The bears of summer 

Black Bear Researcher

Bear family reports

As of July 9, a minimum of 12 adult female black bears have been identified with 19 COY (cubs of the year), 11 black and 8 brown, in the Whistler area. Two females separated from four yearlings (last year’s cubs) and one female remains unfound.

Public reports of bear family sightings are key to the successful monitoring of valley bear activity. I would like to thank everybody who has participated, including the quality photos submitted.

Please continue to report bear families including distinct single bears (very small or very large). I have managed to track bear family movements through valley environs by confirming public reports.

Hair-trapping continues

Hair-trapping at barbed-wire enclosures will continue until mid-August. Traps are set up in high-use bear feeding areas in remote habitats, away from recreation trails.

If you stumble across large red and white "Bear Research Area" signs, please leash your dogs and leave the area.

The purpose of hair trapping is to collect bear hair samples for DNA analysis to determine a minimum population for the area and the relatedness of Whistler bears.

Berry ripening update

Early July ripening of oval-leafed blueberry is isolated but progressing seasonally. Huckleberry is also ripening so bear activity will shift mid-July from lush, green-up areas to shrub dominated open forests.

Many berry species are in the green fruit stages and are looking successful for August ripening.

Berry ripening in Whistler is weather-dependent. Balanced weather is preferred – too much rain and the berries will rot and too much sun will cause the berries to be smaller and shrivel faster.

Black bear slide show

The next slide presentation by the Whistler Black Bear Project is this Tuesday, July 15 at 7 p.m., at the Delta Whistler Village Suites, across from the library and museum. The topic is mother black bears.

Thanks to Pique Newsmagazine for sponsoring this column.

To report bear sightings, call 604-902-1660 or email mallen_coastbear@direct.ca.

Photo 1: Ursine Newlyweds: A courting pair of resident young adult male (black) and female (brown) black bears on the west slope of Whistler Mountain. The past June and July mating period has seen over 10 different pairs of larger dominant bears. This younger pair (4 to 5 years) seem to find their own non-competitive niche near a hair trap above the North west Passage.

Caption2: Large adult male Hank (approx. 170 kg.) with resident adult female Kara (70kg) pause after early morning wrestling on a remaining snowpatch on the north side of Whistler Mountain. Their extreme difference in body size offers the pseudo-image of a mother and yearling. Courtship may last for several days as the bears separate and reunite on numerous occasions. The oestrous period for females is roughly 10 days. Another male may cause separation of a courting pair depending on his experience and dominance.

Caption 3: Seedling scent-markers: This adult female black bear hesitates for the camera before walking over a conifer seedling. Male and female bears often straddle conifer seedlings allowing leader and branches to rub along their underside leaving an array of scent for neighbouring bears. Bears will also stand with their back to taller trees and pull branches down with their forepaws, rubbing them across their face and shoulders.

Caption 4 June cubs: Looking down, for guidance from their mother Marisa, these two six-month old, 12 kg cubs cling to old growth trees in the ski area as the basis of their escape cover.

Caption 5 Climbing a tree: Marisa, resident female to Blackcomb Mountain climbs a leaning snag in order to secure the safety of her twin cubs. Bears can climb all trees but favour hemlock and cottonwood because of the deep ridges formed in mature and old growth trees.

Caption 6: (facial late Jun-03): Post-mating (and ageing?): Nearing the end of the 2 month mating period, resident female Jeanie sports the look of battle as she accumulates a few more injuries than normal. Jeanie is at least 14 years old and currently holds the rank of queen on Whistler Mountain. One of the few females that will act offensively toward males.

Caption 7 (Jasmin late Jun-03):

A chance of Jeanie's generation: Jasmin. Jeanie's 19 month old daughter makes her way with caution through the Whistler Mountain ski area. Making sure to avoid older bears she has the opportunity to take advantage of her mother's productive and relatively secure territory until she reaches 4 years. Upon maturity Jasmin will take her first offspring and leave Jeanie's territory or Jeanie may expand movements allowing her daughters family to reside nearby depending on surrounding bear density.

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