Black Bears (Ursus americana)

Color

 

Black bears have more color variations than any other North Americn mammal, indeed, more than any other bird, fish, reptile or amphibian. They are almost always black in eastern populations (east of the Mississippi River) and in southeastern populations. IN western populations, includng Minnesota and Ontario, 3 percent of more may be black, brown, chocolate, cinnamon/reddish brown, beige or blond. Some eastern populations have black fur, with brown muzzles and eyebrows. Brown color phases predominate in Saskatchewan.

 

White (Kermode) "spirit bars", which are not albinos because they have dark skin and eyes, are found primarily in northern and central British Columbia, including the islands of the coast of central British Columbia. Most white bears can be found on Prince Royal and Gribble Island, along the rainforest coast. A white bear was seen im Minnesota in 1997, and three white cubs were seen in Manitoba between 2000 and 2004. There may be as many as 100 ‘spirit bears" in existence.

Dark bluish-gray to light bluish-gray bears, often with brown peppering in their fur, may be found in the Alaskan Panhandle, from the Mount St. Elias Range to near Yakutat Bay (southeast of Glacier Bay) and a few miles into the interior. These two coloration types probably evolved during the last ice age, when their color would have helped camouflage them in their snowy and glacier surroundings.

 

Subspecies & Range

There are eighteen subspecies of black bear in North America. They can be found in much of Canada and Alaska extending south through both the eastern and western mountain ranges, the southeast coast, Florida, Missouri and Arkansas, the western coast, and Mexico.

 

 

 

White-tailed Deer (Odoicoleus virganianus)

Sex, Social Class & Antlers

 

If you have questions, feel free to log on to the T.R.'s Tips Talk Forum at www.TRMichels.com and ask. I'll do my best to help you.

 

God bless,

T.R.

 

For years whitetail hunters have believed that bucks, particularly older dominant bucks, are warier and react differently than other deer during the fall hunting season. Hunters often complain that they do not see as many bucks during the hunting season as they did during pre-season scouting, and that the trophy bucks they saw during scouting sessions seem to disappear during the hunting season. This lack of buck sightings is often said to occur because bucks leave their home ranges or become "nocturnal" during the hunting season. But is this really true? Do some bucks really pull a vanishing act during the hunt? In order to explain how these factors affect buck movement and reduced sightings we must first define them. When we talk about older dominant buck movement during the fall we are talking about the differences between:

1. bucks and does, 2. older bucks and younger bucks, 3. breeding bucks and non-breeding bucks. We are also talking about: 4. fall as opposed to summer 5. the breeding season, 6. hunting pressure, 7. an increase in other human related activities.

Sex and Social ClassAccording to European researcher Anthony Bubenik most ungulates (hoofed animals) have five maturity classes. These can be defined as: kids, pre-teens, teens, prime age and seniors. Each of these classes can generally be separated into male and female groups. Wildlife researcher Brown used four social classes in reference to white-tailed deer defined as: immature, subdominant floaters, group core members and dominant floaters. American researcher John Ozoga combines these terms into what more clearly defines the social hierarchy of male whitetails. These social classes are: kids (1.5 years old); subdominant floaters (1.5-2.5 years old); fraternal group members (2.5-4.5 years old that have not reached maximum body and antler size); dominant floaters (alpha or dominant breeding bucks 5.5-9.5 years old); and seniors (bucks past their physical prime, often non-breeding 8.5 year or older bucks). He further divides the fraternal group members into primary group members (3.5-4.5 years old) and secondary group members (1.5-2.5 years old).

 

AntlersUngulates include animals that produce horns or antlers (such as deer), and those that don't such as horses. Generally speaking the horns or antlers of individual species are larger on males than they are on females, causing males to look different than females. This difference in appearance causes the males to be more susceptible to injury and death due to predation and to hunting pressure. Because of this increased predation and hunting pressure males that carry antlers learn how to avoid predators, usually at a young age.

 

Antlers are shed yearly by male animals, making it difficult to distinguish the males from the females while they males are not carrying their antlers. The absence of antlers makes the males less conspicuous and therefore less susceptible to predation, giving them a better chances of survival throughout most of the year. However, because antlers are used as a means of expressing dominance, and are used to attract females during the rut, they are often present during the rut, making antlered males highly conspicuous and susceptible to predation and hunting.

Prime age males often carry the largest antlers which makes them conspicuous and highly susceptible to predation. Senior males, even though they are not breeding, may still carry large antlers, making them also susceptible to predation. Because their advanced age does not allow senior males to escape as easily as younger males they are extremely vulnerable. Both prime age and senior males must become "smart" to avoid predation and hunting. The older the animal; the less likely that it will participate in the rut, and the more likely it will choose secluded home ranges, travel at night, and limit it's movements to avoid predation and hunting pressure.

In the case of the heavily hunted white-tailed deer, which is prized for large antlers, the males either learn to avoid hunters, or they are shot at and may die. Each year that a buck survives teaches it more about when and how to avoid hunters. Because of this older whitetail bucks are smarter and warier than younger bucks. These infrequently seen older, trophy quality, whitetail bucks usually belong to the "dominant floater" or "senior" class.

Buck HabitsWhile dominant floater bucks generally participate in the rut, they learn to move at times and places where they are unlikely to be seen by hunters. Senior bucks (which may produce extremely large or heavy antlers) on the other hand, do not participate in the rut and may remain in secluded areas or become primarily nocturnal in their movements. Some younger bucks may also not participate in the rut due to low social class, low testosterone levels, or other factors. I know of several evidences of these non-breeding bucks. Wildlife researcher Valerius Geist reports observing a buck that did not participate in the rut after it was beaten in battle by an older buck. Researcher John Ozoga observed a non-breeding buck that showed unusually high levels of the female progesterone hormone. During my own studies from 1993-1996 there were fewer sightings of subdominant bucks while the dominant bucks were engaged in rutting activity. A twelve point buck that I observed for five years did not participate in breeding activity and was rarely seen during the last year of the study. This leads me to believe that any buck that does not participate in the rut is less likely to be seen during fall hunting seasons.

 

Because bucks look different than does, they are forced to react differently than does - in order to survive. It is also safe to assume that the older the buck is the better it becomes at avoiding predation, hunting pressure and contact with humans. Because predation and hunting have the ability to affect deer health and security they can be considered as "Predatory Behavior Factors." Deer are subjected to predatory behavior throughout the year, however, they are subjected to hunting pressure primarily in the fall. Because of its seasonal nature I refer to hunting, and its associated activities that affect fall deer movement, as the "Hunting Factor." Both these factors, because they have the ability to affect the health and survival of the deer, may cause a decrease in buck sightings during the fall. There are other factors that can cause an increase in buck sightings during the fall, which I will describe in the following chapters.

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