CANISTEO, NY-Both loved and feared,the Black Bear may be one of New York's most misunderstood creatures.. From the Adirondacks to Allegany, bears are making a comeback, and that means interaction with humans is becoming more prevalent,and it also adds more opportunity for wildlife experts to closely observe the species and add to our knowledge of this impressive mammal.
The NY DEC and Cornell University have combined to do an extensive study of bears, and recently visited a den in the Southern Tier, finding a mother and 4 healthy cubs.The female had been fitted with a transmitter collar last summer, making her easier to locate. Once the den was found, mom was sedated and had a thorough physical, while the cubs were briefly removed from the den to meet an awestruck group of students and wildlife professionals.
Catherine Sun is a Graduate Research Assistant at Cornell University." We had 2 females and 2 males, and we checked them for their sex and their weight and we took a couple of other biological samples from them." Tim Spierto is a Senior Wildlife Biologist with the NY Department Of Environmental Conservation. " Learning to understand more about the Black Bear population in NY state, their ranges of movement, the type of decisions they make in habitat selection, and also we're trying to take a look at population sizes,densities and their distribution across the state."
The litter of four was a surprising find for the biologists. Each cub was carefully removed, a necessity to help keep them warm while mom got her check up. Spierto explains." Two and Three is the most common, four is getting toward that upper limit of how many bears a sow can produce.The record that we know of is six."
And it was as rare an experience for the cubs as it was the observers. These youngsters are only about 2 months old and have never left their mother, says Spierto." They were fantastic ! They were making noise and loving life. Of course it was their first time out of the den, they've never seen a person before or probably daylight even for that matter, so it was a little bit of a wake up for them this morning, but I think they're all doing very well right now." Adds Sun." There's nothing better than getting out with a female and seeing her cubs and holding them close."
Contrary to popular belief, bears are not true hibernators, thus the need to sedate the sow. Once the drug wears off, life for the bears returns quickly to normal. " She will continue to nurse those cubs," Spierto says " And she won't have much awareness of what happened to her, of course the cubs may have a memory or two, but I think all in all, the reward certainly outweighs the risk in this case."
It's a lot of work, but certainly well worth it in an effort to better learn how to live with one of New York's most magnificent animals,Sun says." I hope research like this continues, as the future moves on, as we get more development and things like that, research needs to continue in wildlife because it's still going to remain an integral part of the way we interact with nature." Spierto concurs." The bear to me is an apex animal in NY State, this is the one that really gives us an indication of how our habitat is doing and how well we can get along with the creatures around us , so to continually be able to study
bears like that is something I feel is very important and we need to continue."
For more information on Black Bears, you can visit the DEC's website : http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6960.html