Tuesday, 12 October 2021

URSUS NURSERY: TLA'YI

Look at how this protective mamma bear holds her cub in her arms to give him a bit of a wash. 

Her gentle maternal care is truly touching. This mamma has spent late Autumn to Spring in a cave, having birthed them while still hibernation and staying in the den to feed them on her milk.

Black bear cubs stay with their mamma for the first one to three years of their lives while she protects them and teaches them how to thrive in the wild using their keen sense of smell, hearing, vision and strength. 

Once they are old enough, they will head off into the forest to live solo until they are ready to mate and start a family of their own. 

Mating is a summer affair with bears socializing shoulder to shoulder with potential mates. Once they have mated, black bears head off on their own again to forage and put on weight for their winter hibernation. If the black bear lives in the northern extent of their range, hibernation lasts longer — they will stay in their dens for seven to eight months longer than their southern counterparts. For those that enjoy the warmer climes in the south, hibernation is shorter. If food is available year-round, the bears do not hibernate at all.

The American black bear, Ursus americanus, is native to North America and found in Canada and the United States. 

There are roughly 650,000 roaming our forests, swamps and streams — meaning there is a good chance of running into them if you spend any amount of time in the wild. 

Full-grown, these fuzzy monkeys will be able to run 48 kilometres (30 miles)  an hour and smell food up to 32 kilometres (20 miles) away.

With their excellent hearing, black bears usually know you are near well before you realize the same and generally take care to avoid you. 
Those that come in contact with humans often tend to want to check our garbage and hiking supplies for tasty snacks — hey, a free meal is a free meal.    

In British Columbia, we share our province with nearly half of all black bears and grizzly bears that reside in Canada. Bears hold a special place within our culture and in First Nation mythology in particular — celebrated in art, dance and song. In the Kwak'wala language of the Kwakiutl First Nations of the Pacific Northwest, the word for black bear is t̕ła'yimother is a̱bas and łaxwa̱lap̓a means to love each other

Kermode or Spirit Bear, Ursus americanus kermodei
From the photos here you can see that black bears are not always black —  ranging in colour from cinnamon to brown, tan, blonde, red — and even white. 

The Kermode or Spirit Bear, Ursus americanus kermodei, a subspecies of black bear found only in British Columbia — and our official provincial mammal — is a distinctive creamy white. 

They are not albinos, their colouring stems from a recessive mutant gene — meaning that if they receive two copies it triggers a single, nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution that halts all melanin production. Well, not all. They have pigmented eyes and skin but no colour in their fur.

Spirit Bears live in the Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia's north and central coast alongside the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation who call the Kermode moskgm’ol or white bear. The Kitasoo/Xai’xais have a legend that tells of Goo-wee, Raven making one in every ten black bears white to remind us of the time glaciers blanketed the land then slowly retreated — and their thaw giving rise to the bounty we harvest today.  

Black bears of any colour are a wee bit smaller than their brown bear or grizzly bear cousins, with males weighing in at 45 to 400 kilograms (100 to 900 pounds) and females ranging from 38 to 225 kilograms (85 to 500 pounds). Small by relative standards but still very large animals. And they are long-lived or at least can be. Bears in captivity can live up to 30 years but those who dwell in our forests tend to live half as long or less.