Jewel – UPDATE June 9, 2012
Jewel’s GPS signals had stopped and we were homing in on her by telemetry. Jewel made it easy. As we drove down Bear Head Lake State Park Road, we were 1.7 miles short of the park when we saw her lying on the road scratching and rolling around. Why? We have no idea. It’s the first time we saw a live uninjured bear lying on pavement. We stopped. Five vehicles stopped behind us and enjoyed the sight.
We made a detour and approached Jewel through the woods. She came to us and the 3 of us (including Jewel) fell into the routine of swapping GPS units. A cub was calling from a nearby tree as we finished and headed back to the van. As we started to drive away we saw Herbie and Fern up a big aspen tree at the edge of the woods by the road. We stopped beside the tree. We wondered if Jewel would approach the vehicle. If she did, we would save her from a bullet by pepper spraying her so she’d learn not to approach vehicles. No worry. She didn’t.
We watched Herbie and Fern come down and begin to nurse. Jewel ignored the running vehicle and lay on her back with her nose outstretched away from the road maybe 30 feet from us. She wasn’t looking at us—just nursing her cubs—at least until Lynn got out and approached without announcing “It’s me, bear.” His first step onto the gravelly shoulder brought a huge response as if she’d forgotten we were there. She bolted upright toward the danger, saw what it was, heard the reassuring words, and was calm again. Her wildness and her special trust of us made us feel privileged to be able to work on her collar and make observations that would not otherwise be possible. And the fresh nuts from nuts.com made today’s procedure go smoothly.
Elsewhere in the local bear world, we changed Braveheart’s GPS batteries, saw one of Braveheart’s yearling daughters Jani, and walked with June. June was eating peavine (Lathyrus spp.), wild lettuce (Lactuca spp.), and chewed on a fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) leg she found. A scat from Braveheart (550 grams) also was full of vegetation but (from the sweet smell) included no meat.
June was alone, which we anticipated after hearing that people had seen a big lone male yesterday that we guessed was Big Harry from the location. Yesterday was 9 days since family break-up, which is a common duration for mating activity for females here.
June is a very special bear. She is so accustomed to Sue walking with her now after 8 years that she pays no attention to her or Sue’s camera pointing closely at her. Most of the videos in the Bear Center are of June. She is a naturally calm bear, which is what allowed Sue to begin walking with 3-year-old June back in 2004.
She also tolerates other people. For example, we heard a story about June feeding on grass beside the Bear Head Lake State Park Road before family break-up. A local couple was taking a ride through the beautiful mature forest when they saw two yearlings grazing beside the road. The woman got out to take a picture and only then noticed June in the ditch a few feet away. The woman held up her empty hands, walked past June, and photographed Aster and Aspen while June continued grazing. The woman got back in her vehicle, and the couple drove on. The whole scene is common behavior for people who have been seeing bears here for 50 years and loving June for nearly a decade.
This weekend is a Bear Keeper Course. Meeting Lily Fans and seeing them helping out like they do makes us look forward to meeting more of you at the Lilypad picnic July 20-22.
Thank you for all you do.
—Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center