Black Bears, Brown Bears, Our Bears, and Chimp Day - UPDATE July 14, 2018

Black bears are blessed this summer. It is one of those uncommon years with an abundance of their favorite foods: hazelnuts (Corylus cornuta), juneberries (Amelanchier sp.), Bear AilingAiling bearwild sarsaparilla berries (Aralia nudicaulis), and blueberries (mostly low-bush blueberries [Vaccinium angustifolium] and velvet-leaf blueberries [Vaccinium myrtilloides]). Green berries that will ripen later, such as dogwood and cherries, will also have good crops. More on these and other berries later.

The bears are once again proving that fed bears do not become lazy, dependent, or aggressive, and forget how to forage for wild foods. People who have fed bears for decades are seeing very few bears. In such years (as in 1996 and this year), the big talk is: Where did all the bears go? In years of wild food failures (as in 1985 and 1995), the talk was: Where did they all come from?

What black bears do and what they eat depends upon what the alternatives are. Hazelnuts make an especially big difference to black bears with each ounce (28 grams) holding 17 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbohydrates, and 4 grams of protein for a total of 176-178 calories per ounce. Bumper crops of hazelnuts make a big difference in reproductive success, and the bears are capitalizing on that right now.

This video of a mother brown bear attacking a big male near Kukak Bay in Katmai National Park in Alaska brought back good memories of my days leading bear-viewing groups there in 1996-2006. Groups would see the power of these big bears at the same time they’d see them ignore us and go about their lives. We never had a problem. The video shows the mother being positively savage toward the male and then running back to her cubs, passing very close to a group of viewers without paying any obvious attention to them, as is usual. I hope to return to that place with a group or two someday.

The weights of the four ambassador bears at the Bear Center are Ted 571, Lucky 420, Holly 261, and Tasha 235 lbs. All are up between 10 and 17 pounds since last week. Tasha looked like she appreciated her stream on this hot morning as is captured in this 4:44 minute video .

One of the bear feeding stations saw a sad situation today. A skinny 2-3-year-old male cannot fully close his mouth or extend his tongue beyond his teeth. Probably the reason he was there in this year of abundant wild food was that he cannot pick berries with his lips or teeth and he cannot touch ant larvae or pupae with his tongue to ingest them. He cannot swallow. The landowner can put food in his mouth, but the bear cannot do anything with it. He spits the food out and crushes it with his paw, breaking it into tiny pieces, but he cannot lap them up because he cannot extend his tongue. A veterinarian said the most likely cause is a stick caught sideways between his back upper teeth. Without a permit, I cannot check and extract it if that is the cause. The picture shows his mouth closed and tongue extended as far as he can. I hope to see how he is tomorrow. I suspect he has had this problem awhile.

A Black Bear Field Study Course begins tomorrow.

Today is the first-ever world chimpanzee day, celebrating 60 years since Jane Goodall began her work I treasure an email from Jane a few weeks ago saying, “You have always been a very special person, understanding the proper (!) way to study animals!” (emphasis hers).

The first of the big males to show up after mating season just checked in. It’s 13-year-old Pete, son of June, grandson of 31-year-old Shadow. He is the limping bear I’ve been hearing about for the last couple weeks. He also has some new scars on his head now after the mating season.

Thank you for all you do.

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