Wildlife in my life

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Personally, said Dave Pert, “I wouldn’t fear a bear. Bears realize humans are dangerous.”

Dave ought to know; he works with Randy Cross, THE expert on bears at Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

But what about the bear paw prints on our friends’ living room window – eye contact with a bear, nothing between you but the window pane. …

Bears have been on the minds of many around here lately. A bear raided Bucky Burnham’s bird feeders; a bear was sighted around Bembo Gammon’s place, so I heard. A bear visited our neighbors Kim and Burt Davis, after their garbage for sure, but also the trout in their pond? One evening last week as we finished dinner, we saw a bear standing about 30 yards from our house.

What a beautiful bear! Gleaming coat, proud carriage, he stayed long enough to give us a good look before he strolled up the hill and disappeared into the woods.

Hungry as a bear

These sightings are just about on time. Pert said bears have been out of their dens for about a month and that it takes that long for their metabolisms to kick back in.

Could Burnham’s, Gammon’s, Davis’ and Macgregor’s bear be the very same male bear? Very likely. Males travel alone – females usually have cubs tagging along – and for fairly long distances: Even though Burnham’s place is a good seven miles from ours, it’s an easy trip for a male bear.

People from around here know bears. Take Bob Colby: he said, yes, he’d known that a male bear will kill and eat cubs to ensure their momma is available again. Well, I’m not from around here, and I was shocked to think our beautiful bear would do that.

Dave Pert said, “If a male lives to 15 years, he’s doing pretty well,” surviving battles with other male bears. A female bear can live as long as 30 years.

“I know they live a pretty long time,” Bob said. He knows a lot about bears so I didn’t burden him with the average weight of a bear in its prime: a female 120 to 170 pounds; a male, 180 to 250 pounds.

But even Bob was surprised to learn that a sow, a female, might have a litter of three, each with a different daddy. Male bears aren’t the marrying kind; males mate with multiple sows.

Who’s counting? Randy Cross and his Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, team, including Dave Pert are. “To maintain a stable bear population, we must have a good understanding of the number of bears entering the population to replace losses.” Hence the department’s Bear Monitoring Program that goes on at three different sites in the state. “We expect to make over 100 bear captures in the next six weeks,” Cross said in an e-mail last week.

The project entails putting radio collars on females, visiting their dens to count cubs, weighing adults to assess relative abundance of foods, tagging cubs and yearlings. “Female yearlings have radio collars of their own so that we may follow them throughout their lives.”

My thanks to Dave Pert and Randy Cross, busy as they are, for explaining our local Lothario bear – no Teddy bear he!

Linda Farr Macgregor lives with her husband, Jim, in Rumford. She is a freelance writer and the author of “Rumford Stories.”

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