Holly and Tasha - UPDATE April 19, 2019

Senior Bearkeeper Sharon Herrell summarized events as the bears began using the full enclosure. Dark-eyed juncoDark-eyed junco

We are now open Fridays and Saturdays from 10am-4pm! Bring the fam, bring your friends, bring yourself – we’d love to see you!

We run behind the scenes tours every hour so that everyone gets a chance to see our ambassador bears. They are still working on coming out of hibernation fully (aren’t we all?) but you’ll be able to see them out and about in their enclosures. We let them out together for the first time this spring and Sharon – our Sr. Bearkeeper – summed up Wednesday’s activities for us:

Summing up Wednesday’s bear activity - April 17, 2019

Song sparrowSong sparrowEach spring I think about the bears coming together. I think about their safety first, their relationships, and what behaviors might be anticipated after not seeing one another for seven months.

This is a summary of the events. I was right there watching or had one other staff person watching for me while I worked with the bears.

Ted was the first bear to be out of his enclosure. With a quickened pace he worked his way through a small amount of snow on the mound. He maneuvered his way to the scale for his spring weigh-in and then he was off foraging. He found an abundance of sunflower seeds left by the birds and Tasha. He enjoyed himself for over an hour moving from small pile to pile. Spencer and I worked Ted back to his den where his lunch awaited him.

Lucky and Holly were out next. The bear gate to the big bunker was opened and they both left. We anxiously awaited their arrival to the pond but they detoured into The Haven den. Both bears rubbed trees and stomp walked inside the enclosure. Spencer lured Lucky out with treats and he went to visit Ted.

Ted vocalized to Lucky and he ran to the mound then walked into the viewing area. We got his weight and then he began smelling every inch of where Ted had been. He was alerted to a commotion at the rear of the pond; Holly had found Tasha.

WoodchucksWoodchucksThe chase was on at that point. Tasha loped across the rear of the pond with Holly not far behind her. She ran to the cub tree and quickly climbed to one of the top sturdy branches. Holly pursued but didn't go as high at first. The vocalizations from Holly were huffs, slaps on the tree and some chomping. Tasha's response was to blow back.

Holly left the cub tree and began to stomp walk and mark near and behind the pond. She then went back to the cub tree and climbed to where Tasha was. They exchanged swats, Holly swatted Tasha and Tasha put her paw on Holly's head. They went nose to nose and Holly backed down the tree.

We called Holly with Heidi's help and she came willing to the Haven den enclosure. She was clearly frustrated but calmed down quickly. She was given food and water. Heidi and I shared time talking to her and she did get a back rub.

In the middle of all the action Lucky had the need to wash his face. He does this every year after a long winter sleep. The camera was on the girls but Lucky tried to wash in the small creek but it was dry. He went to the pond and sat on the filter cage and washed his face. We guided him back to the bunker and he peacefully enjoyed his dinner and fresh water.

Tasha left the cub tree about 20 minutes after Holly was penned. She descended the cub tree and ran into the forest. Most likely to watch from her daybed near her den.

Mink clearMink clearAll of this was expected and the nose-to-nose behavior makes me think there will be more chasing but it will all be good.

Sharon Herrell, Sr. Bearkeeper
North American Bear Center, Ely, MN

Within two hours after she posted her prediction of more chasing, Pooch Pal captured this 2:14-minute video of Holly chasing Tasha https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iRbVUsO4Ak. No harm done, but it makes me want to expand the enclosure with 3 new areas in which to separate the bears during times of high hormones without putting them into the small enclosures.

Out the window at the WRI, dark-eyed juncos are passing through and song sparrows have arrived. The day started with two young (yearling?) woodchucks peacefully sharing food. So different from a chase we saw a couple days ago. These might be the two we saw touch noses near a burrow yesterday.WoodchuckWoodchuck

A new activity for the mink named Clear is carrying mouthfuls of brown pine needles under the deck where we suspect he is making his home. After a spurt of that activity, he stayed under the deck, causing suspense when the mink named Stripe came down the driveway and sniffed where Clear had gathered pine needles. Stripe gave Clear’s entrance area a wide berth on her way to the second floor deck to check for bologna. She took one piece, carried it up the driveway, and was gone.

A new development was Clear being wet. The bit of open water on Woods Lake and a nearby pond refroze overnight. It took half the day to thaw out despite temperatures as high as 62°F. In late afternoon when Clear visited, all but his head was wet. The ice is darkening on the lake, so it won’t be long before the entire lake is open at these temperatures. We love the nice spring weather and sunshine.

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