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BEAR UPDATE: Susie's Eight Years By Michael Allen Black Bear Researcher The following chronological profile describes the eight-year life history of Susie, an adult female black bear resident to the Whistler Interpretive Forest (WIF). Susie yields the highest reproductive fitness (most frequent, largest litter) of the 12 focal mother black bears studied in the Whistler Ecosystem from 1993 to 1999. The root cause for her high plane of health is a history of access to edible high caloric human food garbage at the Whistler Municipal Landfill (WML). Susie has learned to supplement her natural food diet during periods of shortage (ie. berry crop failures) with human food garbage. This profile is a sample of the detailed data collection conducted for focal adult females within three sub-populations studied (WML., Whistler Mtn., Blackcomb). Age Year Month (years) Activity 1992 June 0.6 Susie with one sibling (brother) as spring cubs in the WIF 1992 August 0.8 Susie's mother feeds at small open household dump in landfill 1992 September 0.9 Susie's mother continues feeding at landfill (berry crop depleting) 1992 October 0.10 Last observation of Susie as a cub before denning period 1993 May 1.5 First observation of Susie as a yearling (family survives winter) 1993 June 1.6 Susie separates from mother 1993 August 1.8 Feeding daily on berries in WIF cutblocks 1993 September 1.9 Feeding daily in small open household dump site 1993 October 1.10 Last sighting before denning alone 1994 April 2.4 First sighting 1 km from dump after den emergence (bear counts begin at WML) 1994 June 2.6 Feeding in natal range (mother's territory) 1994 July 2.7 Chased daily from dump by dominant bears; summer bear visitation increases from 19 in 1993 to 28 (garbage volume increases from Whistler construction boom) 1994 August 2.8 Chased and attacked by resident adult female Sadie with 2 coy (cubs-of-the-year) on 3 occasions 1994 October 2.10 Feeding daily at larger open household dump; bear visitation dropping 1994 November 2.11 Tracked to old growth red cedar tree den 4 km from dump in WIF 1995 March 3.3 Emerges from den and feeds at skunk cabbage snow melt swamps 1995 April 3.4 First visit alone to landfill (electric fence erected at household dump; construction dump unfenced) 1995 May 3.5 Feeds daily at unfenced construction dump and at open fenced household dump when attacked by dominant bears (bear visitation shifts to construction dump after household fence erected) 1995 May 3.5 Chased twice by Sadie from construction dump; intraspecific interactions between bears high 1995 June 3.6 Susie mates - in estrus for first time 1995 July 3.7 Shifts daily feeding to berries in WIF cutblocks (10 adult males at dump) 1995 September 3.9 Returns to construction dump to feed daily 1995 October 3.10 Last observation of feeding at dump before denning period 1996 April 4.4 Susie with first litter (3 cubs) in WIF 1996 May 4.5 Susie brings cubs to construction dump for first time 1996 June 4.6 Remains bedded <500 meters from construction dump to feed daily; habituates to landfill vehicle traffic and blasting activity 1996 July 4.7 Shifts movements to berry feeding habitats in the WIF during the day and landfill garbage feeding in the evening 1996 August 4.8 Shifts feeding activities to fenced household dump — accesses garbage through open gate and digging under the fence while cubs crawl under the wires 1996 September 4.9 Continues feeding at household dump displacing large adult males and other resident mothers with her aggressive, offensive behaviours 1996 November 4.11 Bedded with 3 cubs 1.5 km from the dump in the WIF (one cub limps on left forepaw from unknown injury) 1996 December 4.12 Leaves for den one day before 40 cm snow fall 1997 April 5.4 Emerges from den and arrives at construction dump with 3 yearlings (one yearling continues to limp with serious front leg injury) 1997 May 5.5 Feeds daily at landfill with 3 yearlings; has 2 major fights with adult male in cutblock 1 km from landfill (drives male off) 1997 June 5.6 Breaks up family and mates 5 days later at landfill 1997 July 5.7 Brief re-association with daughter while feeding on berries in WIF 1997 August 5.8 Last sighting of Susie before denning period 1998 May 6.5 Susie with second litter of 3 cubs in upper WIF (filming by BBC); Susie's 2-year old son and daughter (2 of 3 1996 cubs) feeding at construction dump; unknown whereabouts of third 1996 cub (injured left fore leg) 1998 June 6.6 First observed visit to unfenced construction dump to feed on garbage; Susie's 2-year old daughter (1996 cub) attacked twice at construction dump by new mother Terry with 2 coy 1998 July 6.7 Susie continues to feed with 3 cubs at construction dump while avoiding her 2-year old daughter (1996 cub) feeding in area 1998 August 6.8 Susie continues to feed with 3 cubs throughout landfill; low elevation berry crop depleted due to extended high temperatures and drought 1998 September 6.9 Susie and 3 cubs feeding in construction dump — last observation of Susie and 3 cubs (September) before denning period 1998 October 6.10 Susie's 2-year old son (1996 cub) attacked by new resident mother Heidi with 3 coy at the construction dump; electric fence erected around construction dump with gate left opened for fall 1999 May 7.4 Susie observed for first time with 3 yearlings (1998 cubs) at construction dump (first time household and construction dump sites are fenced with closed gates at the same time) As of 10 May, Susie continues to shift her feeding activities with 3 yearlings between skunk cabbage swamps and cutblocks in the WIF to the vast Salix (pussy willow catkins) shrub habitats surrounding the landfill. Every few days she walks the electric fence and checks to see if the gates have been left open. In the last 7 1/2 years I have never observed Susie to travel with offspring to other human development areas. She is very defensive about confrontations with other bears and has always returned to the WIF to feed when access at the landfill is denied. Anyone with questions about black bears or with information of a bear family sighting (mother with cubs or yearlings) in the Whistler-D’Arcy corridor may contact me at 935-1176. Whistler black bear education programs are sponsored in part by Whistler-Blackcomb Mountains, Whistler Museum and Archives, and the Pique Newsmagazine.