Pete and George: the lesson they taught

Pete and George: the lesson they taught

Update February 24, 2010 – 9:50 PM CST

We are so thankful Lily’s cub is a female!  This means she’ll grow up and stay in the area.  We’ll be able to study her relationship with Lily and the other members of Shadow’s clan.  Hopefully she has inherited Lily’s trusting nature.

When there was doubt about the sex of Lily’s cub, I was reminded of the disappointment I felt back in 2005 when I learned both cubs in June’s first litter were male.  June had become my primary research bear during the summer of 2004 when she allowed me to tag along on my first attempt to walk with her.  I knew she would most certainly have cubs the next winter and I hoped at least one would be female.  It wasn’t to be.  June had 2 male cubs.

However, in retrospect, I realize I was fortunate to have 2 cubs of the same sex to study.  It wasn’t long before the cubs’ personalities became apparent—and they were as different as could be.  One cub was obviously dominant.  He commanded all 4 nipples on June’s chest—working one pair while guarding the other pair with a paw.  His brother was relegated to the inguinal pair of nipples.  The dominant cub showed interest in me but was suspicious.  During one walk he came up behind me and swatted my calf—a move that earned him the name ‘Sneaky Pete’.  His brother was cautious yet curious about me—and I named him ‘Curious George.’  These 2 are the cubs in the ‘Cub Play’ video.

June and Pete 5-18-06Pete had boundless energy and played endlessly with both his mother and brother.  He was often the first to wake from a nap—and when Pete was awake he thought everyone should be awake, so he would nip his brother and jump on his mother.  Pete was always at the center of the action and seemed to be June’s favored cub.  One of my favorite pictures of is of June and Pete sleeping in each other’s arms shortly before family breakup.  Pete is a 5-year-old now and we still occasionally see him.

George, however, played only with Pete and would squawk and run away if June attempted to play with him.  Much of the time he seemed off in his own world contentedly doing his own thing.  When Pete had his nose next to June’s licking ant pupae from a log, George would be off alone eating gooseberries.  Shortly after family breakup, George moved 10 miles out of the study area.  That fall I went to his den, removed his collar and wished him well.

I found the difference between these two male cubs fascinating.  I was able to learn their personalities without wondering if some of the difference could be attributed to gender.

When June had her second litter in 2007, we captured video footage of her and the cubs in the den and reviewed it carefully.  We were ecstatic when we identified one of her cubs as female!  Her face was much lighter than the other two and we named her Lily.

Thank you all, once again, for your wonderful encouragement and support for our educational efforts.

—Sue Mansfield, Biologist, North American Bear Center

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