Bear Update: Mid-June report 

Bear Researcher

Huckleberry Phenology

At valley elevations huckleberry ( Vaccinium spp. ) is 1/3 to 1/2 fruit swell, meaning berries are moderate size and green. Balanced weather during fruit swell and coloration (June) will ensure ripening in early to mid-July.

Bumblebees and honeybees are currently pollinating the cream, pink, and white inverted flowers of Vaccinium at mid-mountain in the ski area despite the sudden drop in temperature. Cool sunny days are better than cool, cloudy days.

As berry ripening begins in July throughout the valley and progresses upward into the mountains, weather continues to play a vital role dictating the life of the berry crop. Too much sun can limit berry size and shrivel berries and too much rain can cause rot. Balanced weather is the key. Berry crop failures in the past increased potential bear/human conflicts as bears were forced to return to the valley in search of alternative berries and/or opportunistic sources of high carbohydrate human foods within residential areas.

Mothers and Cubs

As of June 15 six bear family groups (two cubs each) have been confirmed in Whistler. One black mother, believed to be Alice , a resident to Whistler-Blackcomb ski area, has been seen frequently with two brown cubs between the base of Whistler-Blackcomb and the Fairmont Chateau Golf Course-Lost Lake area.

If you encounter bear families or any bears please respect their space and keep away. It has been proven in Whistler that the more attention you draw to the bear(s) the more likely the situation will turn negative. Valley bear activity is normal as long as people respect their space and do not leave human food attractants available.

Alice and cubs are bouncing around locations close to people because she is likely trying to avoid the main intersection of bear activity at mid-mountain, where potential breeding pairs of males and females are dominating through June and July. Less dominant bears will often limit their foraging to outskirts of prime spring green-up to avoid physical confrontation with adult males.

Alice usually grazes in the mountain bike park and may have been pushed out by bike activity and confrontations with older resident mother Katie and her two cubs.

Breeding Period

The breeding period for black bears is late May through late July. This period is uniform for most of North America. This is generally, the only time you will see adults ( > four years) in pairs. Peak of actual mating activity is mid-June through mid-July.

The onset of male activity may initiate family break-up. Mothers with 17-19 month old cubs (yearlings) separate so that mom now represents a single, receptive female available for males. Earliest courtship behaviour was observed on May 17.


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