2007 Fall Update

Female Study Bears

Shadow (age 17) had 2 cubs this year, a male and a female.  The leather spacer on Shadow's collar gave way on August 28, 4 days before hunting season, and she is currently un-collared.  She showed up at Charlie's late in the hunting season, so we are confident that she made it through.  It will be a challenge for us to get a collar back on her next spring.  Although she has spent more time around people than any of the other bears, she has not become trusting enough to be collared without drugs.  

RC (age 8) split from her yearlings on June 3 and was seen at the field station accompanied by (precocious) Pete and BB King during mating season.  She was last seen at the field station on Sept 1.  She likely moved off to den at that time.  She should have cubs in January but she is un-collared so we won't know for sure until we see her next summer.

Donna (age 7) had a major problem with flooding in her den this past winter.  She gave birth to 2 cubs in January, but one had disappeared by mid-February.  The other cub had to spend a lot of time on Donna's back instead of snug underneath her because of the water.  That cub survived to leave the den with her in late March, but it had disappeared by mating season.  This meant Donna could mate again.  She joined up with One-eyed Jack, which should result in some nice cubs.  On September 16, Donna moved to the spot where she dug a high and dry burrow where flooding should not be a problem.  When we visited her there on October 3, she had not yet raked bedding into it.  We look forward to visiting her next spring when she should have her third litter.

Dot (age 7) slipped out of her collar before leaving her den last spring.  Glenn & Nancy Krause knew she couldn't go too far with little cubs, so they persisted in looking for her and calling to her.  One day she came to them with 2 male cubs and was re-collared.  Although Dot was with cubs this summer, she seemed more mellow than usual.  When she saw her sister Donna, she did not chase her like she had in previous years. 

June (age 6) had 3 cubs (F, M, M) this year.  She has become our most valuable research bear because of the video we are able to obtain by walking with her.  Much of the video on display at the North American Bear Center is of June and her cubs, and it offers the public a window into the world of black bears.  We learned new things from June and her cubs this fall.  They were deep in June's territory feeding extensively on leaves - speckled alder, quaking aspen, and large-leaf aster - when they could have been accessing food at one of the homes that welcomes them.  As of this writing (Nov 4) June and her cubs have been bedded on a slight rise in a swamp for 17 days.  They are not in a den and have little protection from the elements.  We have been checking her location twice a day hoping she will move to a higher, dryer, more protected den.

Hazel (age 6) had 3 cubs this year.  We visited her den on April 11th and found it flooded.  She had made a thick bed at the base of an ash tree and her cubs were up the tree.  Hazel's signal was close, but, as usual she did not let us see her.  Unfortunately her signal disappeared from the study area during the summer.  We thought she may have traveled out of range or that her collar simply malfunctioned, but we now suspect she may have been shot by a homeowner in the Tower/Soudan area.  We do not know what became of her 3 cubs.

Braveheart (age 5) had 3 male cubs this year.  Similar to her last litter, one cub is much smaller than the others.  Little Mickey doesn't seem to know he is the smallest and holds his own with his much bigger brothers, Chip and Dale.  Max was the runt and the only surviving bear from Braveheart's first litter.  He frequented the field station early last spring then apparently dispersed from the study area as mating season began.

Juliet (age 4) demonstrated on multiple occasions how forcefully mother bears can enforce family breakup.  She aggressively chased and treed her sons, Luke and Skywalker, on multiple occasions.  When Luke followed her into the woods as she left the field station one day we heard him bawl when she rebuffed his attempt to reconnect.  Juliet has been in a den dug under a large slash pile since September 15th and we expect her to have cubs, possibly fathered by Pete, in January.

Colleen (age 4) slipped her collar last fall just prior to denning so she was lost to contact until she showed up at the Krause's with 2 male cubs on August 5th.  She was then re-collared and on Oct 7 was tracked to an area where she likely is denning.

Solo (age 3) slipped her collar last fall while marking a utility pole so we were unable to locate her den in January to check for cubs.  Many Solo ‘sightings' were reported to us last spring and we soon learned she had 2 cubs.  We finally managed to collar her in late May.  She miraculously kept her collar on all summer in spite of the fact she has only one ear.  She has 2 very sweet female cubs, Erin and Megan.  Neither cub has a white blaze but both have 2 ears!  Hopefully we can collar these cubs and add to our knowledge of kinship and land tenure.

Keefer (age 3) never became accustomed to touch and has never been collared.  She arrived at the field station on August 21 with 3 small cubs (F, M, M).

Ursula (age 2) dropped her collar when the leather spacer gave way while she was marking a utility pole in late May.  She did not return to the field station this summer and remains uncollared.

Curly (age 2) has been occupying the portion of her mother Hazel's territory south of Armstrong Bay.  We were fortunate to locate Curly's signal as she headed south on Aug 13 and were able to monitor her travel.  She traveled 7 miles south to a remote area where she fed for at least 2 weeks.  She was back in her territory Sept 1st. Curly did not return to the field station this summer and attempts to connect with her in the woods failed.  We will go to her den this winter and drug her to change or perhaps simply remove her collar.

Cookie (age 2) was often seen playing with and enjoying the company of her brother Tucker until he dispersed from the area in mid-June.  Over the summer Cookie became a friendly, easy-going bear.  She seems to be establishing a territory to the north of her mother Dot's territory, and we expect Cookie to have her first litter of cubs in January.  We believe she has the potential to become an important study bear. 

Shannon (age 2) is smaller and shyer than her cousin Cookie.  There is a slight possibility she will have cubs in January.

Bow (age 1) was often seen this summer palling around with either Luke or Skywalker.  She was beautiful in her fluffy winter coat and bright bow-tie when last seen on Oct 12.

Midge (10+ ?) generally comes to the field station in years when she does not have cubs, but this year was an exception.  This year she brought her 2 female cubs (each with a nice white blaze) to the field station on Sept 5 and was a regular visitor until Oct 22.  She was very blustery towards the other bears, bullying much-larger Braveheart and 700+ lb Lumpy, who is likely the father of her cubs.

Male Study Bears

BB King (age 10) arrived at the field station on April 25 having lost twice as much weight as expected over winter.  He had a large abscess near the base of his tail and had lost much of the fur in that area.  He likely shivered off extra weight due to the hair loss.  BB King has had an oozing wound of unknown origin for over 4 years which likely is related to the abscess.  The abscess opened and drained, his hair grew back, and he gained well over the summer.  BB King is still as sweet and gentle as ever and we are anxious to see how he fairs this winter.

One-eyed-Jack (age 10+) spent more time in the eastern portion of the study area this year.  He still seems to be a favorite with the females and spent time courting Donna last spring.  In August Jack showed up with what appeared to be a large bite wound on his left hip.  Jack has been the dominant male within the study area for several years and we may be starting to see his dominance challenged.

Lumpy (age 10+) is by far the largest bear we see.  Last year his weight topped the 600 lb limit on the scale so this fall we adjusted the scale to accommodate an extra 100 lbs to get a true weight on him.  He again maxed out the scale so we still don't have an accurate weight on him but we know he weighs over 700 pounds.

Shylow (age 5) has become a large male - and he hasn't stopped growing yet!  Shylow is a curious mix - he arrives with a confident swagger, but may shy away when he sees someone.  Generally he returns and relaxes once he identifies the person.  He is very easy to identify with the U-shaped notch out of his right ear.

Luke (age 1) became skittish after hunting season began (his brother Skywalker was shot the first day of the hunt), but after a couple weeks the hunting pressure decreased and he became trusting again.  He found a new play-buddy in a young chocolate-brown male who began frequenting the field station at that time.

Bruno (age 1), son of RC, brother of Bow and NoBow was very large for his age and was seen only once after family breakup.  He likely dispersed from the study area as a yearling.

Big Harry, Little Harry, and Victor all were regular visitors this summer.  A new male we dubbed the V-dot Male also frequented the field station.

 

Eagles Nest Township Bear Concerns

Solo and June are calm, trusting bears, which has worked well for the research, but is a concern for some residents who see them.  In 2006 both bears began to frequent a residential area where people are not used to seeing bears, and some people became concerned because they didn't easily shoo away.  The town formed a committee to resolve bear issues.  It has been an interesting process and we are hopeful of a positive outcome for both the bears and the research.  This is a challenging time, but it does present a unique opportunity to educate people about bears.

 

Hunting Season Events

Bear hunting season is a stressful time for bears and those who know them as individuals with unique personalities, mannerisms, and quirks.  This year, hunting pressure around the field station was heavy.  We knew we would lose bears - it was only a question of which ones.  Two non-collared yearlings, Skywalker (M) and NoBow (F), were killed the first weekend of the hunt.  Skywalker was shot over bait the first day a quarter mile from the field station, and NoBow was shot over bait the third day three quarters of a mile from the field station. 

Skywalker was collared in April before he left the den with his mother Juliet.  We collared him then because Juliet had removed her collar in the den and was too blustery for us to re-collar.  Skywalker was his usual good self.  A few weeks later, Juliet was in a calmer mood and let us collar her.  With both mother and son collared, we followed their radio signals and learned when they split up in May.  Often siblings separate after family breakup, but Skywalker and his brother Luke liked each other.  They often roamed together during late May and early June.  In late June, Skywalker ventured west on his own and moved out of his usual area.  Shortly, his signal disappeared.  We don't know if he traveled beyond range or if his collar battery expired.  When we saw him again in late August, just before hunting season, he was without a collar. 

NoBow was a daughter of RC.  We remember a year and a half ago when she was 4 months old.  She sustained an injury that temporarily paralyzed her left hind leg.  She hopped around and climbed trees with that leg dragging behind.  RC remained near homes that welcome bears while NoBow healed.  NoBow eventually regained full use of the leg and grew larger than her sister Bow.  NoBow did not allow touching, so we were unable to collar her. 

There is always a certain amount of heartache when we lose bears for any reason - but the cycle of life continues.  If we close ourselves to the pain we also close ourselves to the joys these animals bring to our lives.

In the third week of hunting season, Pete and Bullet showed up with fresh wounds. 

Pete (age 2) is June's son.  The entry wound had cuts that probably were from a broadhead arrow.  The arrow apparently traveled down the outside of his rib cage, leaving a large, deep, open hole that will be difficult to heal.  It is large enough to hold maybe 5 golf balls.  He came to the field station nightly and gradually regained the 15 pounds he had lost while recovering from the initial trauma, plus an additional 7 pounds by his last weigh-in on Oct 10.  We will be anxious to see if he survives and shows up in spring and how his wound looks by then.  Pete was the only 2-year-old male study bear seen on a regular basis at the field station this summer.  Pete's brother George dispersed as a yearling, and 3 others (Burt, Max, and Larry) all seem to have dispersed as 2-year-olds.  Pete was observed mating with his aunt, Juliet, on June 4.  It was the first mating sequence we captured completely on video.  We plan to do DNA testing to determine if Pete was successful in passing on his genes.  We obtained a hair sample from Pete just prior to the hunting season and will gather samples from Juliet and her cubs next spring.

Bullet, a previously unknown young male, was first seen at the field station on Sept 19 and appeared to have a bullet wound through his right front shoulder with an exit wound in his armpit.  He arrived thin, limping, and with a scruffy coat.  He didn't know what to make of the scale at first because it moved when he stepped on it.  Interestingly, he stood up to ‘mean old mama' Midge.  She acted very threatening toward Bullet but never made contact.  He stood his ground and then scooted by Midge with his head lowered and back arched.  He even got on the scale and ate without looking around for danger.  It is as if he knew Midge wouldn't really hurt him.  Bullet came nightly and gained 73 pounds in 26 days.  His scruffy coat filled in, and he left in better shape to deal with hibernation and healing.