Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘bear’

Photo: Stanley Forman.
A bear seen in Middleton in August represents the surprising Massachusetts black-bear comeback.

I’m sure you know it’s Fat Bear Week and time to vote on your favorite grizzly based on how successful the bear has been fattening up to hibernate.

Everybody loves bears — almost as much as dinosaurs. The advantage is that bears are still around. In fact, in today’s story we learn about a bear comeback. One caveat: it’s not safe to play with bears, anymore than with dinosaurs.

Billy Baker at the Boston Globe reports that black bears, once nearly extinct in Massachusetts, have staged their comeback without any help from wildlife officers.

“The story of the black bear that is coming to a suburb near you begins one day in the fall of 1969,” Baker reports, “when two bears showed up along a road in the northern Berkshires, in the tiny town of Florida, and appeared to be drunk.

“Back then, black bears were barely hanging on in Massachusetts, at the losing end of a 12,000-year fight with humans and [development], and the tiny population of survivors was believed to live somewhere nearby, along the border with Vermont.

“Still, these two bears were different. They hung around, happy for the crowds that came to watch them. Game wardens said the ‘tipsy bears,’ as they became known, were drunk from too many apples fermenting in their bellies.

Wardens even went so far as to briefly close the hunting season to give the bears time to ‘sober up’ before someone took a shot at them.

“Ultimately, it turned out the bears were comfortable around humans because they were semi-tame, raised by a guy in Shelburne as a roadside attraction for his gift shop on the Mohawk Trail, then released when he couldn’t afford to feed them. But all the fanfare forced the state’s wildlife experts to acknowledge that ‘we didn’t really know anything about bears in Massachusetts, other than there are some,’ according to Jim Cardoza, then a young biologist for MassWildlife.

“Thus began a five-decade effort to understand and conserve black bears in the state, a project that has succeeded beyond most people’s wildest dreams. …

“Starting in 1970, just after the ‘tipsy bears,’ the state shortened the bear hunting season to a single week, from 10 weeks since the early 1950s, and tasked Cardoza with figuring out how many bears lived in Massachusetts and the history that brought them there.

” ‘I was able to learn that at the time of Colonial settlement, bears were widespread in the state, except for very Southeastern Massachusetts and the islands,’ Cardoza said. But as settlement advanced inland to the Connecticut River Valley and the Berkshires, bears saw their forest habitat turned into farms, and their status lowered from king to pest; farmers could, and still can, legally kill any bear destroying their crops, at any time.

“They nearly disappeared in the decades between the end of the Civil War and the onset of hunting regulations in the early 20th century. By the mid-1970s, when Cardoza finished his study, he estimated there were only 80 to 100 bears in the state, all in the Berkshires. With such a small base, conservation goals were modest.

“ ‘The dream would have been to see them get established in western Franklin and Hampshire County,’ he said, but worried even that was a stretch. It wasn’t.

“By the early 90s, bears were thriving in the western part of the state, with an estimated 1,000 throughout the Berkshires and nearby hill towns. At the time, the Connecticut River was seen as a natural barrier to the east for all but the most adventurous young males. Yet over the next three decades, as the bear population in Western Massachusetts became more concentrated, females crossed the river in search of unoccupied territories, spreading throughout Central Mass., crossing endless natural and man-made barriers, including highways here, there, and everywhere.

“By 2011, the last time the state attempted a proper bear census, their numbers had grown to about 5,000. More incredible was how they were doing it, showing time and again an incredible resourcefulness, especially among breeding females, who figured out how to raise young in the woods behind a Target. …

“ ‘The expansion east is just a natural phenomenon of population expansion,’ said John Organ, a conservation scholar and former University of Massachusetts professor who recently joined the board of MassWildlife. ‘Bears are territorial, so those bears that are entering the population are looking for new unoccupied territories, and much of the state has returned to habitat where they can do quite well, even into Eastern Massachusetts.’ …

“If there’s anything biologists have learned in these five decades of studying bears, it’s that there is no overestimating their resourcefulness.

” ‘We had very little to do with [their success]. Bears are just extraordinary animals,’ said John McDonald, a professor at Westfield State University who did his doctoral research on Massachusetts black bears three decades ago. ‘What’s been satisfying is to see our predictions come true.’ …

“They’ve learned to live around people almost entirely without incident. The reverse cannot be said; with no natural predators, humans remain the chief source of bear mortality. Between 25 and 65 are killed by vehicle collisions each year, according to state environmental police records, but the actual number is likely much higher.

“Hunters now have three seasons when they can target black bear, but it remains a fringe pursuit, largely due to the extreme difficulty, after the state outlawed the use of traps, snares, bait, and dogs to hunt them. Most of the 200-250 bears harvested each year are by opportunistic hunters in tree stands waiting for deer.

“Yet as the number of bears increases, MassWildlife has stepped up efforts to get more hunters into the woods pursuing them, both to thin the population and to keep them from losing their fear of humans. …

“The best way to keep the bears at bay is exceedingly simple, specialists said: Get rid of birdfeeders and put electric fencing around chicken coops. They are the two biggest attractants to backyards and hardly anyone had either a few decades ago.”

Oh, dear! Give up my birdfeeder? I am a block from the train and my town is almost urban. Probably I will never see a bear here. If I do, good-bye birdfeeder. More at the Globe, here.

Read Full Post »

o8haafk

Photo: Imgur
Juuso makes art by rolling in paint. Sales of his paintings help animals who, like him, have been orphaned.

This orphaned brown bear is helping to raise money for the Finnish center that rescued him. And he’s not riding a unicycle like a circus bear. He’s doing something he apparently really likes: Art.

Jussi Rosendahl and Attila Cser report at Reuters, “The artist behind the exhibition entitled ‘Strong and soft touches’ is a 423-kilogram (930 pound) brown bear named Juuso who uses his body, especially his paws, as paintbrushes.

” ‘We just leave paint for him, some plywood and paper … If we ask him to do it, he doesn’t do anything. He does all the work in his own time, when he’s alone, sitting and moving his legs on the paper,’ said Pasi Jantti, one of his keepers.

“Juuso, who is 17 years old, favors blue and red, the keeper said, adding that the paints used posed no health risk to the bear.

“His keepers discovered Juuso’s artistic bent one day while painting some facilities at Kuusamo animal center in northern Finland where he has been living since being orphaned as a cub.

” ‘Juuso got some paint in his paws and started to make marks with them. We noticed that he liked it,’ Jantti said.”

Read more at Reuters, here.

I have to hand it to keepers who noticed what the bear enjoyed, let him do it, and thought up a way it could help other animals in their care.

Photo: The Independent
Two Juuso originals that have already sold.

Read Full Post »

The New York Times Science section had a cute piece in January about surprising friendships among different species of animals. Perhaps you saw it.

Erica Goode reported, “Videos of unlikely animal pairs romping or snuggling have become so common that they are piquing the interest of some scientists, who say they invite more systematic study. Among other things, researchers say, the alliances could add to an understanding of how species communicate, what propels certain animals to connect across species lines and the degree to which some animals can adopt the behaviors of other species.

” ‘There’s no question that studying these relationships can give you some insight into the factors that go into normal relationships,’ said Gordon Burghardt, a professor in the departments of psychology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Tennessee, who added that one video he liked to show students was of a small and persistent tortoise tussling over a ball with a Jack Russell terrier. …

“Until recently, any suggestion that interspecies relationships might be based simply on companionship would probably have been met with derision, dismissed as Pixar-like anthropomorphism. That has changed as research has gradually eroded some boundaries between homo sapiens and other animals. Other species, it turns out, share abilities once considered exclusive to humans, including some emotions, tool use, counting, certain aspects of language and even a moral sense. …

Barbara J. King, an anthropologist at the College of William and Mary, said that she hoped researchers would begin to collect examples of cross-species interactions to build a database that would merit scientific scrutiny. ‘I think we’re not even at the point of being able to extract patterns because the database is so small,’ she said, adding that the topic could also benefit from a rigorous definition of what constitutes a ‘friendship’ between members of different species.” More here.

Photo: Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary by way of Africa Geographic.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: