Food is busting out all over! Large-leafed aster (Aster macrophyllus) is everywhere and still at a stage bears will eat. Now peavine (Lathyrus spp.) is coming up and is at the tender red-leafed stage. Grass is growing rapidly. The first berry blossoms have burst open—Juneberry (Amerlanchier spp.) There is fuel across the forest floor to power movements, and bears are moving.
Last evening, Lily and cubs made their biggest move yet—1.25 miles to the same clover patch that Faith and Aster visited. Today, she is a mile from the clover patch. This is the time of year cubs’ legs get long enough to easily keep up with mom. It is the time when mothers with cubs typically begin roaming. This year the emergence of foods from the forest floor is coinciding with this period of cubs’ growth. We’ll see what the mothers do now.
June made a move nearly 3/4 mile away from the vicinity of her den and is now back. She may have chased a bear away or simply gone to evaluate wild food availability before deciding to move her cub(s). We’ll see what we learn tomorrow.
On the other hand, Ursula and her 3 cubs are foraging in a small area.
We received reports today that both Dot and Juliet are still with their yearlings. Last night, 4-year-old Samantha and her 3 yearlings came to the Research Center. Samantha is not collared, but her visit will provide us with a bit of data—we know she was still with her offspring on May 23.
Not everything is always the same. That’s why we like to work with a reasonable sample size of radio-collared bears. It lets us see a range of behaviors and avoid overgeneralization from too few bears.
Braveheart gave us—or rather her collar—the slip. A concentration of GPS readings emanating from a power corridor was a dead give-away. Bears like nothing better than a to mark utility poles by rubbing and biting. Of all the study bears, Braveheart is the one most apt to lose her collar this way. She must have a slightly different marking routine that flips the collar over an ear. Once the collar is over one ear, the rest is easy. We retrieved her collar and hope to see her again soon.
Construction is moving right along at the Bear Center. The plumbing was approved. Back-filling the trench in the bear enclosure is completed. The fence has been expanded to give the bears a little more room along the new addition. Still to come in the enclosure is a big cedar tree to be planted in front of the viewing balcony for Lucky to climb for food and photos. The bears are getting extra attention in their enclosures during this time.
Today was a great day talking with Dr. Roger Powell, a professor from North Carolina State University who happens to live here in NE Minnesota. He has been studying black bears since 1981 and is an expert on home range data. As an associate editor of the Journal of Mammalogy, he put together a series of papers on that topic a couple issues back. He was a co-permittee with Lynn on the DNR research permits of 1999 and 2000, and we are again joining forces to crank out some of the GPS data. Other help on this will come from two employees of Sandia, a company specializing in national security. These volunteers are experts at problem solving and have been helping us right along with programming and handling GPS data. Both offered their help after attending our Black Bear Field Study Course. As we said last night, so much of what happens is a team effort. In the near future, we may be looking for more volunteer help scanning and entering data on vegetation types for related data sets.
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.