Brian checked the cams at Wind River Ranch and emailed a few jpgs.
Good dens are like prime real estate. Several den shoppers examined the burrow under the rimrock.
The bobcat sniffed at the entrance. If it entered the camera missed it.
Bear biologist Tom Beck saw this den last year and thought it was the work of a bear. The pictures seem to support the idea.
Mama bear came with two cubs, and plunged right in to start renovations. It looks to me like she’s digging, but the kids haven’t learned to pitch in.
The pale cub is a pastel color phase that is not particularly common. At this latitude cinnamon colored bears are seen more often.
These cubs are small enough to have been born this year. They may still be suckling, but are taking as much solid food as possible.
We can expect the three bears to den together. Black bears breed every other year when times are good. Lactation inhibits estrus in the summer following birth. That means mama is into motherhood, and doesn’t put up with amorous males.
It isn’t till the second year that the family breaks up. When mama seeks carnal liaisons with strangers the youngsters get a rude awakening.
The problem for these little guys is the mast failure. There was nary an acorn to be seen when I was schlepping around the rimrock, but there were plenty of rosehips. Under these conditions the little guys might make it through the winter but could starve in the spring.
It boils down to the ability to put on fat. A trim bear can survive the winter because in dormancy the metabolism gears down to a low idle. But survival is iffy come spring, especially when it comes late. Fat bears still have energy to burn; skinny bears don't.
So let us leave our bears for now, and hope all works well. The camera will be waiting for their next appearance.
Bridges, A. S., J. A. Fox, C. Olfenbuttel, and J. R. Vaughan. 2004. American black bear denning behavior: observations and applications using remote photography. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 32(1):188-193
Doan-Crider, D. and E.C. Hellgren. 1996. Population characteristics and winter ecology of black bears in Coahuila, Mexicp. Journal of Wildlife Management, 60(2):398-407
Rogers, L.L. 1987. Effects of food supply and kinship on social behavior, movements, and population growth of black bears in northeastern Minnesota. Wildlife Monographs No. 97, 72 pp.