How to support and protect Squamish black bears (PHOTOS)

A sow and cub in the Squamish Estuary in the first week of March.
A mother bear in the Squamish Estuary.
A mother bear and her cub.
Sow and cub in the Squamish Estuary.
Spring is clearly in the air in Squamish with a sow and her cubs spotted in the Squamish Estuary this week.

Vanessa Isnardy, WildSafeBC provincial co-ordinator told The Chief that black bears typically hibernate from around late November to April to adapt to when food is less available. 

However, several factors can lead to delayed "denning," or to bears forgoing hibernation altogether, she said.  

Sows have been working hard over winter 

"While denning, their metabolism slows and they do not eat, drink, defecate or urinate. They can lose up to 30% of their body weight. The demands on a sow bear to produce rich milk for her offspring also require significant fat reserves," Isnardy said. 

Cubs are usually born at the end of January to early February and only weigh 250 to 500 grams. 

They typically emerge in late April weighing between two and five kilograms in size. 

A sow can have up to five cubs, but two is typical, according to Isnardy. 

More food resources will mean more offspring.

When the cubs emerge from their den, they will still be reliant on the sow for a while for milk, and the female will seek out lush, protein-rich greens, like sedges and horsetails found in the estuary and wetland areas, to begin replenishing her energy reserves.

The cubs will stay with the sow for one more winter and then head off on their own the following late spring around mating season in late June, Isnardy said

Black bear sows and cubs need and use a lot of energy. Thus, disturbing them expends precious energy reserves, Isnardy warned. 

The Squamish Estuary and forested trails are essential areas of food and refuge for local bears.

A black bear sow will see a dog as a potential threat to her cubs. 

If she is surprised, she may react defensively and injure a dog or person. She may also flee with her cubs into the forest, using up more of her precious energy. 

To avoid either situation:

  1. Respect their home and keep pets on a leash;
  2. Avoid surprising bears by making noise and letting them know of your presence;
  3. Remember that running water and windy situations can make it hard for bears to hear you coming or catch your scent.

Watch for signs of bear activity.

In the spring, fresh bear scat (feces) will be dark and shiny and can often be spotted on paths that bears frequently travel.

For tips on ethical wildlife photography, check out this WildSafeBC page.

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