Bear Update: Dreams of a waking bear 

Whistler Black Bear Project

Warm spring sunlight filters in through the snow-covered entrance of a large male black bear’s den. The bear’s eyes open into a cloud of sawdust with dead wood bits and conifer cone scales clinging to its eyelids. His right shoulder aches.

Hoping to rid the facial irritation (from insects) the large male rubs muzzle and bridge against the rough interior of the snag’s (standing dead tree) basal cavity. With enough room only to stretch the front of his body, he rises to haunches and forces two massive forepaws into the sawdust floor while thrusting his snout toward the ceiling of the den. The stiffness of winter’s five-month sleep begins to creep away. He collapses back into a semi-curled position with his head resting at the den entrance.

He awakens one hour later, during the afternoon. The large male can feel the solar pillow of an April day. Almost time. His eyes close and still stupor draws him back into sleep and dreams.

He drifts 15 years back in time, to his first experience with the winter den. Born into a world dark and cold, the male bear soon felt the warmth and security of a large warm mass. Imprinting began. His mother offered rich milk and vast warmth, although he did have to squabble over mother’s resources with his brother and sister. The male bear’s eyes did work after a month but the world was dark for a longer period. Time passed and he grew stronger, as did his brother and sister. The cubs squabbled over everything – where to sleep and who nursed first. Mother always drew them in for sleep and calming.

The large male bear awakes from the dream to a dark cold den. It must be night. He raises his head just enough for more scratching at the irritating hair loss. Sleep pulls him down to the cool sawdust floor, but this time sleep is shallow and he stirs for the next six hours.

He awakes fully to strong sun rays attacking the entrance. Snow has crumpled down into the tree’s basal cavity. He shifts the position of his body enough to rise and stretch the fore legs and shoulders. He slumps down next to the entrance, laying his head on the ramp of snow leading into the den. The large male bear awakens with the urge to walk. Shaking off drowsiness he scratches at the snow with his left forepaw. After three strokes light penetrates the cavity. The scent of fresh spring air fills the large nasal passage of the male’s wet black nose. He could also smell coyote urine.


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