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Bear Update

Who is the bear guy?

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Everything I know now about black bears has come directly from the field, with the exception of the basis of hibernation physiology. Even during hibernation, I have managed to record respiration rates, ecological relationships with winter recreation and climate, and determined birth dates and post-natal behaviors. I have read hundreds of papers on bear research — the science definitely intriguing, but I only believe what I can verify through field observation.

I simply function as an independent (self taught) bear researcher, guide, and educator whose goal is to build a complete profile of a mother bear’s life through long-term data to improve people’s understanding of our unique (and very dynamic) black bear population.

It is hardly simple though. I have managed to keep track of the ecology of at least 30 female bears and their relationships with 25 males during half their lifetime. Over the next 10 years the annual cycles, and ultimately the lives, of many of my study bears will be complete. This product will be the greatest amount of detailed information on black bear life history in British Columbia and will arm me with highly effective education tools to continue my awareness with students and the public.

During pre-Olympic development phases, bears are going to experience tough seasons, and with the likelihood of increased summer visitation during pre- and post-Olympic years will bring more pressure to the sometimes fragile bear-human interface in Whistler. Whatever the outcome for this bear population though, I am here to watch, learn, and teach.

July represents the summer transition in diet and behavior as resident bears move higher into the mountains, leaving open grazing areas to search for carpenter ants and the honeycomb/larva from beehives. Adult males continue to move through female spring activity areas as the breeding period continues until late July.

Four mothers have yet to separate from yearlings (2006 cubs). Berry ripening will be late this summer with many shrubs above 1,500-metres still buried in snow. The critical berry crop above 1,500-metres is in danger of being delayed (normally begins ripening in early Aug) until mid-September or later. Although it is better to have a delayed crop than an early berry crop, the further it is delayed, the fewer days for bears to forage berries.

I will make a detailed assessment of berry abundance by mid-July and will have a forecast for the berry season and corresponding bear response. Berry days — the number of days berries are available to forage by bears at a given range of elevation — have been tracked in Whistler since 1996.