Today is the Bear Moon that honors the month black bears give birth. Although we did get a report of a single cub born to a wild mother in West Virginia today, Juliet is showing no sign of labor. She is breathing a slow 2.9 times per minute and nothing close to the 9 breaths per minute that Jewel showed in the 2 minutes before giving birth in 2012. Juliet spends 10-12 seconds inhaling and exhaling, and then waits 8-11 seconds before taking the next breath. Snowflakes from the blizzard blowing outside her den are sticking to her fur. They don’t melt at this temperature (7F).
Holly is buried in straw and well protected in her cement bunker den. Watching the straw rise and fall over the small black spot that is part of Holly’s back, we are seeing 2.8 breaths per minute, nearly the same as Juliet.
Members of the Winnebago Bear Clan called the first moon of January the bear moon because it is then that cubs are born and then that bears begin to lick their paws. As the Den Cams showed us, both observations are accurate. Last year, Lily missed the Bear Moon (January 13) by only a day when she gave birth on January 12.
Native Americans also believed that mothers washed their newborn cubs with fresh snow. Snow during the bear moon meant that bears were calling for snow to wash their young. We haven’t seen that, but there was a blizzard today, and it’s entirely possible that cubs were being born somewhere in the area.
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.
Wildlife Research Institute
145 West Conan Street
Ely, Minnesota 55731 USA