The end of our season is upon us. The question remains, if/when and where will Tasha den, will she keep Ted awake? Ted has taken a remarkable interest in Tasha as of late.
It was MEA (Minnesota Education Association) weekend in Minnesota this past weekend. Adults and children enjoyed their time at the bear center not only seeing Ted and Tasha, but also feeding the birds. Giggles and smiles were all around as chickadees and nuthatches landed in hands filled with sunflower seed or on hats. The picture is taken by Carolyn with participants permission.
This explanation of Winter Dens is from our website, https://bear.org/winter-dens/.
Bears den in a variety of places. If you suspect something is a den, look for a bed of leaves, although not all bears make beds if they den after snow has fallen. To be sure a bear used a leafy bed, look for a depression 2-4 feet in diameter. Dampen your hand on the forest floor and rub it around on the leaves to see if any dark hair sticks to it.
Standing hollow trees are favorite denning spots, but few trees are allowed to reach the mature stage at which the center rots and becomes hollow. Such trees can be found in portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northeastern Minnesota, especially where they were fire-scarred a half century or more ago.
Rock crevices and caves are also used as dens, and these can remain useable for centuries, but usually not by the same bear and usually not in successive years. The den that researchers found being used the most during four decades of study was used three times, each time by a different bear, and each time after an interval of six years.
Dens are also dug into hillsides or under the root system of a tree. These dens may be dug during the summer months, long before they are needed. Dug dens often collapse after use and therefore are seldom reused.
Bears also may den under the crown of downed trees or in brush piles. Some bears just rake up a bed on the ground near a windbreak.
On Friday while Tasha and Ted enjoyed their pumpkins filled with treats, I walked up to see if Tasha had been using a daybed. She has a nice area under some large balsams and near an outcrop of rock.
Ted is snug, he has pushed his straw all around him on the interior of his den.Ted has not been to the scale for a while since the early snow. My guess is that he is between 685-690 pounds. His official weight will be 677 pounds since that was his last weight from the scale.
Spencer and I locked the middle bunker gate and opened the small bear gate, in an effort to give either Tasha another choice or for Holly to use the spring.
Lucky banked his straw in front of his bunker. He will see us in the spring. Lucky was last seen on October 18th, so his official hibernation date is October 19th. His last weight was 500 pounds. I looked at him prior to him banking his straw, and I guess he weighs about 515-520 pounds, but I used my eyes not the scale.
I want to thank all of our Pond Chat Moderators for watching the bears and reporting what they see, your eyes are always valued. I, along with our team, made the decision early last week to allow the bears to rest on Sunday and not be bothered.Their weight is good and with the exception of Tasha moving around and bothering Ted, there was no need for the bears to be fed. I felt this decision would allow Ted to rest and Tasha to dig. I promise they are in great shape for hibernation.
Spencer will be looking in on the bears in my absence and will be passing on any bear news and information. He and I will be in close communication and will be following my direction even though I am back at home in Michigan.
Thank you all for watching and following our bears. I’ll be back in Ely for Give to the Max Day (weather permitting).
Thank you for all you do,
Sharon Herrell, Sr. Bearkeeper
Wildlife Research Institute
145 West Conan Street
Ely, Minnesota 55731 USA