Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bear Pictures - FINALLY!

After all these years, and even face-to-face bear encounters, we have yet to get one picture. That is, until tonight... JACKPOT!

Steve left the house to take Barney for his walk, and just as they were headed down the driveway, a mother bear with THREE new baby cubs suddenly appeared from behind some trees. At that point, Barney and Steve were about 30 feet from the 4-some.

(Sorry that the pictures are not that great, but the last thing you want to do is chase down the mother and ask for her autograph!

When Barney saw them, you can imagine what transpired. I was in the bird room when I heard barking. I immediately knew something was wrong, because Barney rarely barks, and only for a very good reason. So my first thought was bears, but it is a little early in the year to see them. And, before tonight we had not yet seen any.

As soon as Steve saw the bears, he grabbed Barney, and with him in his arms literally ran back up the drive way and the stone steps into the house. While our experience with bears in the past 11 years is that they shy away from people and are not aggressive, we also do not feed them or give them a reason to approach. Yet, a mother with three newborn cubs is a whole different animal - and Steve knew it would be critical to get inside as soon as possible so as not to concern or upset the mother bear.

Just as Steve was walking into the house with Barney, I was coming from the birdroom into the living room. I knew something was up, when the first words out of his mouth were, "is the camera ready with batteries?" The answer was yes, and I stayed inside the house to keep Barney calm and not barking while Steve went out onto the deck to see if he could get some photos. These photos are taken just outside the bird room. Fortunately, the mother and cubs remained in the driveway long enough to get a few photos!

Aren't they the cutest little cubs?!
The good news is that mom looks very healthy and fat. It is unusual to see a mom with even one baby, so to see her with three cubs was a huge treat!

The general cycle of black bears is to breed in June or July, the gestation period is 235 days, and cubs are born in January or February. At birth, they average 10-16 ounces and are 8 inches long. At 5 weeks of age they are mobile, so we know these cubs are at least 5 weeks old. To us, they appeared to weigh 15 to 20 pounds, and are probably about 3 months of age having been born in early January.
We are so excited to see and introduce them to you - perhaps we should have a naming contest!


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Arlene said...

OMG look how tiny they are. I guess Barney was just thinking "Oops. Take me home dad".
The bears are well looked after aren't they? I mean what do they do for food out there? Do they treat the area like a wildlife preserve?
Thank you so much for showing these awesome pictures. :)

louara said...

Poor Barney, was he scared? Is he ok?
How about your husband? My goodness, I think I would have fainted right on the spot.
Awesome photos. Are there more in the area? They are Black Bears correct? How close do they get to your house?
(sorry for all the questions, but that is really exciting!)

Robin Cherkas said...

Arlene, this is not a preserve, just the mountainous area of NC. The bears are omnivores, and opportunists, eating just about anything. They do like the large variety of berries that grow here during the late summer, as well as many other naturally occurring foods. We do not feed them, as it is not good for either human or bear to interfere. :) Louara, Barney wanted to get a much closer look, and thus had to be dragged back! Generally, the bears steer far away from humans, but given that it was a mother with cubs, the last thing we would want to do would be upset her or interfere. So Steve got Barney in the house immediately, and then we leave them alone (other than snapping some pictures)! They are black bears, and they get close enough to the house that we have muddy bear paw prints under the windows of both our kitchen and bathroom! This is another reason it is important not to feed them or bother them. We are just excited when we get to see them, as they quietly pass through on their way to looking for food. They usually move at dusk or dawn, so this was unusual to see them out around 6:00 pm and that the cubs are so young. I agree - VERY EXCITING! :D

Robin Cherkas said...

Also - at this time of year, if we go out during the times we are likely to see them, we look both ways before opening the door! LOL!

louara said...

I can imagine. I am a bit familiar with bear behavior, I have a friend who works in Jasper Albera National Park, in Canada. She tells me that bears are super smart and can move very fast when they want to. Offering food or going near the cubs is the last thing anyone should do. If the mother is not with her cubs you can bet that she is very closeby.

I'm glad you're ok Barney, you stay away from those bears ok buddy?

If I saw a bearpaw print outside my bathroom window, I'd totally freak out! I don't know if I could deal with it.

Michelle said...

Wow, those are some great pictures. I bet being that close to having a "close encounter" with a mama bear and her cubs was breathtaking, to say the least. Hope Barney was able to finish his walk at a more bearless!

Marianne said...

I'll bet if I show those pics to dad he'll think I'm lying this time, LOLOLOLOL!

phonelady said...

people had better not live in the country if they dont want to see bears or bear paw prints cause they are out there. How nice that you were able to get the photos and everyone is alright .

Anonymous said...

That's pretty cool. We used to tease my grandparents about bears because they were always complaining about one particular bear who would come by and rip open their trash can and throw the trash everywhere. It never, ever happened when we were there, always the day before or the day after we left so we would tease them and say the bear was imaginary and that they were the ones throwing the trash all over the place.

Les said...

Awwwwww, I want one!

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