Lions, Tigers and Bears…Oh my!
Bears, big Black Bears are the only fear that the “Tin Man” (Alice in Wonderland) will have in Floyd County and surrounding areas. Actually Black Bears do not represent real danger to humans as our northern Brown/Grizzle bears do. The most powerful and dangerous of course is the hunter’s dream of a Kodiak bear in Alaska.
I want to focus on the Black Bear; to whom my first and several experiences in this now overgrown brushy landscape have captured my imagination from a hunter’s view in my younger days to a more educated and responsible understanding of our growing bear population.
In the beginning, bears mate in June and July for a 2-week courtship. Then they separate, going their own way. There is no family structure that includes the male. There may be several matings with other males and the fertilized eggs are released into the uterus once she is denned. Cubs are usually born in January or February. Perhaps up to 5 blind, hairless, 8-ounce cubs are born inside a “bear den”, residing with the “single mom” mother bear until the following spring; all the while gaining weight sucking on the mothers teat, and warm as toast as their hair grows out.
Bear dens are interesting. As late fall time appears the female will dig under a fallen log, seek a cave, or some sort of natural shelter-even piling up branches to enclosed the opening door way. Bears do not hibernate; they just snooze and will rarely on occasion leave the den if disturbed. They generally remain snoozing for 4 or 5 months. Hunters sighting a lone Black Bear in the winters deer hunt, shoots the mother bear that also starves out the baby cubs since the mother bear cannot return to her den forthwith.
The den is exceptionally clean as the mother bear, prior to her snooze for the winter months will eat a great deal of roughage that plugs her anal track and prevents elimination in the den. There is interest in the female’s ability to recycle their own urine that promises all sorts of science related studies for human health. With the onset of Spring she consumes a great deal of soft greens, ants, fat grubs, and of course the mouse, and voles which as soft foods do open her anal track.
The mother bear will train her cubs about foods and encourages constant eating as she, as well as the cubs must put on at least 25% of additional fat to survive the winter. The cubs will stay with her through the winter, but about mating time in the second year the mother bear will send them up a tree and abandon them. There is much crying from the cubs, but they eventually, as nature plans, find their way down and start feeding and separating. Males do not breed, if healthy, 3 to 4 years, females, as in this case breed every other year after reaching maturity at 2 to 3 years.
Recently a 612-pound black bear was weighed in the Florida swamps, evidently an older male with lots of food. In this area Black Bears are from 4 to 6 feet in length and up to 200 pounds, or slightly heavier depending on the food supply and time of the bears’ weight gain for the winter snooze. Remember the 25% weight gain required to remain snoozing for 4 or 5 months.
Scats (poop) are an indication of a Black Bear near by. It seems I am always stepping on scats, which indicates a bear has my space, as his or her hunting/denning area. Black Bears usually have a circuit of 25 miles with good food supply but are known to travel a circuit of 100 miles to find food. They are eating machines. I suspect it is my wild cherry trees and bushes; perhaps my domestic cherry trees that attract them. Scats are larger than dog scats, about 2” in diameter and maybe 6” longs with all sorts of insects, berry seeds and roughage if you open them up for curiosity.
For years we would bag up and put our garbage in a “Honey Wagon”- a small two-wheel trailer to haul to the Green Box garbage collection. Black Bears love garbage. A Bear of any sort will raid garbage dumps; that is why Bear Proof garbage cans, Bear Proof garbage storage bins are so popular. Bears make a mess and although the Black Bear may be “shooed” off, Brown Grizzly northern bears are aggressive and are prone to attack. Black bears are really timid.
We now have a professional incinerator. This makes life easier for me as old age does not warrant driving for miles and lifting heavy garbage cans into dumpsters. You can purchase all these items through Amazon.com. An electric fence will be torn down as the heavy fur of the bear reduces the electric pulse. I might add for our northern readers concerned with bears breaking into their cabins, you can nail through the shutters and doors-these makes for a sore foot. The nails must stick out through the wood so the bear’s paws make contact.
Black Bears had raided my beehives one year, but I had shooed him off. They are always looking for foods so do not pile up garbage bags outside, or you will have a mess. If the Bears do not find it, the Raccoons will. Most city dudes will be scared about the increase of Black Bears in this area. Fear not, they are not aggressive. However hiking or just being careful of Bears and Predators of the night you can purchase a “Bear Spray” that changes their aggressiveness quickly. Aim for the mouth (usually open and growling), which also hits the nose and eyes. Any person of evil intent, or even Kodiak Bears will turn tail. These Bear sprays are good for about 5 quick shots but one full shot reaches out 30 some feet in a fog around the predator’s head.
Black bears are “shooed off” by maintaining an erect posture, seeming taller and more powerful than the Black bear and making all sort of hooting and growling noises. The use of a pepper spray may be indicated for an old grouchy sick and weathered male-certainly for a grizzly bear in the far north.
The old adage of climbing a tree when a bear growls will not be reliable as a 200 pound Mamma bear can climb faster than you, also bears can run through the brush at 35 MPH and can sneak up on your camp-looking for garbage-without a sound.
Approximately 30,000 Black bears are killed each year across the United States and as above, laving the young cubs starving and lured to the dumpsters. We can expect the bear population to rise considerably as the old farms of clear pasture are disappearing. The delicious scrub berry bushes increase fertility but you may expect to see more Black Bears in the forests. If you have the skill and license to hunt a Black bear, use a rifle of sufficient caliber such as a .308 and aim properly; we do not want suffering wounded bears rampaging about the countryside.
God Bless the United States of America. Live long and prosper.
COPYRIGHT: Mark Steel, 5/24/2015/ All Rights Reserved.