Christmas, the Four Bears, and the Usual Culprits - UPDATE December 21, 2018

With only four days to go before Christmas, it’s time share this fun 2018 Twelve Days of Christmas-Bear Style - YouTube. Cool.MinkMink

Sharon Herrell posted her year-end report about the four bears.

End of the Year Bear News – December 20, 2018

The 2018 season for the North American Bear Center has ended and all of our bears are now resting quietly in their select dens. We had a great season and I appreciate all the love and support you have given to our bears. I continue to keep tabs on Ted, Holly and Lucky via the webcams, we hope are are too.

I would like to thank our hard working Interns, Staff, and Bear Educator Volunteers (both new and seasoned) for sharing their talents with our bears and visitors. Each contributed to our programs in different ways; it was always nice to see their smiling faces. This year’s visitors had many excellent questions which enhanced all their talks and interactions with our visitors. I really enjoyed receiving so many great questions during our weekly Q & A sessions.

Tasha is snuggled in her self-made den. The volumes of leaves she raked to her den would be equivalent to at least 1 to 1 1/2 bales of straw. I was personally astonished at what she accomplished in just a few days and never coming to the viewing area for food or water.

Tasha's year started on April 7th she spent a lot of time resting in a day bed near the base of the cub tree. Her first weight was 201 pounds, through the summer she gained another 103 pounds. She went to den at 304 pounds. She maintained great weight throughout the season and only sustained some minor injury; a scratch acquired from Holly on her chest and a tear on her foot from climbing. She spent over 14 hours in a tree while Holly enforced her dominance throughout the night until morning. Tasha is a very sweet and playful bear, she will turn 4 in 2019.

Holly bear has the huge responsibility of matriarch in the enclosure and had to deal with the spontaneous outbursts from Tasha and pouting Lucky. She turned her attention from keeping Tasha at a paws length to her desire to mate with Ted. Her attention towards Ted didn't go unnoticed by Lucky who tried his best to push her away from him. Having failed, he did a great deal of pouting and spent a lot of time alone. When he did engage her in play, she often lost interest and slapped him or vocalized loudly making us think she was in dire pain. She wasn't, she is our “drama queen”. Having two females in the enclosure challenges the interns to learn the differences in vocalizations and why the bears are vocalizing.

Holly's 2018 spring weight was 258 pounds and this year’s den weight was 313 pounds. She gained 55 pounds. It was an early hibernation for Holly. She began preparing for hibernation in late August. She and Tasha were both spending time at the dug den rearranging and protecting it from each another. Towards the end of September Holly spent a few days checking out the large bunker that Lucky had already prepared for himself. After just a few days Holly basically forced her way in and Lucky became the visitor to his own den. In her defense, she is the matriarch and even though he pushes her around, she stands her ground. She is denning just below the camera and Lucky is towards the rear of the bunker, both denned on October 26, 2018 and Holly will turn 6 in 2019.

Our comedian Lucky bear will be 12 years old is 2019. He has matured but to me he will always be that playful cub that ran through the bear center in 2007. He loved his bottle, and loved anyone that would play with him and his toys. Now he’s a big bear and still as gentle and playful as ever, and instead of throwing his rubber duck around he throws huge logs. His best friend is still Holly and when they play… they play. He tries his best to engage her but sometimes Holly just has other things on her mind. His interactions with Ted are few and at times they can be very good and other times they have words. One of the cutest things my Lucky does is when he and Ted have words and I raise my voice, he goes to his time-out rock and waits for me to talk to him. It’s very interesting that he knows where to go to for my attention. I never use harsh tones or words but I talk to the bears in regular tones so they are not confused. Lucky is a very gentle bear. He weighed 399 pounds in the spring and his den weight was 515 pounds. This is the first year he has gone over 500 pounds.

I’ve purposely left our sweet bear Ted for last. He is the greatest of ambassador bears. This year has been a good year for Ted. He was very active this year and visited the other bears almost daily. He did his walkabouts and sometimes I had to go find him. He was in the viewing area most days and went swimming as he wanted. He enjoyed the overflow pond and liked to cool himself there. He also would go to his daybed and rest several times a week. His gentle woots were so popular for our guests to hear and especially focused when children giggled or cried. Ted’s attention always was aimed towards his caregivers and the food he received. His loving gestures of sitting up to the fence gave guests an up close and personal look at his beautiful trusting eyes. His personality and gentle nature always reflected good words from the guests.

His weight has been a gradual climb all year. He came out of hibernation weighing a healthy 515 pounds and went into hibernation weighing 688 pounds. He will turn 22 on January 17, 2019.

The year ended on a really high note for us with a very successful Give to the Max day. Thanks to your generosity, we will be renovating the pond for the bears. We can’t wait for spring to get this much needed project started. We look forward to the 2019 season and a new pond for the bears to swim, play and relax.

Thank you all for your continued love and support of our beautiful ambassador bears, Ted, Lucky, Holly and Tasha. We are so appreciative of your dedication to our bears and we wish you all the best in the New Year!

Sharon Herrell
Senior Bearkeeper

Gray FoxGray FoxA gray fox 5 or 6 feet away through the window made me feel good today by ignoring me. The lights were on inside. I was in plain view, but that is when animals that know me are most comfortable. Even when I got up to turn off some lights, the fox turned its back to me and kept stealing sunflower seeds from the birds. I came back and sat down and was hardly noticed as I reached up and pulled the cord to turn off the overhead light. The only light was the deck light. It ignored my usual shssh sound that most animals pick up on even if they are used to human voices. The fox had heard it all before, though, and kept looking at whatever. Finally, it turned its head enough to see an eye. That was as good as I was going to get. I seldom can see the tiny markings that made me think I could tell them apart. Then, to make it worse, I saw two foxes with the same black dot by the corner of its mouth. All I know is that one or two are calm like this fox and some go back down the steps when they see me.

Mink with StripeMink with StripeEarlier, a mink heard my camera clicking through the window and stopped for a look with ears cocked. Yesterday, the mink with stripes on its white chin patch, might have solved a mystery. I was worried that one of them was missing its right eye, but this mink sometimes closes that eye, like in the picture.

Many people in this community hope these animals will escape the trapping seasons that go on until February 28 for mink and March 15 for foxes. Some of them are using food to draw them to safe areas. I haven’t seen a fisher or pine marten for a long time. I remember when they were just starting a comeback in 1977 when Dave Mech and I wrote a paper about pine martens Status, distribution, and movements of martens in northeastern Minnesota.

Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center