Bear Cub Update

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Two black bear cubs captured last month in Northern Michigan will be returning home next week. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it will send scouts into the woods to find a suitable den where the bears can live.

It has been a week of indecision over the fate of the cubs. They come from a part of the state where an estimated three-percent of the bear population has bovine tuberculosis. Several zoos declined to accept the bear cubs, and the DNR considered putting the bears to sleep.

But the DNR decided in the end to search for a new mother for the cubs. DNR officials say the department has placed bear cubs with other mothers in the past. The mother is tranquilized, and the cubs are put in with the mother's existing cubs.

Now, the bears are being held at the Rose Lake Wildlife Center in Bath Township. The DNR is keeping them as isolated from human contact as possible to make the release back into the wild as easy as possible. The bears are expected to go home next week.

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Black Bear Facts

  • Black bears are generally shy animals and try to avoid human contact.

  • Black bears are classified as carnivores, but act more like omnivorous, because they eat many types of plants and animal material.

  • Grasses, green leaves, and other plants are eaten by black bears in the spring after they emerge from their winter dens.

  • Summertime provides them with various berries, fruits, and insects.

  • In fall and early winter, acorns and other nuts are especially sought after in order to build up fat reserves for the winter.

  • Not all black bears hibernate, but those that do not are usually very dormant during the coldest part of the winter.

  • Winter dens include hollow trees or cavities formed in the ground.

  • Black bears average between 100 to 150 pounds for females and up to 300 pounds for males.

  • The general coloration of the back bear is a bluish back, but occasionally they may be brownish or even cinnamon colored.

  • The muzzle is brown and there may be a white patch on the upper region of the chest.

  • The bear's tail is short, the eyes are usually small, and the ears are small and rounded.

Black Bear Breeding Facts

  • Females give birth to their cubs during the winter in late January or early February.

  • The average litter sizes are from two to three young.

  • The young bears stay with the mother through the next winter and disperse the following spring.

  • Female bears usually begin breeding at about 3 to 5 years of age and normally produce cubs only every other year.

  • Black bears live to be about 10-years-old.

Black Bear History

  • Early settlers to this country found black bears to be quite plentiful. They were heavily hunted for sport, food, and clothing by both the native Indians and the white settlers.

  • Black bear populations began to decline as the human population grew due to unrestricted hunting and trapping and habitat destruction.

  • Today, Bear hunting is primarily done by the use of dogs, which pick up the scent of a bear and then follow and eventually "tree" the animal.

  • Regulated sport hunting is not a threat to the black bear population but there is a major problem with illegal hunting.

  • Many black bears are killed by poachers for a variety of parts including the teeth, claws, and especially the gall bladder which is sought after as an aphrodisiac.

Source: contributed to this report