Today, we finally caught up with June, but first we checked her den. We saw she had raked a very large area last fall to get bedding for the den where she would give birth. A look inside the den confirmed the bedding.
Nearby, we found a bed of balsam fir boughs. Bears break conifer boughs if they need to make beds on top of the snow. This balsam bough bed was in the same place she bedded in 2009 after leaving the same den with newborn cubs Jewel and Jordan.
We don’t know what she did after that because she hasn’t had a GPS unit until today. We homed in on her telemetry signals and found her in a cedar swamp known to have wild calla (Calla palustris), which is a bear food. In a past spring we walked with June in this swamp as she dug through patches of remaining snow to pull and eat calla roots. Perhaps she has been doing the same this year as well.
We caught sight of one cub. All her previous litters have been 2 or 3 cubs. It’s possible other cubs were up other cedar trees there. We gave June a GPS unit, snapped a few pictures, and left feeling like it was a great day.
June is the bear that has provided the most data to date. Everything she does can be compared to past behavior, past use of habitat, and past use of particular locations, bedding trees, etc., and the dates of each event. This year of the record late spring is the latest we have found her near her den yet. It is great to have her ‘on the map.’
Speaking of maps…currently we can see that 2 of June’s daughters (Jewel and Aster) are in June’s territory. Perhaps they are taking advantage of the fact June’s movements are limited by her cub(s). The 2-year-old females (Aster and Faith) have surprised us by traveling far and wide. Currently Faith is in a very remote logging area that we’re not even sure we could get to if we wanted. The patterns we see from the GPS locations appear to be foraging patterns. We hope to walk with a bear soon to see if we can determine what they are eating in this record late spring.
The temperature was in the mid-70’s on this beautiful, sunny day. Ice on the lakes is melting fast. Leaf buds on trees and shrubs are swelling and starting to open.
Thank you for all you do.
—Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center
All photos taken today unless otherwise noted.