Posted by: Wild Instincts | April 22, 2012

Bears, Bears and Bears. Oh My!

This spring has brought a lot of black bear cubs to Wild Instincts attention. It started early in January with the admission of two five-day old cubs orphaned when their mom ran off due to logging operations and it hasn’t stopped.

It’s not uncommon for us to get orphaned cubs, but generally it is a little later in the year. What’s happening that so many young cubs are being found in trouble so early?

Wisconsin’s healthy bear population means we have enough bears that people’s chances of seeing one are greater than they used to be. Bears and people are living in a closer proximity of each other than ever before.

Add to that our very warm weather very early and we have the perfect storm for orphan cub overload.

Typically, sows like to stay in their dens with their cubs as long as possible. This gives the cubs the best protection from dangers such as adult male bears. In the den, a predator will have to deal with mom before it can get to the cubs. Out of the den, young cubs’ defense is to climb. Climb high and out on limbs that support them, but not whatever is chasing them.

If you go back to some of the video we posted of “The Boys” before they were placed in a surrogate den, you can see how uncoordinated they start out. The longer they have the safety of the den, they more their motor skills develop. They can venture out for short periods for exercise and skill development, but dart back into the den if danger arises.

In an extremely warm spring such as ours this year, many dens flood by melting snow forcing families out early. The almost-one-month early sprouting of plants, budding of trees and arrival of migrants also gets mom awakened from her winter nap earlier than usual.

This means sows are moving around more with cubs not ready to keep up with her yet. The weakest get easily separated. The separated cub(s), not able to climb very well, looks for a den or hiding spot. Garages, garden sheds and other human shelters make quick dens for these stragglers. Sometimes mom is nearby, other times she has continued on without her cub(s).

This year reasons for orphaned cubs range from logging to wandering a hiking trail to an entire family being killed by a car…so far. It’s only the end of April.


Cubs climb as a defense against danger.


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