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Bear Update: Kid?s bear programs and fall forecast



Black Bear Researcher


From Sept. 17 to 21, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (Brian Barnett) sponsored, the sixth seasonal (spring and fall) children?s classroom bear awareness program at Myrtle Phillip Community School. Twenty presentations addressed approximately 450, K-6 students on the seasonal behaviour, biology and ecology of local black bears. When children bump into a black bear on the Valley Trail, in their backyard, or anywhere else, knowledge of bear behaviour and how to react is the only tool they have to rely on. Local education programs about local bears have stimulated long-term interest, building a foundation for successful conservation of the Whistler black bear.


From Oct. 3 to 17, the RMOW (Brian Barnett) has sponsored 10 field trips for all Grade 5 students and teachers at Myrtle Philip school to venture up Whistler Mountain and experience fall black bear habitat use ecology. Whistler-Blackcomb Mountain Resorts (Arthur De Jong) have granted access and Canadian Snowmobile Adventures Ltd. (Dave Watts) have graciously donated a custom 4x4 van for transportation into the ski area. Each field trip will allow 10 students and two teachers or parent-teacher helpers to visit tree cavity dens, observe berry-feeding bears and weigh free-ranging black bears. Students will complete a worksheet with questions and problems on fall bear habitat ecology.


The Black Bear Field Ecology Youth Camp is a co-operative effort between the Whistler Black Bear Project, Whistler Parks and Recreation (Sandi Wentzel and Stephanie Coughlin), and Whistler-Blackcomb Mountain Resorts. The youth camp is a field interpretation of the fall habitat use characteristics of Whistler Mountain?s black bears. For five Saturdays (Sept. 15-Oct. 13), four morning students (Ellika Crichton, Arial Harwood, Patrick Taillefer, and Victoria Whitney) and four afternoon students (Becky Boese, Chelsea Bush, Adam Charters, and Alan Cox) accompany me and camp assistant Denise McLaughlin to survey bear dens, observe bear activity, and weigh black bears. During the first four field sessions, the students have already, investigated eight tree cavity dens, observed closely the activities of 15 different black bears, and weighed one bear.


What's on a bear's mind now? Hunger! This intense hunger is driven by Hyperphagia . Hyperphagia is the last stage out of four biochemical and physiological shifts in the black bear's annual cycle (1-hibernation, 2-walking hibernation, 3-normal activity, and 4-hyperphagia). Hyperphagia refers to excessive increases in food consumption. Whistler bears increase daily feeding from 8-15 hours during spring grazing to 16-22 hours during fall (mid-August?mid-October) berry feeding.

In early September I accompanied a 10-year old, 130-kg (260-lb.) pregnant female bear (Jeanie) on Whistler Mountain for a 40-hour period. She slept only 230 minutes out of the total 2,400-minute period. She never slept or rested longer than 80 minutes at one time.

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