Visit to Donna's den -- defecation -- size of newborn cubs

 January 18, 2010 - 7:25 PM CST

Today, we checked the progress of another pregnant female, Lily’s cousin 10-year-old Donna.  We’ve known her since she was a cub of Blackheart in “The Man Who Walks With Bears” produced for Animal Planet by Doug Hajicek, the same man who put together this den cam operation.

Donna's den - January 18, 2010Donna raised litters of 2 cubs at age 3 and 5, then lost a litter at age 7, and raised another 2-cub litter at age 8.  She is doing the same as Lily—waiting to give birth and bringing in more bedding to get ready.  The picture shows the trail from her den to a clump of balsam fir saplings where she bit off boughs to bring into the den.

We suspected one of Lily’s forays outside was to defecate.  Donna did the same.  In front of her den is a neat pile of droppings.  It will be interesting to collect them in spring and determine the contents.  This brings up two issues for a future update—the fecal plug and how bears often go the many months of hibernation without eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating.

It will be an exciting next few days as these bears give birth.  Hopefully, Lily will come through with the others.   What should we look for?  How big is a newborn black bear cub?  The average weight is 11-13 ounces (301-364 grams), depending upon the region.  Some have weighed up to a pound (453 grams) or as little as 9 ounces (255 grams).   Length from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail averages 9.4 inches (238 mm), but some have been as short as 8.2 inches (209 mm) or as long as 11.2 inches (285 mm).   Hair 1-3 mm long covers the body except the ears.

Thank you to the many people who are watching and reporting.  A couple people sent video of Lily licking, chewing a root, trying to cover it with bedding, or generally rearranging the bedding.  We haven’t seen or heard cubs yet, but we are beginning to feel the excitement as the days go by.  We look forward to the day when there is no longer any question about what we are seeing.

A heart-felt thanks from everyone at the Bear Center for the many generous donations to reduce the debt.   We look forward to being able to do more for bears when we are debt-free.

T-shirts will be online in a day or two saying “Captured by Lily” and another saying “Lily Live 2010.”  They will be pre-shrunk cotton heavyweight t-shirts with a choice of ash or natural (light tan).

—Lynn Rogers, Ph.D.