From mid-December or so until now, we have been able to fill bird feeders and not have them pulled down or otherwise damaged by our big bruin friends. The bears seek their wintering places around …
From mid-December or so until now, we have been able to fill bird feeders and not have them pulled down or otherwise damaged by our big bruin friends. The bears seek their wintering places around that time; occasionally, a male may emerge for a quick walk every few weeks, but for the most part, winter is bear-free.
Females that are gravid stay the duration in their dens for the most part, unless they are disturbed, or go out for a quick forage during mild winter days. In January, they give birth to one, two or three cubs.
The cubs are tiny at birth, weighing about eight ounces. They immediately start nursing, and by the time they emerge from the den with their mother, they weigh about five pounds.
Bears with cubs can lose up to a third of their body weight, and when they emerge during the spring, they are on the lookout for food. Bears are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and vegetable matter. In the wild, away from human presence, they might be eating emerging plants or scavenging for a winter-killed deer. They may also hunt and kill other animals that they can catch, especially young or injured animals. A lot of flipped rocks or logs in an area may be a bear looking for insects.
Bears are opportunistic feeders, and they get help where people live. Starting at this time, you may spot trash cans dumped over and dragged out into the woods, for example. Bird feeders may start getting attacked, and any unprotected beehives may be in peril. The single bears are usually seen first, then the females together with their cubs will appear around April. If you see a female with cubs, keep your distance, as females are protective of their young and may charge if a person gets too close.
There are things you can do to minimize the impact of hungry bears. They are attracted by food, so eliminate or make it hard to get at these food sources. Don’t put out the trash until the day of pickup; if you have to put it out ahead of time, sprinkle a little ammonia in the can to discourage them. Bears can climb or go through fences, and electric fences are recommended for protecting beehives and other things that attract bears.
If you see a bear with cubs while hiking and are close, back away slowly, and keep an eye and ear on mom; if she clacks her jaws, you are perceived as a threat and should back off. Bears will usually retreat rather than get into a confrontation. Sometimes, the cubs (and mom) will climb trees. Leave the area, and they will come down.
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