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Friday, February 26, 2016

Activity at the Bear Den in late January

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.

The 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.
I'll share more photos and videos in the coming days and weeks. The camera also recorded video which is very fun to see and hear! Do you have any ideas about why a bear would suddenly become restless in the middle of winter, taking small walks outside the den? We know that no animals went near it, except for one squirrel, so the bear wasn't disturbed.

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.


  1. What a beautiful sight!!! I just love the raspberry she seems to give the camera!!

  2. Glad you're getting some "reports" on the den activity, KB - these images are excellent!

  3. I agree, those are terrific photos. I hope that nose gets better.

  4. Beautiful photos, we love the bears!!! Any chance she is protecting something else that might be inside the den?

  5. How exciting! I don't know how you manage to keep your distance from the den -- I admire your patience!

  6. These are fascinating pictures. I guess sometimes even a hibernating bear becomes restless

  7. So fascinating to see the bear, we look forward to see more
    Mr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  8. Beautiful bear ,, nice and fluffy! Maybe it had a dream of blackberrys,,, and it came out to see if the dream was real, or just a dream

  9. Restless, tongue out, my guess is that the cubs were due to be born very soon!!! And, quite often, a Dr or midwife will say, "walk up and down the corridor, labour will go faster", Haha, wishful thinking as I remember. Instinct in this girl's mind, as she comes out for such a short time,and doesn't go far at all.

  10. How exciting to see her emerge from her den!

  11. It's so great to watch even bears that way.... is that a sign of spring that she left her den?

  12. I love that you give us glimpses of a world we would never see otherwise. So awesome, thanks!

  13. Babies??? I'm thinking she was restless because she is due to have cubs soon? Love it! Thanks for sharing!

  14. no wonder she is snug in her den, fitting that big furry beautiful body throught that little hole, makes her nice and snug.. i always ask google search for answers. maybe someone will have written about the restless part.. she is a beauty

  15. Wow, that is amazing footage to capture! I wonder what triggers her to stay out?

    Keep Calm & Bark on!

    Murphy & Stanley

  16. She does look like a healthy gal! Hope she comes out again this winter (so we have more pictures).


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