I have been lucky enough to follow Mama Bear for two years. She is an incredible Mama Bear and was able to protect and teach her three (yes, THREE!) cubs until they were old enough to be on their own this last year. I was also lucky enough to see her be courted by three male boars. I am hoping to see some of her new cubs this spring...
The first time I saw Mama Bear she was walking across a high meadow above me. I was excited to see a cub was behind her. Wait, make that two cubs. No Way! Actually, make that three cubs! Triplets!
I couldn't believe my eyes! Three cubs trotting behind her. The last one was obviously a runt but it was doing well keeping up.
A summer of bear watching...
After that we went out every evening trying to find them again hoping to find and study their pattern. She would take her cubs and disappear for awhile and then come back. Slowly we were able to *sometimes* predict where she would be (aka we got really lucky).
As the cubs grew bigger she would leave one or two parked in a tree and go out and feed. There was more than a week were I didn't see the runt and I was worried it didn't make it. But then it would pop up and the whole family of four would be out and about eating. It was so much fun observing this bear family throughout the summer. We had many different encounters with them. One of the most memorable being the time she used us as a human shield to protect her cubs from a boar! Well, that's my theory, and a story for another post. But it was unreal!
Soon Winter came and they hibernated. It was a LONG season without them. I had grown accustomed searching for them. Thankfully the elk rut was a nice distraction in the fall. It ended up being a big winter with record amounts of snow. But then one day I heard of a bear family of four spotted at the beginning of Spring. Could it be them? It was a mama with triplets... I was lucky enough to find them shortly after they were first spotted.
It took some time, a lot of researching, and help from others to determine this was in-fact the same bear family! Mama came out of hibernation looking way different than last year (hormones will do that to you) and coat colors can vary. I was SO excited to see the whole family made it through winter. Now they only had a couple of months under Mama's watchful eye before they would be sent off on their own.
Mama taught them all her tricks. Where to find food, how to avoid big bears, and how to sneak in on another bears dinner... Seen above- Mama snuck her family in for a quick buffet. Check out the video I have of them eating this carcass here.
The cubs were excellent tree climbers. A crucial instinct to have when danger comes around.
She played with them, teaching them so many different life skills.
And then they were sent off on their own. They learned from Mama for about 17 months. Which gives them time to find food and protect themselves before hibernation. Mama wasn't alone for very long though.
Soon after she "kicked" her cubs off, we saw her being courted by this male. This big guy was the largest male we have seen yet. He was huge.
He also looked quite entertaining standing up. **Did you know when a bear stands up it is NOT to be aggressive but to get a better look.** This was our first time meeting and he wanted a better look. When he realized we weren't a threat he went back to focusing on Mama. Mama was only focused on food. Boars (male bears) will stop eating when they are courting a female, so they can give their full attention to the female and defend their right to be there if needed. We saw them together for three days until they disappeared....
Hopefully this Spring we will have new cubs to watch....we will find out in just a couple of months.
** I have so many stories with this bear family. I will do more posts with individual stories. Keep checking back if you want to hear more about our bear family adventures!