Monday, February 8, 2021

More About Bears, Black Bears this time

 

My friend, Ed, grew up on a farm north of Meadow lake, on the far northern edge of farmable land, up against the northern Saskatchewan bush country. He claims the next farm due north of theirs speaks Russian. It is also black bear country. Ed is a marathon runner and rans at least 10 km every day from when he was young. He said the wolves and bears got o know him and ignored him. Even today when he goes for a visit, he runs and it is nothing for him to see wolf packs in the bush along the road and several bears. He has had to slow down a few times because a mother and cubs were on the road ahead of him.

It was Ed got me interested in learning more about bears. He does not consider black bears dangerous. He says if you leave them alone, they leave you alone. His sister has comfortably picked berries in the same bush as a bear was feeding on them. Cartoons and ignorance have given bears a bad name.

If you run across a bear or find one in your yard, advice is to stand and face the bear directly. Slowly back away while keeping the bear in sight and wait for it to leave. Never run away from or approach him. Make yourself look as big as possible by spreading your arms or, better yet, a coat. Make as much noise as possible by yelling, banging pots and pans or using other noisemaking devices. If the bear does not leave, throw objects, wave your arms and make noise with a whistle or air horn. Prepare to use bear spray. If you are near a building or vehicle get inside as a precaution.

I have ‘Liked’ several bear pages on Facebook which is where I get the pictures I share. And where I have learned a great deal more about them. Pages include: Cool stuff by 8 Bears Forever, We Love Bears, Yellowstone Bears, Bear with Us – Centre for bear rehabilitation, education, sanctuary, and Bear Creek Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary. There are lots more if you look. Several of them post useful background information about bears, especially the sanctuary and rehab places.

The Sanctuary and Rehabilitation places are most interesting because they work directly with the bears, especially orphaned cubs, to prepare them to return to the wild. This article here has a great deal of background on the rehabilitation of orphan cubs in both Canada and USA. https://ceinst.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/2017-The-Rehabilitation-of-black-bear-cubs-june-19-Marlene-Klepatz.pdf. Cubs are orphaned for many reasons.

Black bear cubs become orphaned when they are separated from their mother or when their mother is killed. In most cases it´s illegal to kill a female bear with cubs. But is happens again and again because it´s very difficult to see the different between a female and a male. Mother bears send their cubs often on top of trees, when they search for food or when they feel danger. A single bear does not mean that the bear has no cubs around. Mother bears are killed because of human threats. Infrastructures like streets and trains, illegal poaching, regulated and unregulated hunting and human-animal conflicts separate and kill bear mothers.

Humanity is growing, and so the space they need grows too. Habitat fragmentation (agriculture), less habitat to live and the decreasing of resources drives bears closer to humans and they go on properties and into cities to find food (for example: garbage, bird-food). As a result, human-animal conflicts occur. Bears are killed or rehomed. The cubs stay behind.

Honey farms and bee yards are a major source of human-bear conflict. Bears love honey as Winnie the Pooh will tell you. Saskatchewan’s honey industry is canola based and canola is grown in the Parkland area which is home to many black bears as there is good bush cover closely available. Most beekeepers fence their bee yards with three strand electric fence to keep the bears out. The bears have to be trained to the fence, so they know it hurts. Hanging open sardine cans from the top wire will entice the bear to touch the fence. One touch and they are trained not to do that again. If the bear is not trained, it might just run through the fence before it feels anything and then they are a danger to other bee yards. It is legal to shoot bears within one mile of a bee yard.

I have only seen a bear with cubs once years ago at Fort Carlton with a Grade Seven class on a camping trip. The bears ambled along the river bank a few hundred meters from our tents. We were thrilled and also worried as we didn’t know that the mother would not charge us for no reason, so the kids stayed close to the campsite.

Current Black Bear Range in North America



This mother bear has a litter of five cubs

The cubs as yearlings

Triplet cubs

Quads litters occur more frequently in Black Bears
 than Grizzlies judging from the number of photos posted anyway








Orphan cubs at a rehabilitation centre

Cooling off in someone's back yard

19 comments:

  1. Beautiful, beautiful beasts. Love the playground fun clips too.
    And a big hooray for sanctuary/rehab centres and workers.

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  2. The little ones are so cute! When mom and her two cubs were playing beside our road last summer, I stopped the car several yards away and watched for just a few seconds. The two cubs scampered immediately to the base of a tree and one climbed up a few feet, then mom and cubs turned and watched me. I didn't want them to get too comfortable with close-range vehicles, so I drove on and they hurried off into the woods. It was a wonderful encounter, but I don't think I'll ever be as sanguine as your friend about being on foot in the presence of a bear with cubs. I really prefer to see them at a distance! :-)

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  3. EC, I would love to work at one of those rehab centres.

    Diane, I'm not sure I would either unless Ed was with me, though if something happened he would use the Buddy System - he can run faster than I can.
    If you get a chance to see the mother bear again with cubs, I hope you can get some pictures. The little ones are so cute, is right.

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  4. We have bears wander through our place on a regular basis but rarely see them just the sign they leave behind. I worry a bit about bears tearing up our apple trees in the fall, but there are so many wild trees around with better apples that they leave our heritage trees alone.

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    1. Nan, not surprised you have bears in your neck of the woods. You have wild apple trees? Awesome.

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  5. Cute photos and good information on black bears. They are shiny and fluffy and cute. I would never assume that they are not a danger, however. Just as there are psycho humans, there can be psycho bears for a variety of reasons. Since they are stronger than us and can run faster than us, it's a good idea to keep a safe distance from them. The idea of sharing a berry patch in the woods is outrageous. There are many anecdotes from people who have survived black bear attacks and then the articles about people who did not survive an attack. I have a 302 page book titled 'Alaska Bear Tales' by Larry Kaniut that covers historical attacks. There was a death last year in Ontario and I remember a young doctor being killed by a starved bear a few years ago just north of where I live. There was a ban on spring bear hunting a few years back that resulted in an explosion of bear sightings and bear break ins to cottages. I saw 14 bears that summer. I like bears and they have a right to exist but I would hold them with the same respect as I would a lion.

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    1. Rita, thank you for your comment. Bears are not harmless, even black bears. The numbers of people killed or injured by black bears is small but real. Yes they should be treated with respect. Why some turn killer is not known for sure. Wikipedia has a list of all known deaths from bear attacks. Look up list of fatal bear attacks in North America.

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    2. Just a little update. 3 deaths from bear attacks in Alberta in three months this summer. One was a woman killed in her yard.

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    3. Thank you for the update, Rita. That is sad. I need to look up the circumstances of these deaths. As we invade bear country more and more, they may start fighting back, so to speak.

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  6. A black bear is the only type of bear I've seen in the wild, luckily from a car window and a safe distance away.

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  7. My aunt was picking berries once when she stood up because her back was getting sore and a black bear stood up on the other side of the berry patch. They looked at each other and then went their own ways.

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    1. Kulkuri, sounds like my friend's sister. Not sure I'd be relaxed about it but I'm sure others have the same experience.

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  8. I have been a survival instructor and a Maine state guide, and happening on black bears is a common occurrence. I have never run into an aggressive black bear, moose yes - bears no. Maine black bears are quite shy and will usually move away from you. I don't consider them particularly dangerous; but you would not like to encroach on them or surprise then where they might feel threatened. However, black bears in Alaska are known to be aggressive and are implicated in numerous attacks and deaths. I am not sure why the same species located geographical separated should demonstrate such different aggressive tendencies. It may be the type of prey they feed on: Maine bears subsist on vegitation and small game, while Alaskan blacks may be use to preying on larger game.
    the Ol'BUzzard

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    1. Interesting about the differences in aggression between Alaska and Maine black bears. Is there any research on aggression by geolocation? Wiki gives deaths by location but not injuries

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  9. I have seen a black bear on two occasions through a car window and that's as close as I am likely to get. But a couple of years ago there was a young bear wandering around back gardens in Newmarket. Ontario, and a bear was sighted in the summer of 2020 on one of the local walking/biking trails.

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    1. Safest place to bear watch I guess. Young yearling bears newly abandoned by their mothers often get into 'trouble' because they are lonely and curious.

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  10. I've seen black bears several times in the Oregon woods. Once, when Peggy and I were biking, I saw cubs in a tree, and I said, "Peggy, look at the bear cubs," but Peggy was already pedaling away as fast as she could travel, having seen the cubs before I did without saying a word to me about them. My understanding is that brown bears will attack to defend their cubs, but that, while black bears will abandon their cubs, they sometimes kill people to eat them. About running through bear and wolf country, aren't mountain lions also up there? A fellow in lower BC--Vancouver Island, I think--was taken off his bike by a mountain lion. He later said that he could hear the clicking of the lion's claws on the roadway. Well, mountain lions can retract their claws, so I don't know if the claws were really out, or if the man imagined it. They're around here too, and sometimes one gets a lot of unwanted attention by wandering into the outskirts of town.

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    1. Snowbrush, you were likely safe enough to slow down and look at the cubs. Yes Brown bears are quite aggressive where cubs are concerned while mama black bear just sends them up a tree.
      No cougars in Northern Saskatchewan. I think there used to be some in the Pasqua Hills and Cyprus Hills. Not sure if any have been seen there lately

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