A Boy and a Girl? – UPDATE February 8, 2012

Jewel peeks out - Feb 8, 2012Jewel peeks out - Feb 8, 2012The Jewel Den Cam image is kind of dark because the light reflects off the dirt/bedding in the foreground, but the image is clearer than before.  With the new and improved view, we think we saw something—a boy and a girl.  We’re waiting for more views to be sure, but we’d bet on it.  We’re now looking for ways to tell their faces apart.  So far, we don’t see anything unique on either of them—no chest blazes, no prominent brown eyebrow spots, no face or muzzle that is unusually light or dark, no difference in the brown patches cubs have behind the ears.   They may be too young for some of these differences to show up.

See for yourself.  The ‘telling’ footage has been posted to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AznG95rPm7o.   What do you think?

Jewel tends her cubs - Feb 8, 2012Jewel tends her cubs - Feb 8, 2012Our mention of handling loss stirred some questions.  Whether a researcher uses drugs or not depends upon the research objectives.  We used drugs for years.  Tranquilizing a bear is not like giving a person a shot in the hospital or a dog a shot at the vet’s office where the doctor can draw back on the syringe a bit to see it there is blood, indicating a blood vessel, and try another spot for injection.  In the field with a wild animal, the injection has to be quick.  We used a syringe on the end of a stick for maximum control of the injection location.  A few bears died anyway.  In many studies, drugs are injected with a dart from a distance, making placement less precise.  No matter what the methods, whenever there are captures of large, powerful mammals, there will be some loss to tranquilizers and to capture injuries that require animals to be euthanized.  In most published papers, researchers report only successful captures that generated useable data.  Few report the handling losses that are an inevitable part of the research—and a part no researcher likes to remember. 

Cub under Jewel's chin - Feb 8, 2012Cub under Jewel's chin - Feb 8, 2012For many wildlife species, tens of thousands are killed each year in hunting seasons.  For black bears, that number is around 55,000 across North America.  The question regarding handling losses in studies where study subjects are more or less interchangeable becomes: How many handling losses are acceptable in order to obtain population data necessary for sustainable management of a species?  Each person would have a different answer. 

Cub climbs on Jewel's side - Feb 8, 2012Cub climbs on Jewel's side - Feb 8, 2012In our old study, our results and efforts helped reduce Minnesota’s bear hunting season from year-round with no limit on the number of bears killed to a 6-week season with a limit of 1 bear per hunter.  The result was an increasing population that became the healthy population of today.   At the same time, researchers worked together to make research methods more humane, pass the Animal Welfare Act, and update guidelines for future research.   

Over the years, as we learned that black bears are not the ferocious animals we once thought, we developed kinder and gentler research methods that are beyond any guideline ever developed.  We found we could use trust rather than tranquilizers to study bears in ways that reveal more than ever before, while changing attitudes in ways never possible before.  Most people who are following the research bears along with us agree.  Together, we are doing what we can to change attitudes and advance the long-term survival of bear populations.

Thank you for all you do.

Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center