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In Bear Country

December 14, 2012
Black Bear Sow

guarding her cubs

I live in bear country and when I go hiking I stand a good chance of seeing a bear.  I think that makes me very lucky.

How does a bear, a large animal with  a large caloric intake, make it through the winter? I look around this morning and see snow, and very little for me to eat (OK, some buds, seeds and insects that I would have to dig out of wood or the earth). I need clothing and a roof and heat. I need to either store food that I grow or import food. But bears? They eat almost anything, store energy as fat, find a den below the frost line or insulated with a lot of snow and lower their metabolism over the winter. Females have their cubs in the den and emerge in spring (late April or May) much thinner, and in need of lots and lots of calories.  Sows also need to defend their young cubs from any boars that hunt cubs. They may not attain a healthy summer weight until well into June.   From then, until late November, these bears are finding as much food as possible make the fat  that enables them to make it though the winter.  With no food and no water.  A truly amazing way to go through life.

Brown-coloured Black Bear Sow

Brown-coloured Black Bear Sow

Black Bear fishing for Kokanee Salmon

Black Bear fishing for Kokanee Salmon

I am writing this on December 14.  There have been bears reported still out and about as late as five days ago in my area.  Those bears were finding garbage, compost and chickens.  I hope they go to the den soon.   Because bears just continue to follow that efficient  nose (capable of smelling food from amazing distances) once they have been invited close to a home by garbage, or compost, or chickens.  And that nose gets them into trouble.   I wish people, who have made bear country their own, would try harder to understand bears, and to live in a way that does not teach bears to forage for food  near or in their homes.   After all, don’t our brains make us the more evolved species?

The tracks of a black bear sow and cub in late November of 2011.

The tracks of a black bear sow and cub in late November of 2011.


All photos and writing on this blog copyright Joanne Siderius

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