Skip to main content

Spring Black Bear Management

In Maine, it is easy to brag about our bear biologists.  I did some quick math and with conservative estimates, Maine's bear biologist Randy Cross has spent more than 72,000 hours studying and working with our black bears.  That blows Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule out of the water.  I was lucky enough to tag along with Randy and his bear crew, including Lisa Bates, as they started running their trap lines to check the health of our bears.  

I met Randy and two of his team mates, Preacher and Roach, as they headed out on day 3 of the 2016 trapping season. Their goal during the six week season is to collar as many females as possible while also getting the stats (weight, length, canine tooth size etc) of all of the bears caught.  Starting off slow, they continue to add traps until they have about 100 spread across the study area. 

We had a list of places that we needed to check. We headed into a system of dirt roads to begin checking the traps that the teams had set the day before.  In Maine, all traps must be checks every 24 hours, so the bear crew breaks into groups to cover as much ground as possible. Having done this for so long, Randy knew the bears in the area and what he hoped to see at each location; be it a sow with yearlings/cubs or some big males that had been trapped before.  He also knew how they would be acting; hungry and anxious to make up for the weight lost over the winter but not hungry enough to be walking the roads to eat plants like wild strawberries.

The first three traps that we checked were empty.  There were signs that ravens had found the bait at one site and of bears passing through but not stepping on the trap itself in others.  On the fourth site, we had our first bear of the day!

Young Male Black Bear
It was a yearling who was laying down and watched us as we approached. Randy walked towards the bear to get it on its feet while Roach walked along the edge of the trap circle and found the perfect spot to jab the bear with the sedative. Once that was done, we left the bear’s line of sight and waited for 7 minutes before we went back.

Preacher removed the cable from the bear’s front paw and helped to get him flat so that they could begin to get measurements; 61 pounds with canines measuring 14mm. His ear was ripped, which they marked down as a distinguishing characteristic along with the number tattoo’d on his upper lip.  The crew worked fast and were always checking to make sure that the bear was not overheating.  His fur was still thick with his winter coat but he was a beautiful, healthy bear.  I took a few photos and they moved the bear away from the trap to wake up and continue on his way.  The crew would come back later to reset the trap.

Measuring the bear's canine teeth
Taking body measurements
Noting the tattoo on his upper gum.
The next site that we went to also had a male yearling.  Like the first bear, he was laying down and watching us approach.  Repeating the process and checking the tag numbers in the bear’s ear, this was the first repeat catch of the season.  Randy explained how, although it was earlier than normal, yearlings were being cast off by their moms and these young males were now traveling miles to find food and new territory.  In the first three days of their trapping season, Randy said that 8 out of 10 had been male yearlings.  We met Lisa and her team after all of the traps had been checked.  They had caught a two year old, 64lb male on their line and were now strategizing over which trap lines to add to their system over the weekend. 

Second yearling caught that day.
As Mainer’s, we know how lucky we are to have such dedicated and passionate biologists working for our wildlife.  Being able to watch them work in their element, gives you a whole new appreciation for all that they do and the amount of knowledge that they have. You can tell why they are the best in the country!


Popular posts from this blog

The unlikely bear hunter

Jesse Phillips had no intention of bear hunting.  He was along for the ride with friend and host of Blood Origins , Robbie Kroger, who was on his annaul bear hunt with Grove Hill Outfitters .  Being convinced that he should go hunt, Jesse grabbed the 45-10 and headed into a treestand.  He wore his cowboy boots, jeans and flannel, "the only thing I didn't do was put on deoterant" Jesse laughed.  Climbing up into the stand a little before 2pm, he held no expectations for seeing his first bear in the wild.  He was doing this just to apease the guys in camp.  At 4:02, a bear appeared. "He was about 40 yards away," explained Jesse, "and he was just walkeding around, sniffing and eating.  He wasn't interested in the bait at all."  Watching the bear, Jesse knew he needed to remain calm. He was in no position to move his gun and take a shot without the bear spooking. The bear walked in and out of the opening with no intention of heading to the bait. Jesse

Conservation organizations need your help NOW

As we plan for 2021, we know that we will not be attending sportsman’s shows.  We won’t be able to catch up with fellow hunters, trappers and anglers and we won’t be spending money on all of those raffle tickets.  And that is hurting hunting organizations – a lot. Many outfitters and organizations rely on the foot traffic that these shows provide to help get reach more people which helps to draw more donations.  Businesses rely on shoppers to buy the cast iron, jackets, wooden carvings, jerky and more but we will not there to make those purchases next year.  And while everyone is still feeling the pinch of the pandemic and a changing world, we need to make sure that these organizations have what they need to continue with their mission because it is so important to the hunting and outdoor world.   Some of the organizations that could use your support: I would be remiss if I didn't start off with my organization. A couple of friends and I started  Women of the Maine Outdoors

Grateful for the community

I am technically an adult-onset hunter.   I started when I was twenty after watching Dad hunt every fall and deciding that I wanted to see what it was all about – and that killing your own meat was not a bad thing. If you had asked me (or dad) to imagine what the next decade and a half would be like, I guarantee you neither of us would have pictured this! As I write this, I have just hung up the phone with Taylor and Mark Drury. Throughout deer season, I will be writing up all of the Drury family hunts that will be featured on DeerCast (make sure you have the app or the website bookmarked!) I am also going to continue interviewing hunters from across the country and Canada that have taken amazing deer. Just like last year when I got to f eature Wayne Bernier  from Allagash Adventures after he dropped his amazing 200lb, 20 point buck with a 31 inch spread! The fact that I get to do this blows my mind. I get to share a mutual love and excitement over hunting with so many people and