Old faces?

Today I went out to check the camera traps that I set up yesterday and scope out some locations for future monitoring. As I approached the first trail on which I have a camera, I stopped the vehicle and called out “Hey bear!” a few times. To stay safe in bear country it is always a good idea to make noise! It sounds like unusual behaviour around wildlife, but creating noise and letting bears know that you are in the area reduces your chances of spooking a bear and gives them enough time to move away if they wish. Calling out to bears in a low, calm voice also distinguishes us from hunters, who would want to remain unseen and unheard. Once I’d called out a few times and listened for any response (i.e. fallen branches breaking, indicating movement), I was just about to leave the vehicle when something caught my eye on the opposite side of the trail. It was a subadult grizzly bear who had been sleeping and had awoken at the sound of my voice and/or the vehicle noise. I watched as it stood up and very slowly and calmly started to move further up the hillside to a slightly higher vantage point, where it then lay down again. One thing that struck me was the silence as it moved up the hillside, no branches broke under its feet at all. Bears can be very silent or very noisy as they move through the forest, depending on the situation. I’ve even heard accounts of bears purposefully stepping on fallen branches to make noise and presumably make themselves sound like a larger bear. After a moment or so I noticed that the bear yawned, which may have been because it had just woken up, but can also be a visual signal of anxiety, so I decided to move on to my next trail. I will check that camera trap tomorrow.

Throughout my years in Glendale Cove, I have tried to keep track of the different individuals that we regularly see. This particular subadult looked familiar, and could possibly be a young bear named Peanut. Peanut was the first cub that Lenore (see previous posts) raised to independence. He was born in 2009 and split from Lenore in 2011. Peanut is quite a special bear to us at Knight Inlet Lodge, as we saw him and Lenore almost every day from 2009-2011 and were lucky enough to watch as he grew in size and personality towards independence. At 3 years old, he left the area (typical behaviour for young male bears) and we lost track of him. Bears can change so much in their appearance between seasons and over years, particularly at this young ‘teenage’ age before they reach maturity. So I’m hoping to see more of this bear over the next few days, and try to reach an opinion on whether it could be Peanut.

I also spent a few hours today touring the estuary in a small boat, looking for bears. I managed to see one young adult female grizzly bear. Surprisingly she also looked familiar. I suspect she could be a bear that we last saw in 2009/2010 named Bonnie. If it is her she would be approximately 10 years old now and, as she was not accompanied by cubs, could be in breeding condition. The breeding season for grizzly bears is usually mid May – mid July, so we may have some males in the area soon as they roam around at this time of year, looking for estrus females.

Hoping to see both bears again over the next few days and take some clearer photographs to make a more positive ID.

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