the den.
bear traveled only about 6'. You can see the rings around the bear's eyes -
those are probably due to mange, which is common in hibernating bears.
When a bear turns down its metabolism, the immune system also slows
down, allowing mange to take hold. Those of you who followed this blog 6
years ago probably remember that the sow who used this den in 2010 had mange.
This bear also has a scrape near the mange on the nose. I'm guessing it's from scratching at the mange.
After walking just a few steps and pausing, the bear turned around to head back into the den.
Look at how fat and healthy this bear is. And look at that coat!
On the same day, the bear was out again after noon, doing another walk of a few steps. She stuck her tongue out for the camera.
Aside from the mange, this bear looks super healthy with lots of fat and a very thick coat!
Less than two minutes later, the bear was squeezing back into the den, despite the balmy 46°F temperature.
Obviously, bears do not sleep soundly all winter long, unlike common lore. Lots of researchers have shown just how awake bears actually are but none as clearly as Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, who put cameras inside bear dens to record the bear's behavior throughout the winter a few years ago.
Knowing that our wildlife is flourishing in the forest makes me smile. I love thinking of this bear curled up snug in the den.