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Nice Moments With Bears - UPDATE July 25, 2018

Ricky and Pete did a great job showing new Black Bear Field Study Course participants what black bears can be like. Big Pete is June’s 13-year-old firstborn. 2-year-old Ricky is part of Samantha’s litter of four.LilyLily

Along the way came the bears the group most wanted to see. Lily topped the list. On our first look at her, we only got a glimpse. We learned that she had treed Shadow shortly before in a new twist to their relationship, and Lily may have been keyed up and unusually wary. She saw us at a distance and disappeared. Shadow being treed by Lily is new to us. Shadow has been walking with difficulty at times, sometimes swinging her hind legs out wide as she brings them forward for each step. With this difficulty, could Shadow be losing dominance? ShadowShadowA couple hours later, we saw Lily calmly eating, and we got a better look until she suddenly perked her ears toward a sound, whirled, and ran away. No bear appeared from where she had looked, but the wind was creating rustling sounds that can make bears nervous. Perhaps that, together with her encounter with Shadow, made her extra cautious at that moment. Finally, came a meeting where Lily was relaxed enough to meet people and give the group the experience they were hoping to have.

31-year-old Shadow, always wary, provided a couple glimpses before we found her in a calmer mood that let the group see her aged, gray face along with the wide head that also comes with age. Shadow, of course, is the matriarch of the clan we have been documenting for over two decades.

Lily  Lily  Lily 

Another memorable meeting was with 13-year-old Ursula who is special to me and became special to the group. This beautiful bear with her rich, golden muzzle gave people kind memories that they will not forget.

ShadowShadowA bear we didn't get a good look at was 18-year-old Donna, who saw us approaching across an opening a couple hundred feet away, looked hard at us, and disappeared into the woods.

3-year-old Spanky continued to be a puzzle as we tried to understand his erratic behavior. We saw that his jerky walk and lack of agility is at least partially due to a weak right front leg. A person who has watched him over the years said she saw a wound on the upper part of that leg a couple years back. He weighs only 125 pounds, which is only about two thirds the weights of 2-year-olds Fred and Ricky.

It was a great few days of learning with people whose enthusiasm is contagious. We were lucky to meet bears that have not been seen much so far in this year of super abundant wild food.

UrsulaUrsulaA dropping showed that at least one bear had found a lot of juneberries at this time when they are waning.

Another scat was filled with cherries (pincherries and/or chokecherries) that are ripening. These small trees often grow along roadsides. Two different people said they saw many of these trees that had been pulled over by bears along roads they’d travelled. The cherry scat also contained a few wild sarsaparilla seeds, showing that these berries are now ripening. In past years, we’ve found that when ripe sarsaparilla berries are abundant, bears all but abandon blueberries to eat mainly sarsaparilla berries for 2-3 weeks until this bonanza passes and they go back to the longer lasting blueberries in mid August.

Thank you for all you do.

Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center

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