New life in bear dens

  • Article by: JIM GILBERT
  • Updated: January 26, 2012 - 10:48 PM

OUTDOORS JOURNAL

NEW LIFE IN BEAR DENS

Now is the time when black bear cubs are born. Lily, the Internet-famous black bear hibernating in her den in a cedar swamp near Ely, gave birth to two cubs on Jan. 21 last year. The young arrive in late January or early February while mothers still are sleeping. At birth the young, usually two or three in number, are 6 to 8 inches long and only weigh 7 to 12 ounces, about 1/500th of the weight of their mother.

The peak time for bears going into their winter sleep in northern Minnesota is between late September and late October. They pull in pine needles and other leaves for a bed in a winter den that is usually dug under an overturned tree, but may also be a sheltered cave in a rock outcrop, a hollow tree or stump, a dense thicket or a stand of small evergreens.

A bear never gets up during the winter to eat but uses its fat storage until April when it comes out of hibernation.

Although the bear's winter sleep is called hibernation, it is not in a complete deep sleep like thirteen-lined ground squirrels. It is rare, indeed, that a bear cannot easily be aroused from its winter slumber in spite of the fact that it acts very drowsy.

JIM GILBERT

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