T.R. Michels

T.R. Michels is a professional guide who specializes in trophy whitetail, turkey and bear hunts in Minnesota. He has guided in the Rocky Mountains for elk and mule deer, too. He publishes the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

June 2011 Bear Research Update

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Environment Updated: June 6, 2011 - 12:18 PM

It has been a while since I mentioned it, but I am conducting my own Black Bear Research Study through the Wildlife Activity Research Project (WARP). I’m currently in my third year of research into the daily and seasonal behavior of black bears on about a 1000 acre unfenced wildlife preserve in northeast Arkansas, This is all done via six ultra high tech 24 hour per day, 360 degree rotational infra-red (night vision) capable, audio capable cameras, situated on six large corn feeders. I estimate I am studying as many as 25 bears, including 5-6 large boars. Much of the first years research results, and comments on the study, are located at the bottom of the home page of my Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

Some of the interesting things we have learned so far are that bears are nowhere near as nocturnal (nighttime active) as previously thought. Through the spring and summer, and part of the fall, they are as active during the day as at night, if not more so. They also are not as inactive as previously thought in high temperatures. I’ve seen big, fat, black, boars, with a luxuriant fur coat, moving around in broad daylight when the temperatures were higher than 90 degrees – on several occasions.

www.UseeWildlife.com. Plus you can help my research by participating in the bear research project as one of our volunteer bear reporters. While you learn mainly about the behavior and biology of black bear sows and cubs on the Bear Center web site, you can learn about boars and juveniles on the UseeWildlife web site.

You can also join our "Protect Minnesota’s Research Bears" campaign by logging on to that page on Facebook, and better yet, by sending your comments about why you think the bears should be protected to me at TRMichels@yahoo.com. I’d like to have 1000 letters to present to the State Legislature, DNR Commissioner Landwehr and Governor Mark Dayton before next fall. I only have about 120 now, so if you want to help protect the bears, send me your comments – please.

On a side note, I’ve been asked to be one of the speakers at the Lilypad Picnic, whch is designed to show appreciation for the researchers at the North American Bear Center and the Wildlife Research Institute, and to help protect the bears. The dates are July 22-24, 2011, in Ely, Minnesota. For tickets, lodging availability and other information log on to the Lilypad Picnic 2100 page at

http://www.lilypadpicnic.com/index.html. There will be opportunities to tour the center, and take pictures of some of the bears, as well as other fun events. I look forward to seeing you there – in fact if you would like to go, I am offering a bus tour to the event. Contact me at TRMichels@yahoo.com .

One interesting thing we found is that during years when there is poor mast (nut) production from oak, hazel, hickory and other nut bearing trees, the sows (females) may all fail to produce cubs the next spring, even though they were successfully bred and conceived that spring. If the sows are stressed due to a lack of summer/fall forage, then, during the fall and winter/hibernation months, in order to survive, the bodies of the female bears resorb the growing fetus back into their own bodies, so they do not have to provide needed nutrition for themselves, to the fetus. When this occurs the sows may synchronize their birthing sequence, so that none of them give birth the following spring, This may result in all of the sows giving birth to cubs during the same years, as opposed to some sow giving birth during even numbered years and some giving birth in odd numbered years. This occurred in my research area a couple of years ago. With the result that most of the sows now give birth to cubs during the same year.

Interestingly, these Arkansas bears are all descendants of transplanted bears from Minnesota, Ontario and Saskatchewan (American Black Bears - (Ursus americanus) because the subspecies of bear in Arkansas, the Louisiana Black Bear (Ursus americanus luteolus) was extinct due to over hunting. Since photoperiod (the number of hours of light each day), and temperatures, which are both determined to some extent by latitude, affects when bears emerge from their dens, breed and go into hibernation, one of the things I will looking at is if and how bears from northern latitudes will change their breeding and denning dates due to the higher temperatures and photoperiod. I would expect, over time, that the bears in Arkanss would begin to dome out of their dens earlier if the temperatures are higher than they are her in Minnesota, that they might begin to breed earlier, and the they might go I into their dens later in order to take advantage of the longer growing season of nutritious foods in Arkansas. This might take several generations to occur; only time will tell.

So far, the boars (which are usually the first to emerge from their dens in the spring, are coming out at about the same time as Dr. Lynn Rogers bears here in Minnesota (about the last week of March or early April) because I keep in touch with him on an almost daily basis. As of yet we have not seen any sows with cubs, but I expect to, unless there was another poor mast crop last year, because we have not seen cubs in two years. We have seen some juvenile bears (ages 1-3 years old) and apparently some sow, because we have noted what we believe is breeding behavior in the last few weeks, just as Dr. Rogers has noted here in Minnesota.

If you want to watch the deer, bears, turkey, gray fox, armadillos, raccoons, and gray squirrels, as well as trumpeter swans and both bald and golden eagles, and a myriad of bird species at the worlds largest bird feeder (certified); you can do so for free by logging on to

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