Our first group event of 2011 was with the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Black Bear Research team. We visited the same female as last year and saw the surviving cubs as yearlings.
The female had chosen a den site approximately one mile from last years site. The research team traveled ahead to locate the den and sedate the bears. We arrived as they were beginning to collect the biological data and fit the bears with new radio collars.
Maine’s Black Bear monitoring program tracks the reproductive success, survival and health of nearly 100 female Black Bears over 3 study areas through out the state. Data collected from this research helps the state properly manage Maine’s Black Bear population.
Black Bears den for food related, or lack there of, reasons not because of weather conditions. As long as there is plenty of available food they will remain active. When they can no longer gain more energy than they expend in search of food they den. Therefor the length of time they are in the den varies greatly from one year to the next. In Maine bears are in the den from approximately 5 to 7 months, depending upon the food crop for that given year.
Bears are also not “true” hibernators. True hibernators must come out of hibernation to urinate, defecate, and eat every couple of weeks. Bears do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate the entire time they are in the den. They also are fully aware of their surroundings, unlike true hibernators, such as raccoons and squirrels. Bears are truly unique and amazing animals.
The female we visited was born into the research program 12 years ago. She had 3 newborn cubs last January, one male and two females. The mother and both female offspring were present in the den this year. 60% survival is normal for Black Bears which is a relatively high rate of survival for young wild animals.
The following is a video journal of the 2011 Kicking Bear groups, Bear den trip.