2002-11-25 - Update on research bears

Six bears are wearing radio-collars going into hibernation.  Shadow at 12 years of age is the matriarch of the clan and is the mother or grandmother of the other radio-collared bears.  We call her Shadow because she is like a shadow, cruising the shadows at dusk looking for bear to chase as her cubs feed.  A hunter reported a couple years ago that the cubs came to his bait but the wary mother cruised the shadows unwilling to come in.  He thought it was because of him, but this is typical behavior by this bear.  

Shadow's oldest daughter is Blackheart at 5  3/4 years of age.  Blackheart is on her second litter, denning near her den of last winter with her three cubs that were born this past January.  Braveheart is the largest cub.  She earned her name by being the first to climb up the edge of the den last spring to investigate Lynn Rogers.  Over the summer she was the calmest and most calculating of the cubs, seemingly the best at assessing danger, or lack of it, and being the first to come down from trees and resume feeding after being startled.   She has a white heart on her chest.

The next one down from trees was typically Valiant, who has a white V on her chest.  The last to venture down was almost always the male.  He shared some of the paranoid trait that characterizes his mother Blackheart.  He was always the most blustery, giving demonstrations of fear when the others were calm.  This shy bear seemed to have lower intelligence.  Jeff Tilley, a 12-year-old, suggested the name Shylow for him, and it stuck.  Blackheart did fine this past year with no noticeable effects from having been hit by a car on July 10, 2001.  She is presumably snuggled with Braveheart, Valiant, and Shylow at this moment, surrounded by five inches of snow. 

Shadow's next oldest daughter is 3-year-old RC who still shares part of Shadow's territory.  Blackheart and Shadow, on the other hand, have nearly separate territories now. 

Blackheart's daughters Dot and Donna were 2-year-olds this past summer and moved to the far edge of Blackheart's territory and beyond.  Donna had a foot or wrist injury in mid-summer that hampered her travels and presumably her foraging.  

Shadow separated in June from her yearlings Hazelnut, Juneberry, and Willow, whose nicknames are Hazel, June, and Will, two females and a male.   We radio-collared Hazel and June but did not radio-collar Will because he will leave the area next year, as males do, and travel far beyond the area we are able to study.  June dropped her radio-collar at the beginning of the hunting season, which began September 1.   

All the bears, including the non-collared June, Will, and the big cubs of Blackheart made it through the hunting season.  This is interesting because one would think these bears would be the most vulnerable because of their familiarity with people.  However, we didn't hear of a single hunter even seeing them.  We ask hunters to pass up radio-collared bears, but in our queries of hunters, we haven't found one who saw a radio-collared bear, and they evidently didn't see the non-collared June and Will either. 

We are looking forward to late January to find out which of the six radio-collared females will produce cubs.  Shadow and RC are almost certain to reproduce as both weighed over 300 pounds in fall.  Dot and Donna will turn three in January, which is the minimum age for producing cubs, but whether they got big enough to actually reproduce is questionable. 

We'll check soon from a distance to see if any of them were disturbed by deer-hunters now that the deer season has ended (yesterday).  Hopefully, they will all be in their same locations fast asleep.  In late January, we'll check more closely to listen for newborn cubs.