|Beautiful view while waiting|
at a bear den
(Almond, NY 3/13)
DEN #5: We found ourselves back in Region 9 (read: looong drive for us) last Thursday morning for one of the oddest dens I have ever seen. I was told the den would be on a Christmas tree farm, in a brush pile. Now, a brush pile is a very common den location in our area so that in itself was not surprising. What was unusual was the size of the brush pile! If my memory serves, we measured it at about 60 feet by 20 feet and ten feet high. The trick was for the biologist to hone in on EXACTLY where the bear was within this massive pile of uprooted evergreens. That work was done a few days before and it was determined the female only had a single entrance (and therefore exit) to the den. That would increase the chances that the female would remain in the den after being darted. We were allowed to within about a 100 yards of the den to wait while the advance team made their way in.
|Bear den in the center of this massive brush pile|
(Almond, NY 3/13)
Everything went well and we were waved in promptly. There were three cubs at this den and once they were handed down from the den, we set to work taking our measurements.
|NYS DEC Region 9 staffers|
|FLCC students gather den data|
Meanwhile, a third group is working with the adult female. Often the radio collar is changed or removed (depending on the research question and other factors) and the bear must be constantly monitored while she is chemically immobilized. Here, Wildlife Biologist Art Kirsch acts as note taker.
|Data collection is an important job|
|Checking the CRT on a black bear|
|NYS DEC heading to bear den|
|Danika Van Niel with bear cub|
We took our usual measurements with some help from Ron Newell, a DEC Technician. Ron is scheduled to retire this summer, so this was probably our last den visit together. Ron has always been particularly helpful with my students, always remembering to explain the procedures to them and making them feel comfortable. Thanks Ron!
|Ron Newell weighing bear cub|
As the biologists stepped back, I asked if we could sneak in for a quick photo. Sure, they said. I laid down and snapped a few photos of the sow and her cubs. I want you to note a few things in this photo. First, see that they have placed the female's paw over her eye to keep it protected from the light until she can wake up and blink again. Next, note that the cubs are already nursing. Bears have three sets of teats: two in the torso region and a third set near the groin. These cubs are nursing on these lower nipples. Third, notice the yellow ear tag. Finally, take a look at the den itself. We try hard not to remove any cover so what you see is what she chose. A few of the grape vines are broken, but she did that for den material.
|Until next year...|