Monday, December 6, 2010

Black Bear Boar Foraging In An Oak Tree

Shenandoah National Park Black Bears

This blog focuses on one particular young boar and his intelligence to get at out-of-reach limbs that had an abundance of acorns. Bears have a remarkable IQ. They are the most intelligent native non-human animals in North America, and many modern bear biologists accredit them with the equivalent IQ of the great apes.

I photographed and videotaped this bear for over an hour as he fed on acorns one evening in a huge oak tree.

Bears generally use their paws to reach out and grab hold of limbs to bring the limb to them.

When this boar couldn't get to certain limbs that had large clusters of acorns, he didn't give up so easily. He used his strong teeth to chew the limbs, and checked them every so often with his paws to see if they had weakened.

It was amazing to see this behavior firsthand.

Once a limb was weak enough for him to break, he'd pull the limb towards him with his paws.

Several times a broken limb would still be just out-of-reach so he'd position himself to use his jaw to grab hold of it and bring the limb towards him.

With each victory over the limbs, the bear gorged on plentiful amounts of acorns.


A short video clip of the young boar chewing a tree limb

For more black bear photos, information and video clips, visit the Black Bears section of my Web site.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sounds That Black Bears Make

Shenandoah National Park Black Bears

Black Bears are normally silent animals. In the woodlands, you will rarely hear a bear make a noise unless you are distinctly listening for clues of their whereabouts. They walk very quietly and they climb trees quietly and quickly. They aren't very vocal either but they will emit any of several different sounds when they have a reason to communicate.

Black Bears will make blowing noises (also called woofing or huffing) and clack their teeth (also called jaw popping) when they are agitated or feeling nervous. The woofing sound is actually an air noise (inhaling and exhaling a number of times in rapid succession). In some situations, Black Bears will make a moaning sound or a loud snort when they are frightened or angry. They also make bawling sounds, but bawling happens primarily with cubs (watch the below video clip) although an adult bear may bawl loudly if it is badly injured.

A cub making bawling sounds

When you hear a Black Bear vocalizing with woofs, snorts or jaw popping, it is basically letting you know that it does not feel comfortable with your presence. This should be considered as a warning from the bear that you are too close and/or it is nervous, and sometimes this behavior can provoke defensive behaviors such as bluff charging or the slapping of one or both front feet on the ground. In any of these instances, you should always back away s-l-o-w-l-y and give the bear lots of room. Bears need escape routes to feel comfortable. These sounds and behaviors are expressions of their apprehension towards you. In my early beginnings around black bears, I learned to interpret their sounds in terms of their fear and learned that behavior I thought was threatening was really expressions of their own apprehension.

A male bear woofing and jaw popping

I personally have only heard a bear snort once, it was a mother bear who became agitated at me one evening as I tried to get closer to her for a better photo. It was a high pitched shrieking sound, sort of like a Whitetail Deer snort but had much more of a 'whistle' sound.

As for Black Bears growling, they don't - according to many bear experts and bear biologists. It is actually the moan of fear sound which is a deep throated vocalization. Growls are rare or absent in Black Bears. In over 40 years of capturing, observing, and confronting bears, the North American Bear Center have yet to hear their first growl.

Another adult Black Bear vocalization is a motor-like pulsing sound. This is very definitely a sound of aggression and usually occurs between bears in some type of standoff. This is a rather strange sounding vocalization (click on the Play button below).

Sound byte courtesy of North American Bear Center

Click here to watch a short video of 2 adult boars making this sound while fighting.

Female Black Bears will communicate with their cubs with grunts. Cubs will bawl loudly when in distress and make a purring type of sound while they are nursing. Cubs can also moan, jaw pop and woof (watch below video clip).

A cub woofing and moaning (Note: windy conditions)

For more black bear photos, information and video clips, visit the Black Bears section of my Web site.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why Black Bears Eat Insects

Shenandoah National Park Black Bears

Why would a large animal such as a Black Bear want to consume small insects? Because the larva of insects such as ants, termites, beetles, yellow jackets, bees, wasps contain 80% to 90% protein. To put this into perspective, beef is about 20% protein, so 4 or 5 grubs will give a bear the same protein as a full size burger (grub is basically the larva of beetles, bees and wasps). When you see bears flipping rocks or digging into logs, this is generally the reason for them doing so.

Click on photo for larger view

Black Bears dig up ant colonies in spite of the ants' defensive formic acid onslaught to consume their pupae and larvae (collectively known as brood). They dig up hornets' nests to retrieve the brood comb that contains the larvae, and they suffer the persistent stings. A bears skin is tough and their fur is very thick so the only places that a black bear can be stung so that it really feels it is on the lips, near the eyelids, and on the tip of the ears.

Click on photo for larger view

In Summer, ant pupae and larvae become abundant. Ant brood is a major food from late spring until mid to late summer. Ants undergo complete metamorphosis, much like that of butterflies, where they pass from egg to larva to pupa before maturing into an adult ant. Bears consider this as a top favorite food source and is a huge part of their diet at this time of year. It is a delicacy for cubs eating their first solid foods.

Bears find brood by keying in on pheromones and other chemicals that ants use for communication and defense (watch the video clip below to see this behavior). Bears attempt to eat brood cleanly without getting a lot of soil, debris, and adult ants. They do this most easily with colonies under rocks, moss, and ground litter. They flip over the rocks or other cover and get the brood with a few flicks of their sticky tongues.

Click on a thumbnail below for larger view

About the above photos: there are some huge ant mounds (colonies) that exist across from the Old Rag View overlook at Shenandoah National Park (in the Central District). One morning in early Summer 2009 as I was driving by that overlook, I noticed they had all been ripped up and I was positive that a bear had done it. Well after several weeks, the ants eventually rebuilt their colonies. But one August evening as I was driving by the mounds, I was fortunate enough to witness firsthand a bear invading them -- and what a show it was!

A short video clip of a Black Bear raiding ant colonies

View the clip on YouTube

For more black bear photos, information and video clips, visit the black bears section of my Web site.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Black Bear Mating Season

Black Bears in Virginia mate between June and July. Females typically do not breed until they are 3 years old. Once females come into season, they usually leave scent trails, and male bears (boars) quickly hone in on the scent. More than one male may catch the female's scent and this can lead to some potentially violent showdowns between competing males. Adult males are definitely a 'beast of a different nature' and are solitary creatures during the non-breeding season. However, during the breeding season they are more visible, and you should use caution while in the vicinity of a boar during this time of year as they are far more aggitated.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR! A Sow (left) and Boar(right)

Both males and females increase their movements during mating season, and both leave scent marks on trees and in vegetation. Females continue to forage during this time and generally can maintain their weight. However, males forage very little during mating season and lose approximately 20% of their fall weight during the 7-8 weeks of mating season. Males travel extensively in search of females and can have mating ranges 10-15 miles in diameter.

Large males chase younger males away, but mature, evenly-matched, males fight for dominance and mating rights. Old males carry numerous scars on their heads and necks from mating battles (as the one shown in the photos above).

Males follow females to assess their receptiveness, regularly sniffing areas where the female has sat and the female herself when possible. Couples often play and rest together during courtship. Males may follow individual females and guard them against rivals for up to 9 days before the female becomes receptive and mating occurs. A pair will mate repeatedly over several days. Both male and female black bears commonly have more than one mate and the most active mating occurs in July.

After mating, the female may be pregnant, but that does not mean she will give birth to cubs. Bears, weasels and some seals have developed a process called delayed implantation. The fertilized egg develops into a small embryo called a blastocyst. This is where the interesting stuff begins. After this brief period of development, the fertilized egg suddenly stops growing and simply floats freely in the uterus for several months (i.e. Delayed Implantation).

If female bears do not attain sufficient body fat or weight, their embryos will not develop. If a sow is in peak condition when she heads into her winter den, the embryo implants in the uterus and begins to develop. She'll wake up during January or February to give birth. Black bears give birth to between one and four cubs, with two being the most common.

If the sow is not in peak condition at the onset of hibernation, her body will re-absorb the embryo and not give birth that year. This gives bears more control over their reproductive rate than just about any other animal. Once a deer is pregnant, they are pregnant, and winter pregnancy can be fatal. Animals diverting energy to reproduction during the difficult winter months run the risk of falling victim to predation.

A short low-quality clip of 2 bears mating back in 2008. This was captured with a point-and-shoot camera's video recorder.
Each Summer I hope to get another chance at videotaping bears while mating but so far it has eluded me.

The Black Bear population does not have the ability to increase rapidly. Bears are among least productive mammals. In theory, a male and female black bear born this year - if they breed as soon as they reach sexual maturity and as often as possible, and if their offspring did the same - could in the space of ten years have grown to a population of 15 bears, assuming none died. By comparison, a pair of whitetailed deer could produce more than 1,000 descendants in 10 years!

For more Black Bear photos, information and video clips, visit the black bears section of my Web site.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Babes Of Summer: Black Bear Cubs

One of nature's grandest spectacles in the Summer is the sight of small Black Bear cubs as they wrestle and climb and play. These activities help develop the skills they will need to survive.

Cub survival is also influenced by food abundance and quality, physical condition of the mother, social factors, litter size, experience of the mother, and cub birth weight. Mothers who are nutritionally stressed, or first-time breeders, are more likely to lose cubs than are well-fed mothers. Usually, litter order is the principal factor in determining minimum first-year survival. Many first litters had 0% cub survival through one year, while nearly half of second and later litters have 100% survival through the first year. Since most first litters are born to 3-year-old sows, it is likely that mothers fail to attain the minimum weight necessary to successfully raise cubs.

Litter size ranges from 1 to 4 young, first litters may be small, usually a single cub. Two or 3 cubs are typical thereafter. Five-cub litters are uncommon; extraordinary litters of 6 cubs have been reported in Manitoba and Pennsylvania. The sex ratio at birth is usually 1:1. However, the sex of cubs is related to the mother's weight and to litter size. The number of males is usually higher with heavier mothers, but lower as litter size increases.

Young black bears remain with their mother until about 16 to 17 months of age. Family breakup (typically in June) is initiated by the mother when she comes into estrus. She probably uses threats or aggression to compel the young to disperse. However, the female often tolerates the presence of her independent offspring within her home range and will avoid the area used by her daughters. Mothers recognize their own daughters and respond to them on that basis. Male yearlings typically disperse from their natal area after a year or so.

Did you know? During the denning period, sows may produce more than 50 lbs. of milk, metabolized from body fat. This milk is rich in fat and protein and nearly twice as high in kilocalories than either human or cow milk. Cubs may weigh up to 9 pounds by the time they leave the den.

Cubs learn to climb at an early age and their mother sends them up trees
while she feeds, or when danger may be present.

 A sow with her two small romping cubs
View a better quality version of this video at my Web site.

For more black bear photos, information and video clips, visit the black bears section of my Web site.

This month's blog is dedicated to my wonderful, loving Grandmother, who was the cornerstone of my entire life. I lost her on Thursday morning, June 3rd, 2010. She was actually a mother to me, as she and my grandfather raised my brother and I, in fact we called her 'Mom' all of our lives. She always loved seeing my photos and video clips of the young, wild animals - particularly the bear cubs and whitetail fawns. May you rest in peace, someday we shall be together once again. I miss you, and I love you Mom.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Don't Feed Bears! matter not feed bears! Not at Shenandoah National Park, or any National Forest, bears that may appear around your home, or anywhere. Giving them any food (human or natural) changes their natural behavior and they start to lose their natural shyness towards humans. Feeding bears isn’t just a bad decision, it is against the law in Virginia.

“Human actions can really lead to the downfall of animals,” said Shenandoah National Park Biologist Rolfe Gubler. “Baiting and feeding can lead to animals becoming food conditioned and that can be a real problem anywhere. You don’t want to have a habituated or food conditioned black bear in [your] back yard.”

Typically, bears have a healthy fear of humans, said Gubler. However, when a bear becomes habituated, or accustomed, to humans it can be a dangerous thing. It can eventually lead to a bear becoming “food conditioned” to where humans cannot get a bear to disperse from a picnic table, he said. When that happens, park rangers oftentimes have to capture the bear and relocate it somewhere else in the park where it will not come into contact with humans.

In Spring, people are likely to see bears as they come out of hibernation. According to Gubler, bears emerge from hibernation — more accurately known as “winter lethargy” - in April. Winter lethargy is a lowered period of activity, said Gubler, not necessarily the deep sleep popularly associated with hibernating bears.

During Winter lethargy, bears do not eat very much, if at all, because they live off the fat reserves they have stored up from the past Fall. And so they emerge from their dens in the Spring with an appetite. Because food is not as plentiful in the Spring, bears are known to hit bird feeders, dig into garbage cans and gobble up pet food that is left outside.

The best way to bear-proof your yard is trash management, said Gubler. Keep garbage inside a garage or shed, take pet foods inside and even consider taking down your bird feeders, at least for the months of April and May, said Gubler.

But should you happen to have a visit from a bear at your house this Spring or Summer, try to appear big and loud in order to scare the bear away. One thing you don’t want to do is run, which could trigger a bear’s reflex to chase. By nature they are not an aggressive, dangerous animal - but they are wild animals.

If you can’t get the bear to disperse after using your stature and loud noises you may want to call the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries at 804-367-1258, where a dispatcher can be reached 24 hours a day seven days a week. If they are not able to respond in time, residents may also call their local law enforcement agency.

In the event you were to strike a bear while driving in your car, treat the incident the same as if you were to hit a deer and call the local law enforcement. If you feel the need or desire to get out of your car and the bear is still nearby, use caution.

“You just have to remind people that black bears are wild animals and can be very dangerous and unpredictable,” said Gubler.

Always respect any wild animal when you encounter it, especially the black bear. And please don't attempt to feed them - let's keep them wild!

For more black bear photos, information and video clips, visit the black bears section of my Web site.

A true and educational story for both young and old about why people should not feed wild Black Bears. Written by my young friend Gabriel Mapel.

Click here for more information

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Black Bear Foods In The Spring

Shenandoah National Park Black Bears

Ahhhhhhhh! The Spring Equinox has finally arrived! I love this time of year - the rebirth of the Earth. It also signals the beginning of Black Bears slowly emerging from their Winter dens. Adult males (boars) generally leave their dens first while mothers with cubs are the last to leave their dens. Seeing the new cubs is always a delight for me as they begin their venture into the outdoor world and everything is new and a first for them. And of course there are the yearlings, who don't know it yet but have spent their last Winter with mom and will be on their own in just a couple of months.

Food is very scarce in early Spring. Most bears will remain lethargic (sluggish) and all bears will lose weight at this time of year. During this period, bears voluntarily eat and drink less than they will later on in late Spring. To conserve energy, they rest a lot. Some are fortunate enough to find deer carcasses of Winter's victims.

Spring comes in steps at Shenandoah National Park. If you visit the park around the first week of April, you'll drive through a 'hint of springtime' in the bottom elevations, and then ascend into Winter in the top elevations where the trees are still bare and the grass is still brown. For weeks afterwards you will see Spring gradually make its way up to the top. Therefore most bears will not emerge from dens until there is some food available, the very same reason they go into dens in late Fall.

Squawroot (or cancer root)

Acorns are usually the last supper and the first breakfast for black bears across the Southern Appalachians. If leftover acorns are scarce, bears will still be sniffing around oak trees because the number one spring bear food in the Southern Appalachians is a parasitic plant that is partial to oak and beech roots. Conopholis Americana, known as squawroot or cancer root, grows in clumps on oak and/or beech roots. The scaly, yellowish stalks emerge around April and it flowers soon after. Individual stalks may reach a height of 10 inches. The stalk is reminiscent of an inverted pine cone. As the plant ages it becomes browner. Squawroot makes up about 10 percent of the total spring diet of black bears across the region.

A Sow feasting on Catkins (male flowers) in an oak tree

The rest of their Spring diet may differ among the many ecoregions of North America. However, certain trends are evident: grasses, green shoots, sedges, forbs (broadleaved plants), and certain leaves (dependant upon the region). Other sources include roots and sometimes young tree bark and twigs, stem and roots of bull thistle, large leaf aster, hazel leaves, and catkins from several variety of trees.

In late Spring (May), mother nature begins to 'crank it up' and green plants begin to grow and trees begin to sprout leaves. Fresh vibrant green leaves appear on trees and the forest floor comes to life once again. Bears begin to eat sprouting grass, emerging herbs and young leaves. Insect grub also comes into the equation now. Cubs taste what their mother eats, but swallow very little of it. They still rely on their mother's milk. Mother bears that are nursing young cubs continue to lose weight. Other bears slowly begin to gain weight.

Meat is a very small part of a black bear's diet except in late May and early June when Whitetail fawns are born. Bears don't seem to actively hunt fawns, but if one happens upon a fawn, it stops searching for other food (vegetation) and sniffs out the fawn and pounces on it. Newborn fawns make captures easy by lying still. However, once fawns reach about 10 days of age they change escape tactics. When bears approach, they get up and run and easily escape. Black bears lack the agility to catch dodging animals. The bears then soon ignore the scent of fawns until the next Spring when a new batch of catchable fawns are born.

A young bear catches a whitetail fawn

Conclusion: know where to find the early Spring foods and you'll be able to consistently locate early season black bears.

 A sow eating her whitetail fawn capture
View a better quality version of this video at my Web site.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Black Bear Attacks: The 411

I've been wanting to write this particular blog for quite awhile. On a weekly basis, people find my Web site while doing searches for 'black bear attacks' in Virginia or Shenandoah National Park. I already have some of the below information on my site, but I wanted to expand this subject a bit further.

Black bears are docile and attacks on humans are rare. They are not usually aggressive animals and they will only become hostile if they are provoked, feel threatened or are injured (as with being wounded by a gunshot from a hunter - read this local news story).

In Virginia, there are no recorded fatal attacks on humans. Unprovoked bear attacks are also very rare, and have never been documented anywhere in Virginia. As for any bear attacks in Shenandoah National Park's history, there have only been some minor incidents (e.g. a researcher in the late 80's that got a swat from a bear that he was releasing from a snare trap).

Several attacks have occurred recently on public land in Tennessee. In May 2000, a 50 year old woman became the first person killed by a black bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A black bear attacked a family in the Cherokee National Forest in April 2006, killing a 6 year old girl and injuring her mother and brother. A black bear injured an 8 year old boy in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in 2008.

Fatal attacks overall by Black Bears on humans are quite rare. To date, only 60 people have been killed in Black Bear attacks across North America since 1900, and 45 of those deaths took place in Alaska or Canada, where there is usually little contact between bears and people. The fatal attacks that have occurred were primarily unprovoked, predatory assaults in remote areas in which the victim was eaten. There is no consistent explanation why 1 out of every 1/2 million Black Bears becomes a human predator.

The biggest problem facing black bears is that many people attribute grizzly bear characteristics to them. Due to this and also the negative media from newspapers, magazines and/or Hollywood movies, the black bear has been unfairly tagged with a bad image, causing people to fear them more than necessary.

However, the black bear is an incredible animal and has many unique qualities which has allowed it to exist and evolve for millions of years. Their apprehension is often mistaken for aggression. Generally they are shy and will usually turn and amble away when approached. Their seemingly timid disposition is attributed to their earlier co-existence with more larger, powerful predators which necessitated being passive. They survived by being ready to flee, often to a tree.

During the Ice Age, they lived among powerful predators like saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, American lions, and giant short-faced bears, none of which could climb trees. Therefore black bears developed the timid personality of a prey animal, an inherited trait that remains with them today, even though those larger predators no longer roam the Earth.

This timid behavior is most observed when a black bear becomes nervous. They will become vocal with woofing (blowing) and jaw popping sounds. They will slap the ground, at brush or at tree limbs. They also tend to showcase bluff charges that ends without contact. These explosive behaviors look and sound very threatening but are usually only harmless blusters from a bear experiencing anxiety and means that it is nervous or unsure and wants more space. Mother bears are probably the most nervous bears, so they show a lot of bluster, which can seem ferocious to a fearful person. A bear's reactions to any situation is interpreted differently by many individuals, it is all dependant upon how the individual perceives a bear and how much fear they actually hold within due to that perception. But just the same, the black bear is a wild animal and needs to be respected. Any of the above signs is a signal for you to slowly leave the area and to not upset the bear any further.

Click on image for larger view

Click on image for larger view

The majority of black bears at Shenandoah National Park will usually run away when encountering people, but several are somewhat tolerant of the presence of humans in their vicinity, as long as their individual 'personal space' or 'comfort zone' is not invaded. But you should not treat this tolerance lightly and think it is okay to get closer. Always keep in mind that they are wild animals. Even the most 'conditioned' wild animals have their off moments, most notably the whale at Sea World, the tiger from the 'Siegfried and Roy' show in Las Vegas, or the movie bear Rocky, just to name a few. Wild animals do not think or reason at the same level as people do. They do not know of man's laws, only the law of the wild. By following some basic bear safety guidelines and using some common sense, you won't risk the chance of becoming a statistic.

The above video shows nervous black bear cubs making blustery pounces (followed by adults making the same displays)

The above video was provided by the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota (the organization who recently placed a live web cam near a pregnant sow's den - see last month's blog). Although I have a great amount of appreciation for Professor Lynn Rogers and the black bear research he has done over the past few decades, I am a bit cautious about some of the recent material he has written. Particularly statements like this regarding common sound advice which is posted regularly by all wildlife agencies across the U.S.:

"Realizing how little science and how little first-hand experience is behind the well-meaning advice, we have tested as much of it as possible. We have not found a way to reliably elicit an attack. In fact, in 43 years, we've never been attacked, even when holding screaming cubs in our hands with mother bears present. We've seen lots of bluff charges, but no attacks. The closest we've come to eliciting attacks is when we tackled bears, which we quit doing decades ago. Of course, the bears bit and clawed their way free, but then they ran instead of attacking."

I have also read some of his statements about coming into close contact with a mother and cubs or coming between a mother and cubs are not dangerous and are misconceptions. He has also stated that "we routinely catch cubs by hand to ear-tag them. Captured cubs screamed for help in our hands. We saw a lot of bluff charges, of course, but no mother bear made contact".

Well, I for one do not agree with these statements, and by him posting these type of statements, it may 'plant a seed' and make some people 'throw caution to the wind' around black bears in our national and state parks/forests. The one main reason that I am in disagreeance is because the black bears that he spends time with for research are 'habituated' bears. A habituated bear is a much different bear than a true wild bear, and therefore their reactions are going to be much different. As you can see from his Web site, these bears wear collars and two videos clearly show him feeding the bears. I don't get it, Charlie Vandergaw was condemned for feeding bears in order to establish relationships with bears. I don't think that the above methods stated by Professor Rogers would go over too well with a true wild bear. I'd love to see him come to Shenandoah National Park to try and catch a cub while its mother is around, or attempt to put a collar on one!

Regardless of the disagreement that I have with these statements, Professor Rogers has done a lot of research over the years which has provided a lot of information and insight about black bears that no one else has been able to. I just don't feel comfortable about some people possibly getting the wrong message from some of those posted statements as it pertains to true wild black bears.

Bottom line: wild black bears are not as aggressive as their counterpart the grizzly, but when they feel threatened they will display one or more blustery acts in an effort to ward you off. Depending upon the particular bear's persona is how much explosive behavior will be displayed. And there's always the chance that any given bear on any given day could 'snap' and go for an outright attack. Heck, just a paw swat has a lot of power behind it, and not to mention how much damage those big clws would do if they come in contact with flesh.

In closing this month's blog, always respect any wild animal when you encounter it, especially the black bear. And please don't attempt to feed them - let's keep them wild!

Did you know? Across North America, dogs kill 16 times more people than do black, grizzly, and polar bears combined! According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, for every person killed by a Black Bear in North America, 60 are killed by domestic dogs, 24 from snakebites, 180 by bees and wasps, and 350 by lightning.

For more black bear photos, information and video clips, visit the black bears section of my Web site.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Black Bear Cub Born On The Web

All photos in this blog are courtesy of the North American Bear Center

My black bear blog for this month is the perfect complement to last month's blog about bears in their Winter dens. On the 22nd of January 2010, history was made near Ely, Minnesota (less than 30 miles from the Canadian border). A live video stream showed a female Black Bear in her Winter den give birth to the first-ever bear cub to be born on camera. The sow's name is Lily and she has become famous all across the globe, thanks to a team headed up by Dr. Lynn Rogers of the North American Bear Center in Ely. Lily has probably become the most famous black bear on earth.

Lily, at age 3, is known world wide

It all began on Jan. 8, 2010 when a live wildlife webcam was placed inside Lily's den (click here to see that footage). Soon afterwards, an appearance on NBC's Today show by Doug Hajicek (Den Cam Team Leader), and the news quickly spread like wildfire around the world that a Web site was streaming live video from within a pregnant black bear's den. Not expecting this much visitor traffic, the Web server crashed several times for the first week, but they kept at it and eventually managed to develop a strong backend to handle the heavy load of hits.

Lily's Den Entrance

Lily peering out

Notes from the researchers blog on January 22nd:

When labor first began, Lily violently slammed her body against the walls of her den which was believed by the researchers to be due to hard cramps. She then lay on her back, the muscles in her head flexing as she clenched her teeth in pain. This was certainly out of the ordinary behaviour for a hibernating bear.

Then, finally the long wait was over. Labor had continued for 21 hours which was far longer than any one had thought considering that cubs are so small when born. At 11.38am CST 25,000 people watched Lily make some last contortions and then listened to sweet grunts that only a mother bear makes to her cubs. Soon after you could hear the loud squawking of the cub.
(watch the video below to hear these sounds made by both mother and cub)

Click here to view the birth video on YouTube.

FEB 2010 UPDATE: A video that features footage of Lily and her cub in the den, February 21st.

MARCH 2010 UPDATE: A list of all video clips to date of Lily and her cub Hope (on YouTube).

APRIL 2010 UPDATE: A list of all video clips to date of Lily and her cub Hope on YouTube (on

Den Cam Updates: Articles written by the researchers about Lily and her cub Hope (on

Lily also has her own Facebook page with 75,000 fans as of January 31st, 2010!

Meet the people behind the bear den cam.

See the NBC Today Show segment after the birth of the cub.

Lily as a cub in April 2007

Lily with her mother, April 2007

Kudos to the entire Bear Den Cam team! In my opinion, this event has generated some much needed awareness and education towards the black bear species. People from all over have become intrigued with this bear and thus learning more about them. Between hollywood movies, hunting magazines and overall incorrect negative media produced just to sell (regarding attacks), black bears have been given an unfair bad image.

Professor Lynn Rogers of the North American Bear Center and the Wildlife Research Institute sums it up best as stating that people are moving into bear habitat like never before and as people learn more about black bears, they become more willing to coexist with them.

Did you know? On average, a first time black bear mother will only give birth to one cub. However it is not unusual that sometimes two cubs are born to a first time mother.

For more black bear photos, information and video clips, visit the black bears section of my Web site.