If you want to get caught up on my 2013 bear den experiences, check out this link: bear dens.
|Site of Den #2. Click to enlargen.|
Den #2 was interesting because it was located about 80 yards from the landowner's house. It was just about in plain sight from the back of the house, although it was shielded a little bit by the thick brush it was in.
If the home owner's were outside talking, or their dog barked, the bears I'm sure could easily hear them. But, the sow (or mother bear) apparently wasn't bothered, and chose that spot to have her triplets.
|FLCC student Judi McDougall attempts to access the bear den to take measurements.|
A select few members of "the bear team" approach the den first. Art, technicians, and the vets go first. It's a tense few moments as they're trying to chemically immobilize the adult bear. Bears do not truly hibernate (see this blog entry: The true NY hibernators), so if spooked, and so inclined, they can get up and run away. So the team has to move in stealth mode until he/she is darted, and they've given it time to set in. If all goes to plan, the whole process should take about 20 minutes. Then the clock starts ticking. There's approximately 1 hour of time to work while the animal is immobilized.
|From left to right: Robin (with her back turned), |
Dr. Wyatt, Jeb (a Fish and Wildife Technician), and Art.
Meanwhile, the DEC team is busily checking the collar, tagging the bear (if it hasn't been already), extracting a tooth for aging (if it hasn't been already), tatooing an ID number on the gum (if it hasn't been already), and gathering other data points. If some or all of these things have been done already, as was the case this time, "processing" the adult moves fairly quickly.
You might notice that the bear is laying on a silver space blanket. This provides a buffer between the animal and the cold ground. While under "the drugs", it cannot thermoregulate, or maintain a constant internal temperature. An animal can quickly become hypthermic if this step isn't observed. Also, between Art's hands is a red and green piece of fabric. This is a fleece sleeve that they slide over the face to protect the eyes. One of the chemicals in the cocktail paralyzes all muscles, so the bear can't blink. So to keep the bright light and debris out of the eyes, they use this sleeve or sometimes I've seen them place large band-aids over the eyes too.
I once got to take the temperature of a large male bear. Not orally. :)
|While the bear is "out", they allowed me to explore her a little bit. When else will I get to look so closely at a bear paw?|
|Her claws were beautiful. Not made for slashing prey, but more for digging. Bears are also extremely dextrous with their digits, and can pluck berries from a vine with their paws and their lips.|
|A parting shot of the happy family, back in the den.|
Photo credit: John Van Niel