River Talk

The return of the bears

By SCOTT RANDO
Posted 3/11/20

There are not too many people thinking about bears at the moment as they have been largely absent over the course of the winter. The gestating females in their dens gave birth to cubs during the …

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River Talk

The return of the bears

Posted

There are not too many people thinking about bears at the moment as they have been largely absent over the course of the winter. The gestating females in their dens gave birth to cubs during the month of January and have been nursing them for the last couple of months. Except for a brief outing near the den on mild winter days, black bears are not seen in the environment over the winter.

The month of March marks the end of the bears’ hibernation, and they start emerging from their dens through the end of March and into April. Females with cubs emerge during the first two weeks of April in this region. 

There is a camera that the PA Game Commission installed to monitor a den present under a homeowner’s porch. The video shows the sow and her cub leaving the den in April of 2019: www.bit.ly/cubunderdeck.

For mammal biologists and other people working with wildlife agencies, mid-March is the time to visit select dens and process mom and the cubs. The sow is sedated and the cubs are tagged, weighed and checked for mange and other diseases; medication is given as needed. The cubs are large enough (about 6 pounds or so) to enable safe processing with minimal impact on the cubs or the mother.

If you have bird feeders out, you may want to think about bringing them inside or making them bear resistant by the end of March. In residential areas, bird seed is a favorite treat. Garbage cans are another favorite food target, so it will soon be time to bear-proof whatever containers you have outside. You may be fortunate enough to spot some of this year’s cubs traveling with the mother bear. Enjoy, but from a distance; the mother will defend her cubs to the point of attacking any perceived threat.

If you avoid intentionally feeding bear (against the law) or having garbage or other food items accessible to bear, you can minimize the nuisance factor of these animals. Bears are fun to see in the wild in their natural habitat. Spotting the first bear of the season is a harbinger of spring; warm temperatures are on the way.

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