As the buds on the trees begin to bloom and spring peaks its head around the corner at the sanctuary, we are observing more bear activity. When bears leave their winter dens, they are VERY hungry, since they have not eaten in several months. We have observed bears eating sprouting grasses and clovers, along with tree buds. They especially like eating vegetation around this time because it helps clear their digestive system out, as they have been inactive since the fall.
This video shows Sansa and her three yearling cubs, 2 brown and 1 black. These 4 have been regular visitors at the sanctuary in the past couple of weeks. Moms of yearling cubs will continually teach them the best places to get food before she disperses them, or kicks them out, in late May or June.
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich
A curious fox visited our sanctuary! The red fox’s resourcefulness has earned it a legendary reputation for intelligence and cunning. Red foxes are solitary hunters who feed on rodents, rabbits, birds, and other small game. They will also eat fruit and vegetables, fish, frogs, and even worms. If living among humans, foxes will opportunistically dine on garbage and pet food.
Video courtesy of Dennis Udovich.
Hall (with little blue ear tags) is an extremely curious bear that is always ‘touching’, sniffing and exploring everything. This is not uncommon for bears his age, although once mom disperses her yearlings, most become more timid and hang out in trees. Trees are the safest place for them to be as they are out of dangers way. While Hall spent lots of time in the trees after disperseal, he spent more time on the grounds exploring. This can be seen as a bit bold for such a young bear…but that is just Hall being Hall!
This video was captured outside of his den last March, a month or so prior to the family leaving their den. Darla, Hall & Oates were one of the first families that I saw in the early spring at the sanctuary. We are getting pretty eager to see the bears again, thats for sure!
Do we have a treat for you! Sanctuary advisor, Dennis Udovich, sent me several videos from Hall & Oates’ den last year. Here we have Hall & Oates playing outside of their den on March 5th, 2018. It is common for bears to emerge from their dens around March, but they remain close to the den as their bodies slowly come out of hibernation since they are typically still very lethargic.
Play is very important for cubs, yearlings and sub-adult bears. Not only does it help establish bonds and relationships with other bears, it also is important for muscle development as well as improving coordination.
Continuing on from last weeks post with our adventures of Hall & Oates…Throughout the summer, their mom Darla (pictured below), taught them all they need to know about living life as a bear to survive on their own. They will only stay with her for about 18 months, so it is important that they pay attention and learn quickly. She taught them how to escape danger and predators by climbing trees. She taught them how to find food to eat by showing them the places her mother showed her. Bears have such an excellent memory, that once they learn a food source, they will never forget it. She also showed them what foods are safe to eat, by chewing them in her mouth and allowing her cubs to smell her breath using their Jacobson organ. Bears have an amazing sense of smell, so they will not forget these foods she shows them. One of the last important things she teaches them is how to find, construct and insulate a den. They do not typically use the same den every year, so it is not uncommon for them to begin looking for a den during the summer. More times than not, bears will use dens that have already been in use by other bears, or by other animals, so much construction is not typically needed. However, it is imperative that they find a dry den and that they insulate it with dry materials. One of my favorite things to is observe at the sanctuary in late summer, early fall is when moms are trying to teach cubs HOW to insulate a den. Quite often we see moms showing cubs how to rake up dry materials or how to gather materials in their mouth and make a ground nest. Since cubs have a short attention span, mom will show them how to do this MANY times until they finally understand and can do it themselves. It takes LOTS of patience raising cubs and I suspect that Darla needed to learn even more patience raising 3 boys of the same age at the same time!
**Please note, it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so only for educational and communication purposes.**
Let the adventures of Hall & Oates continue! In my last post, I left off saying that we didn’t see much of Hall & Oates during their first 6 months of life because they spent a lot of time in the treetops of various aspen, elm & ash trees. That all changed when they began to eat solid foods. Cubs typically begin to eat solid foods around 6 months. When Darla did allow her cubs to join her on the ground to eat, she kept them on a very tight leash. Which again, is what good mama bears do. I observed them often getting into little tiffs with each other over food, which is pretty common too. It is always interesting to see them fight over food because they are very vocal about it, but also because there is always plenty of food to go around, so really there is nothing worth fighting over. In addition to being vocal, they will bite at eachothers ears and occasionally swat each other. Sometimes cubs will get so carried away that mom will intervene to break them up.
**Please note, it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so only for communication purposes.**
Continuing on from last weeks post about Hall & Oates…They arrived to the sanctuary in May of 2017, with their brother and mom, Darla, in tow. Yes, normally she was lagging behind as they were so eager to explore the world as it was still so new to them. Darla is an excellent mom as she almost always makes it mandatory that her cubs be treed while at the sanctuary. One of the first things mama bears will teach their cubs as they leave the dens is to climb trees for safety. So, during the first 6 months of their lives, we didn’t see them much as they obediently listened when Darla told them to stay in the tree until she came back. Mama bears use several vocalizations with their cubs to communicate various things. When treeing cubs, they use a gulping vocalization that tells them to stay in the tree until she returns. She will then make that gulping vocalization when she returns, telling them to come down. Often times, they are like human children and do not listen to her instructions. At that point, she may use an impatient gulp, in which I believe she is saying, “come down now, or I will leave without you!” Knowing Hall & Oates personalities now, I believe that Darla absolutely had to make threats to keep them in line! They are now celebrating their 2nd birthdays and we sure hope they are staying warm in these frigid temperatures! Stay tuned for more stories about Hall & Oates.
**Please note: it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so only for communication & educational purposes. Cubs were held during a den visit for the sole purpose of keeping them warm while an overall health assessment was taking place on mom.**
It is one of our favorite times of year again because in late January, early February; tiny, bald, deaf, blind, immobile cubs are being born! Because of this, we like to spend the month talking about cubs. Today, I want to specifically talk about two bears that were cubs not that long ago. Cubs grow incredibly fast, as their mother’s milk is 33% fat (in comparison, humans only contain 2-4% fat). So, pictured here are two bears that I have known since they were these tiny, vulnerable cubs pictured with myself and our chief operations manager, Ryan (while bear biologists take necessary samples and measurements on mom, cubs must be kept warm).
It has been so amazing to not only watch them grow rather quickly, but to also watch their unique personalities develop and to witness first hand their problem-solving skills and their interactions among each other and other bears. Their mother is one of the bears that has been collared by the MN DNR, and therefore we have been monitoring her activities for several years now. Her two sons, whom we have since named Hall (blue ear tags) & Oates (red ear tags), both have ear tags for easy identification. We visited their den in March of 2017, when they were just a little over a month old. At birth, cubs weigh around just a ½ pound…when we visited them in March, they already both weighed about 8lbs., the average cub weighs around 5lbs. at the 1-month mark. They are still doing lots of growing, both physically and mentally. Hall visits more regularly, which is why there are a few single images of him. Both LOVE to play with bears their own age…although Hall tries to engage older bears quite often, sometimes with some success! Stay tuned for stories about Hall & Oates, as they are rather mischievous bears!
**Please note, it is not common practice to name wild animals. We do so only for communication and educational purposes.**
Did you know that the winter months are a GREAT time to get outdoors and look for owls!? It is a great time because the woods become a bit more accessible as the snow puts a nice blanket over low, thick brush and the leaves are no longer on the trees, making viewing easier. Also, some of Minnesota’s owl species only typically visit during the winter months. Minnesota is home to 12 owl species, although 10 of them occur regularly. The boreal owl, snowy owl and northern hawk owl are owl species that typically visit Minnesota during the winter months. Pictured below is my personal favorite, the northern hawk owl! They are very curious birds… I actually had one follow me from tree top to tree top last winter while I was snowshoeing. It is common for them to perch atop tall trees, just as a hawk would. Unlike most owls, they are active mostly during the day. It’s diet consists of small rodents (voles are preferred), small birds and sometimes insects, fish and frogs.One great place to see these owls is at the Sax-Zim bog, located a little over an hour south of the sanctuary.
Photo purchased via shutterstock
We’ve been looking at some different tracks lately and I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about bear tracks! It would be extremely unlikely to see bear tracks in northern MN now (they SHOULD all be hibernating), but let’s talk about identifying them anyways!
One of the neatest things about their tracks is that their hind foot looks very much like ours. They walk plantigrade(flat-footed), just like us. This allows them to stand on their hind legs for a short period of time. Check out the side by side comparison of a human footprint and a bear track, they even have 5 toes like us! One visible difference in their hind foot though is that their pinky toe is on the inside of their foot, not on the outside as ours is. It is believed that this helps with climbing. Claws are almost always seen in the tracks and black bears have shorter claws than brown bears. Their front claws are longer than their hind claws to aid in climbing too. Bear tracks really cannot be mistaken for anything else, as nothing is as large. Black bear front tracks are 3 ½ to 6 inches long and their hind tracks are 5-8 inches long.
Who made these tracks?
Here are some hints:
*This photo was taken in Northern MN, near the sanctuary
*I am a carnivore and often times, I prey on animals much larger than me
*My breeding season is in the winter!
*I typically mate for life
*I can go up to 14 days without a meal and still be healthy!
What am I?
One of the most common questions asked while visiting the sanctuary surprisingly has nothing to do with the bears. It is usually something like, “what is that awful noise?” That would be our resident ravens! While they might not make the prettiest calls, scientists have categorized around 33 different vocalizations. Ravens are highly intelligent birds and are said to have an intelligence that rates up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. A few of my favorite raven facts are;
• In the wild, ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast
• Ravens can mimic many noises and have been known to imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to carcasses that the raven isn’t capable of breaking open. When the wolf is done eating, the raven gets the leftovers.
Photo credit: Tim Halvorson
OK, let’s test out all of your skills!!! I was out hiking and came across these tracks. They are tracks I had never seen before and therefore had some difficulty identifying. I had to ask the opinion of a co-worker. Once he told me, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t come up with the answer myself, whoops!
Let’s hear your best guess!
Next Tuesday I will be talking with a 5th grade class from Oklahoma about bear diets as well as some of the diets of birds that live in northern MN and OK. I will be talking about the Northern Shrike and the Loggerhead Shrike. They are carnivores and eat a varied diet of insects, small mammals, reptiles and other birds. One of the most fascinating facts about these seemingly sweet-looking birds is that they like to impale their prey! They will even sometimes impale their prey while the prey is still alive, on thorns, spines, or barbed wire. They may pull impaled prey and consume it right away, or they may leave it for later consumption. I think the 5th graders will find this super fascinating, yet disgusting! 😊
Photo credit:Northern Shrike from www.allaboutbirds.org
Well, it officially feels and looks like winter here in Orr, MN! We have had snow the last few days and a thin layer of ice is starting to form on Pelican Lake. We have been seeing some winter birds arriving as well! A few of my favorites, the Pine Grosbeak and Snow Bunting are back! Pine Grosbeaks vary in color from a deep red, orange and yellow depending on their sex, age and region! Snow buntings also vary in color depending on sex, age and breeding season. The amazing thing about these birds is that they migrate here from the arctic and sub-arctic tundra! Snow buntings breed the farthest north than any other songbird, making them quite remarkable as they only weigh about 1.5 oz. They have many adaptations to stay warm..their bodies are covered in dense feathers from their feet to the base of their beaks. During really cold days, they will even bury themselves in the warmth of a snowdrift!
Photo Credit: CCNAB and Darren Clark
Denning vs. Hibernation
One of our co-founders recently did an article in our newsletter, the Bear in Mind, about the differences between denning and hibernation. They are often times used interchangeably…so what is the difference? When bears leave to den, they go in search of a preferred denning area. They typically already have a site in mind, as they scoped it out earlier in the season. When they arrive to their den site, they need to make it warm! This consists of raking in dry grasses or even carrying mouthfuls to make the process quicker. During this time, they are very lethargic as their bodies prepare to hibernate. They are still eating and drinking from sources nearby. When their bodies are ready for hibernation, everything slows down (heartrate, breathing, metabolic processes). It is during this time that they go to sleep and therefore do not NEED to eat, drink, urinate or defecate.
Here are two trail cam photos taken from outside the entrance of Darla’s den; she is one of the collared bears we visited on Feb 28th.
Photo 1: Spruce Grouse (rare to see) at the den entrance March 11th.
Photo 2: Darla, with two of her three cubs when they first came out on March 25th.
There have been many discussions between our board members, volunteers, interns and staff about whether we should name bears. In the late 70’s Vince did name his bears; the first bear was named Duffy. Duffy was one of the most famous bears and even Johnny Carson, late night talk show host, talked about Duffy. For now, we have named the collared bears; Sunny, Ginger and Hot Shot (the only male collared) are the others.
Since partnering with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to collar these four bears, we have had the opportunity to learn a lot about each individual’s behavior and movements throughout the year.
The sanctuary will open this coming Saturday, May 26th at 5 pm. Come out and join us at the largest open air classroom to learn about these incredible animals.
We hope all of you have enjoyed and learned a bit from the video and photo clips we have posted in the past 5 months, as it is always fun for us to share our knowledge and what we get to see.
Photo Credit: Dennis Udovich
Are these 3 bears? You may need to watch closely a few times to decide! Tell us what you think!
Video courtesy of Dennis Udovich
As most of you know, Canada geese LOVE pretty, manicured lawns. They prefer this type of “habitat” for 2 main reasons. They love eating this lush grass as their bodies are capable of processing it and it is delicious. Cut grass is also a safe place to raise your young as it is easy to see any predators approaching. So they are especially abundant in parks, airports, golf courses, and other areas with expansive lawns.
Geese build their nests on the ground, usually on a muskrat mound or other slightly elevated site, near water. They prefer spots in which they can have a fairly unobstructed view in many directions. Females are the bosses as they select the site and do most of the constructon by adding down feathers and some body feathers beginning after the second egg is laid. She does all the incubation while her mate guards her and the nest.
As some people unfortuantely find out, Canada Goose can be mean! They use threat displays which involve head pumping, bill opened with tongue raised, hissing, honking, and vibrating neck feathers. If an intruding goose doesn’t retreat, geese may grab each other by breast or throat and hit each other with their wings. Fighting may result in injuries.
Any guess as to which is the female?
Photo courtesy: Dennis Udovich
We have had our FIRST bear into the Sanctuary! The trail camera was recently checked, only to find that we had a bear on camera April 24th at 12:23PM which makes Lee Bergemann our winner guessing April 24th at 4:15PM!!!! Great job Lee, I will be sending you a private message so you can select your prize! Thanks to all of you that played along! We hope you will visit us this year to see the bears doing bear things!
Bears are beginning to emerge from their dens in the Northwoods of MN! I saw a video yesterday of a bear wandering through yards in Duluth, MN (which is about 2 hours south of the sanctuary). Don’t give them a reason to stay in your yard and neighborhood! Bring your bird feeders in at night, store your garbage/grills in the garage and keep a clean yard. These simple things could save a bears life.
Still no sightings of bears at the sanctuary, however, most of our snow has melted and we have had some warm weather, so it shouldn’t be much longer before we start seeing bears again! YAY!
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
How good are your birding skills?
You all have proved to be pretty good identifying mammals of the north woods so let's try your birding skills! What type of ducks are these below? They were captured about a year ago in our creek at the sanctuary.Depsite their differences, these are both the same species. The brighter colored are males and the more dull, brown ones are females. The males are more colorful because they use these bright, beautiful colors to attract a mate and will use various postures to show off his beautiful plumage. The more brighter their colors and elabroate the postures, the more interested the females are. They enjoy eating the seeds of aquatic plants, acorns, fruits, insects and fallen seeds from trees/shrubs. They typically live in ponds/swamps surrouned by forest. Unlike most ducks, thay have a strong grip and can perch on tree branches. Video coutresy of Dennis UdovichPosted by Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday, April 23, 2018
You all have proved to be pretty good identifying mammals of the north woods so let’s try your birding skills! What type of ducks are these below? They were captured about a year ago in our creek at the sanctuary.
Depsite their differences, these are both the same species. The brighter colored are males and the more dull, brown ones are females. The males are more colorful because they use these bright, beautiful colors to attract a mate and will use various postures to show off his beautiful plumage. The more brighter their colors and elabroate the postures, the more interested the females are.
They enjoy eating the seeds of aquatic plants, acorns, fruits, insects and fallen seeds from trees/shrubs. They typically live in ponds/swamps surrouned by forest. Unlike most ducks, thay have a strong grip and can perch on tree branches.
Video coutresy of Dennis Udovich
Do you live in bear country, have a cabin in bear country or camp in bear country? This post is for you! Here are some ways that you can be a good neighbor to the bears and other wildlife living with you!
As bears come out of their dens, they are STARVING since they may not have had a meal since last fall! This time of year is a great time of year to be mindful about taking your bird feeders in at night. Bears are most active at dusk and dawn and a bird feeder, no matter its location, is an easy meal for a bear. Remove any items that could be a food source such as; garbage, pet food or food scraps from a grill. Store these items indoors if possible. If you cannot store your garbage indoors, consider buying a bear-proof garbage or only take your garbage down the morning of pick-up, rather than the night before.
So what is so wrong about a bear visiting your yard? Well, you may like seeing them, but all of your neighbors may not be as tolerant. Also keep in mind that a bear will never forget a food source that it used in the past, which could mean that you may have generations and generations of bears visiting your yard year after year. The saying ” a fed bear is a dead bear” is often the reality so please keep a clear yard/camp site when in bear country! For more information on how to live safely in bear country please visit our site! http://www.americanbear.org/educati…/living-in-bear-country/
Well doesn’t this video capture raccoons doing what they do best…causing trouble that is! While raccoons tend to be deemed as dirty, garbage dwelling creatures, they are actually quite clean as they wash their food in streams prior to eating it. They have even been observed digging latrines in areas that they frequent. They are not picky eaters and will eat garbage, sweet corn, crayfish, frogs, insects, fruits and bird eggs.
To most peoples surprise, they are excellent tree climbers and swimmers and are capable of running 15 mph! They also spend most of the winters in Minnesota hibernating in dens with other raccoons. One woman found 23 raccoons sharing an abandoned house together in Swift County.
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich
There are 3 species of weasels in Minnesota, the short-tailed weasel also known as an ermine, the long-tailed weasel and the least weasel. Of these three, the short-tailed weasel is the most common. All 3 species turn white in the winter, although the least weasel is the only one that is all white. The short-tailed and the long-tailed both have a black tipped tail still in the winter. Since their coats change colors, they have great camouflage all year round. This helps them avoid predators, but also helps them be efficient hunters as they can go undetected by their prey. As the names suggest, the long-tailed weasel has a longer tail and is slightly larger than the short-tailed weasel.
Weasels are deadly, effective hunters. After dispatching their prey, weasels may lap a victim’s blood before eating its flesh. As they feed, weasels usually turn back the skin of an animal. By the time they finish their feast, the skin of their prey is inside-out.
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich
Are these adult bald eagles and juvenile bald eagles OR are they adult bald eagles and some juvenile golden eagles? Distinguishing between juvenile golden eagles and juvenile bald eagles is very tricky!
Keep in mind that body size DOES NOT always mean that it is a golden eagle. While golden eagles can be a little larger than bald eagles, juvenile bald eagles and juvenile golden eagles often have broaden wings and longer tails than adults, making them appear larger! Also, as juveniles, golden eagles have a bit of white in their tails and near their “wrists”, but never their “armpits”. Where bald eagles have white speckling in their chest and “armpits” but NOT much in the wrist area. Confusing enough, they also have white in their tails.
Fun fact: Bald eagles do not get their white head and tail until their 5th year of life!
So what do we all think?
When bears emerge from their dens they wake up SO hungry & thirsty! Some have gone 6-7 months without eating and drinking. As they begin to wake up from hibernating, it is a bit of a process. It takes them 2-3 weeks before they start to feel normal again and before their metabolic processes return to normal. As they begin to wake up, it is not uncommon to see the bears pop out of the den for a bit, eat some snow, take a little stroll around their denning area and go back and lay down. Bears are still pretty lethargic during this time period so they stick close to their den still until their body readjusts. Bears in Minnesota typically leave their dens in March and April but we do not start to see an increased level of bear activity at the sanctuary until mid-May. May is a great time to see TINY cubs as they were just born in late January, early February so start planning your trip today! We open May 26th at 5PM!
Happy March! Here is your Monday video, it is a few years old, but it is super cool video nonetheless! I am not going to tell you what this animal is, nor give you any hints because its facial markings are extremely distinct and unique to this species alone, which make it easy to determine what it is.
I will tell you some neat things about this animal though. It is not as vicious of an animal as some would think. If cornered it will defend itself, however, it is actually quite tolerable of other animals, even allowing red foxes to den with it! Neat, right!?
They live throughout most of the state of Minnesota, but are not seen often since they are nocturnal. Their range does not extend through the Northeastern part of the state of Minnesota though because they prefer prairies and farmland since they are burrowers. They are the only predator that can dig out the pocket gopher!
What am I?
I am capable of gliding 20- 30 feet from tree to tree. I have even been recorded occasionally gliding up to 150 feet from tree to tree. Some would say that I ‘fly”. This gliding is made possible thanks to extra skin that extends from my wrists to my hind feet. When jumping from trees, I stretch this skin tight, and use my fluffy tail as a rudder, allowing me to glide with ease.
One last hint, check out those LARGE eyes I have. They allow me to see well at night, and therefore I am active at night, which is why people do not often see me!
At lot of times, I am misidentified as a bird “flying” at night.
What am I?
Today’s video is of two black-billed magpies. It would appear that these two have either found food that they cached (stored) themselves, or they found a squirrels cached food!
Magpies, and all members of the Corvidae family (ravens, crows and jays), are extremely intelligent birds that are great problem solvers and are known to be cunning. Did you know that they are one of the few animals in the HUGE animal kingdom that can recognize themselves in the mirror? Black-billed magpies are known to steal food from other birds and follow predators to steal any scraps they can get their bills on. They have been observed taking wood ticks off the backs of elk, moose and deer for a little snack. They are not picky about what they eat. They eat anything from insects, rodents, the eggs of other birds, carrion, seeds, nuts and berries.
One of my favorite facts about magpies is that it is believed that they hold funerals for their dead. When fellow magpies die, observers have seen other magpies gather and form a circle around the dead and sing a song.
It is special when they are spotted at the sanctuary because they typically only live in the northwestern part of the US, through Canada and parts of Alaska. They are said to be nonmigratory, however, during late fall, some do move into northern Minnesota and will spend their winters with us.
Does anybody know any other cool facts about magpies that they would love to share?We’d love to hear what you know or have observed!
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich
Which furbearer am I? Am I a fisher, pine marten or mink?
Since you all were pretty good at guessing a few weeks back, we won’t make it as easy for you this week! Here are some hints:
I am primarily a carnivore and enjoy mice, chipmunks, red squirrels and insects but will eat berries and nuts during the summer months. During winter months, I will hunt under the snow in tunnels. I also use these tunnels during cold winter days to stay warm.
In winter, I will visit bird feeders to eat the birds, NOT the seeds.
I am a very small predator, only weighing around 2 pounds on average.
It was thought that I was extinct from Minnesota in the 1950’s.
I give birth to my kits (typically 2-3) in a hollowed log or under bushes.
Who am I?
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich
Successfully running a non-profit organization takes a lot of work, resources and help from volunteers! We are always in need of help; whether it be time, money or items donated.
We have partnered with Amazon Smile on our website by creating a needs list that is linked to Amazon Smile. All items on the list in BLUE are those that can be purchased through Amazon Smile and sent directly to US! Just click the blue items on our list that you want to donate to get started. Giving has never been easier. We have gone through all the trouble of finding the exact items that we need to make it super easy for you! We have a wide variety of items that range in prices. No donation is too small!
Items not in blue are still just as important but may be items that Amazon did not have or may be items that are best to be dropped off at the sanctuary during visiting hours! Call our office at 218-757-0172 for questions regarding these items.
Our greatest needs right now for the upcoming season are; BEAR FOOD, bug spray, bear spray, air horns, cargo dollies, any native tree/flower seeds or clover and TIME (we are still looking for education interns and volunteers to cook, work in our office, gift shop, on special building projects, etc.)! Check out our updated list HERE: http://www.americanbear.org/get-involved/donate/. The bears thank you for all of your support!!!
To see mother bears nursing cubs in the wild is a very special and rare behavior. Some wildlife biologists go their entire lives and only see this a handful of times. Since the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary offers a sneak peak into the intimate world of the normally reclusive black bear, nursing is seen from our viewing platform a handful of times throughout the season (sometimes even more outside of the hours in which we are open to the public). Having the opportunity to view mother bears nursing is unpredictable since the bears are wild bears and come and go as they please. However, mother bears will typically nurse their cubs roughly until the age of one so it is something that can be seen throughout the entire season during the hours in which we are open to the public (Memorial Day weekend- Labor Day weekend).
It is a huge privilege to observe this special bond between mother and cubs. It is one that us staff truly cherish and never grow tired of seeing. If you have not visited our sanctuary yet, start planning your trip for the 2018 season! We open May 26th and are open Tuesdays-Sundays 5PM-8PM until September 2nd. We are closed EVERY Monday. Click here to begin planning your trip to see the bears: http://www.americanbear.org/the-sanctuary/.
Not sure where to stay? You can find all of the local resorts, campgrounds, hotels and even a bed & breakfast here: http://www.orrpelicanlake.com.
Pictured below are 2 different mother bears that were nursing their cubs during the summer of 2016. It is not uncommon for mother bears in the area to have 3-4 cubs every other year.
Photo credit: Dalton Sheffler
In 2016, we partnered with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to collar 2 female black bears that frequented the sanctuary and then another female and male in 2017. Pictured here is a bear we refer to as “Orange” for the color of her ear tags.She was one of the original bears collared in 2016.
While it is true that bears do not NEED to urinate, defecate, eat or drink during hibernation, that does not mean that they do not. To our delight, we have captured this female eating snow during the months in which she should be sleeping (video can be found on our Facebook page, The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary)! This video was captured in March of 2017. We did experience some pretty nice weather last March and apparently she got a little stir crazy and needed to leave her den and stretch her legs a bit!
As bears near the end of hibernation, it is not uncommon to see them out and about near their denning area. During this time they will slowly begin to eat, drink, urinate and defecate again. Their metabolic processes begin to adjust to these changes as well.
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich
One of the hardest parts of our jobs is the fact that the bears are wild and sometimes they do not come back. Pictured below here is Jenny (with one of her cubs). This photo was taken in the Spring of 2015. Jenny left that year in the fall and never returned. She was 26 years old that year, which is quite old for a bear. She had 1 cub that year (which, as we talked about before, is common as a female bear gets older). When she left, she appeared very healthy externally. Although we are not sure what happened to her, we suspect that she died of old age. After all, she was one of the original bears that was around when Vince was still alive! Jenny visited every year as far as I know. During the few short years that I got to spend with her, I noticed she came in during the Spring for a bit and then left for most of the summer, only to return again in the later part of fall. She had a very sweet, laid-back personality and is missed every year! She did leave a legacy however, as she possibly gave birth to 20-35 cubs in her lifetime!
***Please note that it is not common practice to name bears, as they are wild animals and are NOT pets. We name the bears that visit the sanctuary for communication purposes and for recoding their comings and goings and behaviors observed.
Our Monday video (posted on our Facebook page) is of a male white-tailed deer that is browsing on a woody shrub. White tailed deer are one of Minnesota’s most common mammals as well as one of Minnesota’s most ecologically, socially and economically important mammals. They are named so after the white fur underneath their tail. When they flee an area out of fear, the white fur can be seen.
During the winter, they typically stay within the forest, preferring coniferous stands (rows of cone-bearing trees). These trees protect them from the harsh elements that Minnesota’s winters are known for.
Males are called bucks and will grown antlers every year (once old enough to do so). These antlers are used during rut, in which they will use to defend themselves from other male deer and to challenge other deer for rights to female deer (also called does). Females do not have antlers. Antlers fall off during the winter months.
Deer are herbivores and have a varied diet of vegetative matter, berries and nuts. They typically eat the most readily available plant. During winter months it is not uncommon to see them eating twigs, as seen in this video. Their stomachs are special because they allow them to eat such things and are capable of breaking them down for digestion. During summer months, one of their favorite food sources is poison ivy! Unlike humans, they do not have negative reactions to the plant!
Video Credit: Dennis Udovich
Mother bears in Northern Minnesota (like Orr) will have, on average, 3-4 cubs every other year. Although we have observed that young, new moms typically have 1-2 cubs and that as mama bears reach senescence (old age in which they will no longer have cubs), they typically only have 1-2 cubs too. I guess life only gives them as much as they can handle in those phases of their lives! At the Sanctuary, we have seen mama bears that had 5 cubs at one time, although this is extremely rare but truly amazing to see!
Black bears have numerous adaptations that allow them to survive frigid temperatures in Northern Minnesota. One that I just came across the other day was a new fact for me that I just found too amazing to not share with you all!
Their coats are so well insulated that frost can form but the bear’s body heat will not escape enough to melt the frost. This is how bears can hibernate in dens that are partially exposed to the elements, like the image pictured below.
Happy Monday! Today the video from the president of our organization, Dennis Udovich, (posted on our Facebook page, find us by searching for the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary) is the same trail cam location as the last 2 videos we have posted on Monday’s. To remind you of those past videos, last Monday we posted a video of a bobcat sniffing the area out. The Monday prior to that was a fisher (a member of the weasel family) sniffing the area out. This weeks video is of a snowshoe hare, which ironically, just so happens to be part of the fishers and bobcats diets!
Snowshoe hares were named so due to the fact that the soles of their feet are large and well-furred to allow them to walk on top of the deep snow. Snowshoe hares also have a pretty cool adaptation. In the summer they are brown to blend in with the forest floor. In the fall they begin to molt their brown coats and begin to turn white so by winter they blend in with the snow!
Fun fact: Snowshoe hares can jump 12 feet in ONE HOP!!!!! They can also run up to 30mph (which is the same as black bears)! That is pretty impressive for such a small mammal!
Black Bear cubs are extremely playful. Not only will they play with their siblings, they may also try to play with their moms, cubs that are not related, and sometimes other sub adult and adult bears. Depending on mama bears personality, she may allow her cubs to play with another mother’s cubs. We have observed numerous occasions at the sanctuary in which cubs initiate play with other cubs that are not related and sometimes it is allowed, sometimes it is not. As for playing with other sub adults and adult bears, this is never allowed. Typically, cubs will be reprimanded by their moms for doing so, as this could potentially be dangerous to the cubs.
Play fighting is very important for young bears because it teaches them to protect themselves, helps them get stronger be developing their muscles and increases coordination. But if things get too rough, mama bear will discipline them by swatting them with her paw!
Since black bear cubs are born in January & February in the den, we like to take some time this time of year to talk more about cubs!
Like all children, cubs are extremely full of energy, especially once hibernation has ended. When they emerge from their dens in early spring, they are extremely eager to explore the new world that they now live in. As black bear cubs begin to explore, anything and everything can be a “toy”. Sticks, rocks, animals, hollowed out trees, and even mom (as seen in the picture) are all exciting things to explore and play with. All of this exploring takes LOTS of patience from mother bear! Everything is not all fun and games though. Cubs only stay with their mothers for a year and a half and it is very critical that they pay attention and learn everything that they need to learn to be successful at surviving. It is not uncommon for mother bears to discipline their cubs with a swat to the butt or head to ensure that they are paying attention. In the short time they are with mom she will teach them how to find safe food to eat, how to hunt, find a den, construct a den and escape danger by climbing a tree.
Happy Monday! Today we have a great video (posted on our Facebook page) to share that came from the President of the ABA, Dennis Udovich.
How do you tell if it is a bobcat or a lynx? Here are a few facts that can help you decide.
Minnesota has 3 native cats; the cougar, Canada lynx and bobcat. Bobcats are the most common.
The bobcat is smaller than the lynx, but not by much. They can weigh between 20-30 lbs. They have short ear tufts and a black-tipped tail.
Lynx have large, furry feet that allow them to walk on the deepest, softest snow. They can weight between 20-44 lbs. They have a long, pronounced goatee under their chin that is lacking in the bobcat. When I am trying to distinguish between the two, I always look at the ears. Lynx have 2 inch long, black tufts on their ears. Even when the cat is running, it is visible.
What do you all think? Bobcat or lynx?
THE CUBS ARE COMING, THE CUBS ARE COMING!!!! January & February are two of the BEST months because thousands of black bear cubs are being born in their dens in North America! The cubs are born late January into early February. In Minnesota, they are being born during FRIGID temperatures (today in Orr we have a high or -5 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of -27 degrees Fahrenheit)! While mom is sleeping during hibernation, she is still awake and alert enough to take excellent care of her cubs. Her cubs are born with little to no fur, so she needs to keep them close by to soak up her body heat.
Happy New Year! The president of the American Bear Association, Dennis Udovich, captured this fisher on his trail cam and we thought you might enjoy checking it out (posted on our FB page)!
Fishers are members of the weasel family and are extremely agile and active predators. They are EXCELLENT tree climbers (just like bears)! Despite its name, it does not catch or eat fish. It is an omnivore, so their diet is a mixture of carrion (already dead animals), meat, wild berries & nuts. They typically prey on snowshoe hare, mice, squirrels, and porcupine.
Adult females can weigh 6-8 pounds, and males can weigh up to 18 pounds. In Northern Minnesota, fishers are sometimes mistaken for pine martens, as they look similar, although pine marterns are significantly smaller (adults weigh only about 2 pounds).
Fishers also have another thing in common with bears. They exhibit delayed implantation. Females get pregnant in the spring, but the blastocyst doesn’t implant to the uterine wall for another few months, in which then it will begin to develop.
For those of you that have followed our page for a while, you have maybe read a lot about Peanut the bear and her most recent cub, Cashew. Peanut is a staff favorite and therefore, any of her cubs are just as loveable since they often times take after her personality. Today’s photos are of Cashew. The image on the left is of Cashew as a cub, about 5 months old, taken in June 2016. The image on the right is of her as a yearling in late August 2017, so she would be almost 1 year and 8 months old.
Peanut dispersed (kicked out) Cashew in late May 2017, so at this point, Cashew had been on her own for only about 5 months. She learned a lot in that short period of time and changed quite a bit as well! We watched her change from a very brave cub that would approach full grown, adult bears in an attempt to play, to hiding out in the safety of the canopy of a tree all day, trying to work up enough courage to come down to eat. Things change a bit when you don’t have mom fighting your battles anymore!
Today in Orr, MN we are experiencing a wind chill of -34 degrees Fahrenheit and we sure are hoping that all of our beloved bears are warm in their dens!
While doing some research for our NEW deck signs, I came across a fun fact that I found so fascinating that I had to share!
Black bears love ant broods and in some bad berry and hard mast years, ant broods can be a lifesaver for black bears. When talking about the 10-15% “meat” or protein that makes up the bears diet, it is typically ant broods. However, I did not realize just how much protein they (and other insects) actually contain!
Ant broods contain about 80-90% protein. To put this into perspective, beef is about 20% protein, so a handful of ant pupae and larvae is the equivalent to a full sized burger! Pretty neat, right!?
Pictured above is a bear we call Jade. She is easily a staff and intern favorite. I am sure you can imagine why when looking at this photo since this photo basically sums up her overall attitude towards life. She has a very laid back personality. She visits the sanctuary often during July & August, not so much for food though. We have actually observed her and her cubs doing more relaxing and napping than eating when they visit the sanctuary. Jade has claimed a section in our backwoods of the sanctuary as her own for lounging and napping. Despite her laid-back personality, she is a fierce mama bear! In our opinion, she has the best parenting style, she is often laid back, but strict when she needs to be, especially when it comes to keeping her cubs safe! Unlike Nikki, who we posted about yesterday, Jade has been seen several times allowing other cubs to eat, lounge and play with her cubs. Isn’t it amazing how different their personalities can be?
Today I want to talk a bit about mama bears and the different ways in which they teach and discipline their cubs. Pictured below are two mama bears that, to a lot of people, probably look very much alike. However, I assure you they are both two very different females, with two very different personalities and VERY different parenting styles. Jasmine on the LEFT is a younger, newer mom. Therefore she lacks experience. It is not uncommon to see her cubs wandering through the feeding area by themselves. She is always near as they explore, however, she gives them a little too much freedom sometimes. I have observed her cubs walking up to various bears, attempting to share food with them. This does not go over well for most bears, as you can imagine. To let the cubs know that this is not OK, most bears will make a bellow noise, which sends the cubs running the opposite way. During all of this, Jasmine is typically oblivious to the danger her cubs could potentially be in.
Nikki on the other hand (on the RIGHT), keeps a short leash on her cubs, figuratively, of course. She does not allow her cubs to wander more than a few feet from her. Nikki is an older female, about 18 years old, with lots of experience raising cubs. She is such a fierce, strict mom, that I once saw her discipline someone else’s cub! Nikki and her cubs were eating some nuts and another cub wandered up to them to eat with them. Nikki bellowed at the cub, letting the cub know that it was not welcome. The cub continued trying to eat with them. Nikki was having none of that. She flipped that cub on it’s back so fast, the cub didn’t even realize what was happening. Fortunately, this was just a warning for the cub and nobody was hurt.
Since Thanksgiving is coming up tomorrow, we thought we would talk about bears and food! The life of a bear revolves around food! Since they are omnivores and eat around 80% vegetative matter, they need to be constantly thinking about where their next meal will come from. In the wild, they will typically graze all day to consume enough calories. During good berry seasons, they can consume up to 100,000 berries IN ONE DAY! Since they eat a lot of vegetation, they have to eat LARGE amounts of food in one day and therefore search for things that have lots of protein, fat and sugar to help them gain weight.
Some of their favorite foods in Northern Minnesota include hazelnut, acorns from oak trees and sarsaparilla berries.
They begin preparing for hibernation as early as late July by eating copious amounts of food. Since they can lose up to 1/3 of their weight in the den, they want to try to gain 30% of their weight prior to entering their dens in October-December. With that being said, they will try to consume up to 20,000 calories A DAY to gain a few pounds daily.
Not feeling as bad about consuming copious amounts of food now on Thanksgiving Day? Yeah, us either!