Friday, March 15, 2013

Black bear den season, part I

We all have bucket lists, right? Maybe some people actually right them out and check them off as amazing things are accomplished and experienced. Some of us might just daydream about “what if I got to…”, and if it happens, that’s awesome! And if it doesn’t, then oh well. Well I have a specific bucket list in order, but just filed away in my head. I’ve had this DREAM of holding a black bear cub for more than half my life. Summer vacations spent in the Adirondacks, always hoping for a chance sighting of a bear, started my love for bears. As I entered into college at Finger Lakes Community College, I learned of a course offered called Black Bear Management. This class is exclusively about black bears IN New York State. What could be better?

On Thursday, March 14th, my #1 bucket list item was mentally checked off.
Holding my first black bear cub.
Almond, NY - Photo credit: Alicia Walker
I held a bear cub.

Actually, over the past 2 days, I’ve held probably 7 or 8 cubs, and handled 2 Mama Bears.

Let me take a moment to explain how I got here.

When I took BBM in 2010-2011, during “bear season” which is Feb-March-April (depends on the year), I did not get to handle a bear cub. Working with wild animals guarantees no absolute results, except that they are unpredictable.

Bears do not truly hibernate (please refer to these posts for clarification on NY hibernators), so if spooked at the den site, they can get up and run.

And that’s what happened to the two dens I visited in the spring of 2011. Over the past 2 years, I’ve kept in touch with Art Kirsch, Region 8 Senior Wildlife Biologist for the NYSDEC. We’ve emailed, bumped into eachother here and there, and now we’re Facebook friends too, so we keep in touch often. I don’t know why Art invited me, but he did. He did not have to invite another person to these visits, especially since I had my chance, and we had naughty bears when it WAS my chance. It can be hectic at the visits with all that needs to get done, and the spectators that are there. BUT I made myself useful by carrying things, and lending a hand, and keeping cubs warm!

Through the rest of this post, and over the next few days, I’ll explain all that goes on at the den visits and why. For now, I’ll leave you with a few pictures and I hope that you’ll check back soon for more!

Black bear cub

Adult female black bear paw

Pure happiness.


  1. Very cool! That's a unique opportunity (I've never held a bear cub :( !!).

  2. That is adorable! I'm super jealous right now. That's so awesome:)



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