I’ve been working on this entry for weeks. The writing (you’ll see) is lengthy, and the picture editing, and the revisions, and I had to get the OK’s from my bosses at work, has all taken a lot of time. I am now ready to share my day with the bears.
I’m primarily sorting through data that’s been taken regarding black bears in NYS. Currently I’m entering information into a database that has been collected from dog trainers. While it’s illegal to hunt black bears in NY with use of dogs, one can apply for a license to become a “bear houndsman” and train specific breeds to track black bears . It IS legal in other states to hunt black bear with the aid of dogs including but not limited to:
However, in NY, there is just a training season. For more information about bear-dog training and black bear hunting in NY, visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regs/3928.html.
So while all of that work is important and interesting, I can’t really call it “exciting”. In the beginning of June I was treated to a field trip to get out of the office and see some real, live, wild black bears. Some DEC staff from another part of the state were heading to yet another part of the state to retrieve 3 yearling bears from a wildlife rehabilitation facility. A yearling is a bear that was born not this recent winter, but the winter before. Most bears in NY are born in the month of January, so right now we could assume these triplets are 1 year 6 months old born in January 2012. Unfortunately these bears became orphans somehow. I don’t know their back-story, but the mother died or could not care for them. The cubs were brought to this rehabilitation center and were allowed to grow, eat, and remain safe, all with minimal human contact, until it was deemed that they could care for themselves in the wild. Since the staff going to pick up these bears was travelling through the Albany area, my boss hooked myself and his technician up with this opportunity to travel with them and assist in the pickup of the 3 yearlings.
I’ve worked with and assisted in handling live, wild black bears probably 6-8 times before this latest tripnow. I’ve been invited to “help” with several nuisance bears, and I’ve visited several dens with sows/cubs with DEC biologists in Region 8. I say help, because really I was just there observing and taking pictures. While I’m sure they all enjoyed my company, they could have successfully handled those bears without me. I consider those visits as gifts from regional DEC staff that I’ve volunteered with before, and they recognized my love of bears and my want to learn. THIS time though, I was joining the team to actually help.
When we arrived at Kindred Kingdom, we were greeted by Jean and Len, owners and wildlife rehabilitators. I cannot express throughout these entries, how impressed I was by these people. I have very little experience with rehabilitators, but I always had the feeling that the wild animals were coddled by the 3 rehabbers I’ve come into contact with. Almost like they were pets. The goal, with ethical and successful rehabilitation, is to allow the animal to heal and/or fatten up to a healthy state, while keeping it as wild as possible. Of course not all animals can be released back into the wild because of imprinting or injuries that prevent them from leading normal lives. There are a variety of reasons an animal might find itself in the care of a rehabber, and I’m sure all of the rehabilitators have the very best of intentions when taking in animals. But Jean and Len do a really wonderful job at their facility of caring for wild animals and ensuring they’re still wild when released. They are almost exclusively a raptor (birds of prey, such as hawks, eagles and owls) and black bear facility. I believe that according to the DEC, and I agree, these types of animals require the most specific types of enclosures and are the most dangerous to rehabilitate. You must meet a certain standard to house these types of animals.
The biologist and technician entered the enclosure, and the bears scattered immediately. They were afraid, which is a good thing! They did not approach or act friendly. The biologist approached one from beneath, as they had climbed up. He had the dart with the chemicals in it on a “jab pole” which is about 4 feet long. He was able to easily approach and stick the bear in the meaty part of the thigh/butt. Then he they stepped back and arranged a set of thick rock-climbing type pads beneath the bear. Within 10 minutes, the bear was woozy and slid off its perch onto the crash pad.