Spanky Getting Restless - UPDATE March 8, 2021

Spanky heading outSpanky heading out

With spring-like conditions upon us, Spanky is getting restless. He ventured outside the den yesterday and today. Yesterday, he was caught on a trail cam some 350 feet away from his den. Interesting.

Here is a 3:24 video of yesterday's scenes from Spanky's den:

The snow crust that would almost hold a person has disappeared. Today, the snow is soft, shallow and melting fast, making walking easy now that a shift in wind currents has traded the deep freeze of February 5-21 for temperatures some 20 degrees Fahrenheit about normal.

With snowfall for January and February 48% below average and the forecast for March being far warmer than usual temperatures, I predicted that Spanky would be out and gone by the end of March.

But I didn’t think he’d be out wandering this early.

Adult males are the first to leave their dens, but this is the earliest I’ve heard of. Spanky is just making little ventures out, though, and returning to his den for most of the day and night. We’ll see what happens.

In this part of North America where bear food is absent in winter, bears are genetically programmed to enter or leave dens on schedule in fall and spring regardless of whether supplemental food is available or not. In my studies, weather has influenced dates of entry and exit by only a week or two. Will Spanky upset the applecart?

In the Eastern Deciduous Forest with its beechnuts, acorns, and hickory nuts, bumper crops can mean these foods are available all winter with bears continuing to forage through the year by digging down through the snow. People who provide supplemental food in that area continue to see bears all winter.

Mink SpotMink SpotBut here in this Minnesota area, any bear that responds to an abnormal warm period by getting up and foraging in mid winter would be sorely disappointed. It’s been that way for millennia. Consequently, we don’t see bears in winter here—except maybe Spanky. We are still learning. At this moment, though, he is back in his bed sleeping soundly—apparently ignoring the constant drip from the melting snow.

Out the window, Spot the mink is doing her usual as a busy non-hibernator.

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