By now most of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears are snug hibernating in winter dens, safe at last from human dangers.
But in the darkness below the snow, mysteries and miracles unfold, apropos of our Christmas season. Researchers have long known the basics of bear hibernation. These bruins don’t eat or drink or excrete waste for between 150 and 180 days. But when grizzly bears crawl out of their dens in spring, they are specimens of health. They lose very little bone strength or lean muscle mass, though they may lose as much as 30 percent of their fall weight.
Unlike deep hibernators like ground squirrels, bears are not unconscious during their winter slumber, which allows mother grizzlies to give birth in the dead of winter to a cub or two, each the size of a teacup, which she groggily nurses in her den until sometime during April or even May.
How does a mother bear pull off this feat? Part of her secret involves obesity. Gorging on foods ranging from bison to ants, she packs on several pounds a day during her late summer and fall feeding frenzy.
A sluggish black bear that spent its winter denned high up inside a cottonwood tree in Glacier National Park is slowly awakening, and the world is watching as the sleepy bruin ploddingly emerges from its lair, yawning and scratching and prompting a collective “awww” from across the globe.
After observing the bear on March 23, park employees installed a webcam and began streaming live footage of a prominent hole in the cottonwood’s trunk where a branch broke away, allowing the bear to take refuge in the repurposed digs last fall and enjoy its winter slumber undisturbed. The footage features two views, a close-up and a wide-angle shot, using a telephoto lens with a 30X optical zoom so as not to disturb the bear.
Although the distance from the camera to the tree is 357 feet, the view looks spectacularly close. At times the bear’s ears and tufted bedhead can easily be viewed through the portal, through which the bear occasionally pokes its head and yawns adorably, or climbs out onto the cottonwood’s branches to explore.
Spring has sprung, which means bears are emerging from hibernation and heading to the valley bottoms looking for something to eat. This piece from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is a pretty good write-up . . .
Bears are emerging from dens across northwest Montana and residents are reminded to remove food attractants from their properties to avoid conflicts.
Montana is home to grizzly bears and black bears that roam the mountains and valley floors from spring through late fall before denning in wintertime. Starting in mid-March, bears begin emerging and move to lower-elevation areas seeking food.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks encourages residents to “Be Bear Aware” and remove attractants every spring by April 1.
“With this year’s above-average snowpack, bears are coming out of their dens and digging out from several feet of snow. There’s no place for them to go but down toward the valley floor to feed,” said Tim Manley, FWP Region 1 Grizzly Bear Management Specialist.
Residents are asked to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage and bird feeders and bird seed. Chicken and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door.
A 3 year old male grizzly bear was captured April 10th at a private residence along Tamarack Road northwest of Columbia Falls. The 211 pound bear was captured by FWP Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum after the resident reported a bear had killed some of his young chickens.
The young bear was anesthetized, radio-collared, and released by Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley. The Interagency decision was made to release the bear back into the wild since it had no previous known conflicts. The grizzly bear was released on the afternoon of April 11th in the Whale Creek drainage of the North Fork of the Flathead, 34 straight line miles from where it was caught.
Black bear activity has picked up as well. FWP Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum reports that he has handled two problem bears in the last two days and is attempting to trap four other black bears that have ranged close to residences. Wenum reminds
residents to take down bird feeders, secure garbage, feed pets inside, clean up chicken and livestock feed, and in general remove all odorous substances that can draw bears.
On Monday morning, a radio tracking flight was conducted to locate radio-collared grizzly bears in the Swan and Mission mountains. A total of 8 radio-collared grizzly bears were located. Seven of the bears were out of their dens, but still in the upper elevations in the snow. A total of 16 grizzly bears were observed which included cubs, yearlings, and two-year-olds that were with their mothers.
Additional flights are planned during the month of April to locate radio-collared grizzly bears in the Whitefish Range and the Middle Fork of the Flathead. One of the main objectives of the flights is to get visuals on adult females and the number of young they have when they first emerge from their dens. This allows biologists to track cub reproduction and cub survival throughout the year.
Grizzly bears are making an early start on the east side this year . . .
Grizzly bears on the Rocky Mountain Front are emerging from their dens this year earlier than ever after the mild winter, Montana wildlife officials said.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials flew over the area on Friday to check on nine bears that had been fitted with radio collars, the Great Falls Tribune reported. Eight were already gone, and several female bears had already traveled far down river drainages east of the mountains. One bear’s radio signal was picked up east of U.S. Highway 89 on the open plains near the Marias River.
“This is by far the earliest we’ve had as many transmitted grizzly bears outside of their dens,” FWP grizzly bear management specialist Mike Madel said.
Each year, bears hibernate for the winter. They gorge themselves on food to pack on fat, but somehow avoid health consequences. Now, scientists have found that the bears’ shifting metabolic status is associated with significant changes in their gut microbes.
“The restructuring of the microbiota into a more avid energy harvester during summer, which potentially contributes to the increased adiposity gain without impairing glucose metabolism, is quite striking,” said Fredrik Backhed, one of the researchers, in a news release.
The composition of gut microbiota can influence the amount of energy harvested from the diet. In fact, microbiota shifts in people who are obese and in those with type 2 diabetes.
In this latest study, the researchers collected fecal samples from wild bears during hibernation and in the active period. Then, the researchers analyzed the microbes living within these sample. The scientists found reduced diversity in the hibernation microbiota…
The bears are definitely on the move. We spotted a black bear right on the south edge of Coram yesterday, quite close to a number of buildings . . .
With the arrival of spring, bears are emerging from their mountain dens and descending into the lower valleys in search of food.
Earlier this week, tribal biologists located a radio-collared female grizzly bear at the base of the Mission Mountains on the Flathead Reservation.
Stacy Courville, wildlife program bear biologist with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, reminds the public that springtime is accompanied by an increase in bear activity. After stirring awake, bears begin seeking food sources, and they are often drawn to items such as garbage, pet food, bird feeders and chicken coops. Food-depleted bears can react aggressively if they’re surprised while feeding.
The unseasonably warm weather has gotten some area bears up and moving. The Flathead Beacon posted a couple of photos of a grizzly sow and two cubs spotted by a crew working on Going-to-the-Sun Road last week.
It’s spring in Montana and the bears are beginning to stir . . .
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks biologists are reminding folks that bears are awake and people should secure attractants like dog food, bird food, chickens feed and garbage.
FWP bear and lion specialist Erik Wenum caught a 6-year-old, 340-pound male grizzly bear April 6 south of Eureka.
The next day the bear was examined and radio-collared. The grizzly was then released on April 8 in Glacier National Park, assisted by Park personnel in an area seasonally closed due to snow and road conditions. There are no known previous management situations involving this bear.