Spanky in Action and a Question - UPDATE February 24, 2021

SpankyWe went through nearly 16 hours of Spanky’s activities to get an idea of his activity pattern. In the process we found something I’ve never seen before.

In those 16 hours, Spanky roused nine times, 5 of those times for only a minute or two to turn around in his bed and settle back in.

Then he awoke with a start that we believe was caused by a visitor that brings back memories of Lily and Jewel of a decade ago. Vinnie the Vole paid a quiet visit, walking past a sleeping Spanky disappearing out of view. But then between 9:55 and 10:01 AM, Spanky suddenly went on alert, looking off to the right. He settled down and then went on alert to the right again. We’re guessing Vinnie was rustling around making noises Spanky couldn’t identify. Here’s the video: See what you think.

Spanky StretchingThe big moment to me was when Spanky had to relieve himself for 56 seconds, creating a puddle that did not sink into the frozen ground. He settled back for a minute and then did something I had never seen a bear do. He spent the next five minutes licking up the urine. Why would he do that? I can only guess. We know that bears in dens eat snow, but there is no snow within 20 feet of him. Did he know he should recycle the moisture, like mother bears ingest the urine of their cubs? I’ve long wondered how we would see wild bear after bear eating snow and urinating, while captive bear studies say that black bears go months without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating. Why would this bear that did not eat or drink for nearly four months have to urinate? Probably waste products slowly build up from the natural breakdown and re-growth of muscle and bone cells over winter. But why then haven’t captive bear studies seen urination? This seems far-fetched, but if the bears were able to lick up any urine they produced, there would be no evidence they had urinated. Maybe bears without snow produce less urine than usual. Whatever the case, Spanky demonstrated that at least one bear without access to moisture for several months ingested his urine. We are lucky to have an unusually good view of him in this den. We’ll see what we all observe in the remaining weeks of his hibernation. Here’s the video

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

2021 Bear DenClick to watch the 2021 Bear Den Cam