Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sleepy Bear

This year's bear collaring season is coming to an end.  Once berries are on the shrubs it is difficult to lure them in with a pile of out-of-date donuts.  It has been a good year for the project with lots of new data acquired.

I was able to participate in the collaring of another bear, this one five miles from our house on Bull Creek.  This one was was a recapture from the year before when she acquired her ear tag as bear 25.  She had cubs nearby but we never got to see them, although undoubtedly they were up in a tree watching us.

She weighed in at 134#.  After weighing and measuring her, a radio collar was attached to her neck.  She will wear this for a year until it automatically falls off.  Once its signal stops the collar can be retrieved and the battery changed for use on another bear.

By now it was late in the evening and it was the 4th bear of the day for the bear team which had to drive back to Jefferson City.   The bear needed to be monitored as she awakened.  In the sedated state there is a possibility of injury from a wandering male or another predator approaching while she is defenseless.

Attaching the collar
We monitored her from 40 feet away, watching through shrubs.  A sedated bear falls asleep from head to tail and wakes up in the same order.  In this video you can see her begin to look around, tossing her head back and forth, then slowly getting her front legs working and finally up on all fours and moving off.  The final segment shows an unsedated male being released from a trap.

These are incredible animals, living in harmony with humans while usually unseen.  We are frequently asked what the MBBF (Missouri Black Bear Foundation) is doing to increase the numbers of bears.  The bears are doing fine and will take care of themselves.  It is we humans that need the nurturing and education to live with our bear friends. 

Current studies are to determine the population size, birth rate and distribution of bears.  In areas where the bears range, learning to contain our trash, pet and bird food and avoiding the temptation to feed them will keep the bears at a respectful distance in our shared habitat.

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