International Conference on Bear Research and Management (IBA) is holding its 22nd conference September 15-20, 2013, in Provo, Utah. The theme of the conference is “Bears in Winter.” As the conference website says, “Papers “dealing with any aspect of winter inactivity (hibernation)—physiology, behavior, ecology, reproduction, etc.—are especially encouraged.” Where better to present our observational data? Abstracts for papers are due in a couple weeks. We’re on it!
We have a fair sample size—6 wild black bear dens that included 2 mothers plus their 7 offspring (4 litters). Could it be better? Yes. A larger number of individual mothers would help us tease out innate behaviors from those that are simply the result of age or personality differences. Hopefully, that will come with time.
Beginning work on the abstract caused us to think back about the differences in behavior between Lily and Jewel and how different Lily is with this litter compared to her first two litters. Her play is now more gentle and infrequent. By comparison, 3-year-old Jewel has always been much less playful with Fern and Herbie than Lily was with her Hope, Faith, and Jason.
We also thought about how different our observations have been than those reported in the old days of direct observation of bears that were either sleeping or watching the observers. The play, nursing, chewing footpads, urination behavior, defecation behavior, preparations for birth, labor, reactions to the cubs’ first cries, and day-to-day care of cubs are all new observations. Not just new to us—but new to bear research. So different from what people thought or from what a wildlife expert recently said on TV about cubs being born while the mother sleeps.
We believe the focus of this IBA Conference—hibernation—is a first. There will be a lot of papers on physiology, heart function, etc., involving implanted devices and blood studies. In the old days, we took a lot of blood samples, winter and summer, to compare blood chemistry in and out of hibernation. We’re looking forward to it. If anyone has an interest in papers with big words and medical jargon, click on the publications tab at bearstudy.org (Publications 2, 12, 25, 34, 36, 37, 49, 57, 92, and 103).
A new video of Lily and cubs is posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oxvx9JlvMhU.
You are making a difference for Jim Stroner, who has helped us so often with his great pictures. You have him solidly in first place, but that’s not a reason to relax at http://tinyurl.com/bhj5v3h.
Thank you for all you do.
—Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center
All pictures taken on date of update unless otherwise noted.