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Old 04-24-2009, 01:57 PM   #1
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Default In My Backyard - Part 2

In My Backyard - Part 2
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In My Backyard - Part 1

As the summer of 2006 progressed, I became enthralled with watching Goldilocks and her 4 cubs, I began photographing and video taping in earnest. I also discovered that she was not the only adult bear in our woods

The same spring Goldilocks appeared with her 4 cubs (Enie, Meenie, Miney and Mo), Snow White appeared with 3 cubs (Huey, Louie and Dewey), and Cinderella appeared with 2 cubs (Yogi Bear & Boo-Boo Bear). Amazing! I was busy with my plant books attempting to identify what they were eating and what they found so attractive about our woodland property. I discovered many plants in our woods that are bear favorites, and of course they love all the acorns from our forest of oak trees. I also discovered a football field sized blackberry patch on our property and those bears know exactly what day those berries ripen. Funny thing is they check the berries daily and only eat the ripe ones.

Goldilocks was the BEST mother of the 3 adult females with cubs. Snow White was a "nervous nelly," and Cinderella was a "careless mom." Cinderella and one of her cubs mysteriously disappeared later in the summer, and Snow White adopted Cinderella's stray cub. Snow White was the mama bear with 3 cubs. So by the time fall came around, there were 2 female mother bears with 4 cubs each. It was really something to see that's for sure.

Snow White with 2 of her 3 cubs
In My Backyard - Part 2-snow-20white-20and-203-20cubs-2001.jpg
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Snow White with her 3 cubs, Huey, Louie & Dewey

In My Backyard - Part 2-snow-20white-20and-203-20cubs-2002.jpg
click on image to enlarge

In My Backyard - Part 2-cinderella-2004.jpg
click on image to enlarge

When a female bear gives birth to cubs, she is confined to a specific area until the cubs are old enough to travel with her. All 3 adult females, Goldilocks, Snow White & Cinderella raised their cubs in approximately the same area and seemed to recognize each other. I never saw any disputes between the adults, and the different families of cubs exhibited much curiosity about each other.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I’m inclined to believe that Cinderella & Snow White were offspring of Goldilocks. They often greeted each other with a nose touch. This is considered “Hi There! Hello! How’s it going?” in bear speak. A few times I observed one adult bear deeply sniffing near the mouth a another adult bear. I later read in a book that this behavior allows a bear to determine what the other bear has been eating and pretty much where the food source came from. Once in a while I would go check out a feeding area after the bears departed in an attempt to determine which plants they were eating. This is when I discovered that I was pretty rotten at native plant identification. I could visually recognize a plant as a bear favorite from watching them eat it over and over again, but the names of the plants eluded me. I spent a lot of time in the woods with plant books, my camera, and of course my bear whistle. What’s a bear whistle? It’s just a plain ordinary gym whistle that I keep around my neck whenever I am outdoors. The bears dislike abrupt noises, it always sends them scurrying away. I never had to use my whistle that summer. I tend to work outside alot and the bears seem to accept me as just part of the landscape (non-threat), but I still kept the bear whistle around my neck just in case.

I live on a dead-end road in the woods. In addition, our property is surrounded by several large parcels of woodlands. Plenty of living space for black bears. The black bears are attracted to the clover in our meadow in spring, the blackberries in summer, and acorns in the fall. Once the wooded areas leaf out in early summer they tend to look for grub in the woods instead of our lush meadow. Our meadow is between our home and the woods. All of our living room windows face the meadow and woods, so I have plenty of photo opportunities.

No bear attacks have been reported in our area. I think there are plenty of resources available in the heavily wooded areas here so the bears tend to keep to themselves. I've noticed that black bears are much more likely to run off than tangle in confrontations. They are actually very private and shy animals. I've only seen one bear confrontation in four years of watching them as they seem to have some sort of "pecking order." It didn’t take me long to figure out that Goldilocks ruled the roost in our woods and was the queen bee so to speak. There is actually a term for this top dog position described in books about bear behavior; this special bear is called the Matriarch. Goldilocks was the Matriarch of our “enchanted forest.”

As a result of all this bear activity on our property, I thought it was best to learn everything I could about them simply for my own safety. Not understanding much about black bears, I headed to the local library and read every bear book I could get my hands on. I also did a lot of research on the internet so I could gain more insight into bear behavior. I was watching bears daily, and often observed behaviors I did not understand. For example, a mother bear will send her cubs up a tree, and then sometimes leave the area to feed on her own. She does this because she requires extra nutrition for nursing, and the tiny cubs would not be able to keep up with her. When I first witnessed this, it confused me because I though that a mother bear would never leave her cubs, especially such young ones. Turns out this special tree is called the “babysitting” tree. It appeared to me that each mom had her own favorite babysitting trees that she specifically selected. In case of danger however, any tree would do. Mom would make her special sound to send the cubs up the tree, and they would scamper up it like little monkeys. As the cubs grow she takes them on longer outings and excursions in the woods. Cubs learn most everything about being a bear from their Moms. Mother bears nurse their cubs from the time they are born (Jan. or Feb.) until around September. The cubs need to be completely weaned prior to hibernation in late fall.

Goldilocks Quadruplets 2006 (Enie, Meenie, Miney & Mo)
In My Backyard - Part 2-cubs-20of-20goldilocks-2002.jpg
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2 of Goldilocks' quadruplets, Miney & Mo
In My Backyard - Part 2-baby-20cubs.jpg
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All this bear watching has been a fascinating experience to say the least, but it turns out, I had a lot of misconceptions about black bears and much more to learn.

More to come in part 3 of “In My Backyard.”
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Old 04-24-2009, 04:58 PM   #2
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Thank you for another beautiful thread BooBoo.
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Old 04-24-2009, 11:21 PM   #3
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I have to tell you I get the biggest kick out of reading about your bears.
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Old 04-25-2009, 09:34 AM   #4
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Awwww. I haven't been online for a while and it is so nice to have your bear babies popping up for me. I never heard of a babysitting tree before. That makes sense. The mommas can pick a spot with a nice vantage point and if she sense any danger she can usher her babies up the tree.
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Old 04-21-2010, 09:35 AM   #5
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We're having a much warmer that usual spring in Northern Wisconsin this year, have the bears been out and about yet? (hint, hint )
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Old 04-21-2010, 08:17 PM   #6
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I just started seeing the emerging blackbears in the last 10 days.

See this post: Spring 2010
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backyard, bear, bears, black bear, black bear cubs, black bears, cubs, part, wildlife

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