Tell a story about cute little bears and you’re bound to learn that plenty of people want to hear more. Add some photos and a cool video of those bears? All the better.
The question I’ve heard most over the past two weeks, since we told you about three orphan cubs that were rehabilitated at Second Chance Wildlife in New Sharon, then released into the wild, is this: “Do you know how the little bears are doing?”
Earlier this week, I set out to get an answer to that question and to hear more about the actual release of the bears that were orphaned in Standish earlier this year.
When we last left our furry friends, you may recall, they were snugly (although not happily) tucked into a wooden box in the back of a Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife pickup truck.
Randy Cross, a DIF&W biologist, and technician Lisa Bates were busily packing gear, preparing for another two-hour drive to the woods outside of Ashland, where the bears would be freed in one of the state’s bear study areas.
On Tuesday I sat down with Cross to get an update. The longtime bear biologist filled in a few gaps in the story, but admitted he was as curious as our readers are.
“I don’t know much. I wish I knew more,” Cross said. “It’s hard to sit here not knowing how they’re doing, and if they’re together.”
Cross said the next scheduled flight, during which a crew will try to home in on signals from the radio collars the bears are wearing, won’t take place until later this month or early in October. But he does think he might hear more about the cubs from hunters in the area.
“I’m hoping to get a report if somebody sees them on a bait or something. If somebody’s hunting and sees three tagged bears with collars on a bait, I think I’ll probably get a report,” Cross said. “Everyone [in that area] is kind of tuned in that they’re out there.”
Cross said the actual release of the bears went very well.
“Lisa opened the door [to the box] and they didn’t hesitate. The first two just shot out of there like a cannon. They ran down the road … the third one hesitated just a moment and then he was out and chasing the other two.”
Cross said he was hoping the bears would all run to a large nearby tree, scurry up it, and spend the night in the tree, together. That didn’t happen, but Cross said it seemed that the bears were interested in sticking together after their release.
“They went into the thick brush. We could hear them vocalizing, talking to each other, trying to find each other,” Cross said. “That was good. And then we just got out of there [to leave them alone].”
Cross described the vocalizations as soft, subtle grunts, and said bears use the technique to locate each other. “It’s like, ‘I’m here. Where are you?’” he said.
Cross said he picked the spot of the release specifically and is confident that the cubs can fare well there.
“I think it’s a good place to be for them,” Cross said.
And he said that the abundant wild food that’s available to bears this year — the primary reason the bears were released now instead of next spring, when they’d be bigger — should help the bears’ transition from the rehabilitation facility to the big woods.
“It’s a good year for bears to be bears,” Cross said.
Many think of “deer season” as a November tradition, but in some parts of the state hunters head out in pursuit of whitetails much earlier than that. In fact, in places with expanded archery seasons, Saturday is opening day.
One of those areas, which was recently added, is on Marsh Island, where the deer population has grown out of control in recent years and where some folks have long rejected the idea of a hunting season. In recent years, a limited hunting season for specially qualified bowhunters has been held.
Maine game warden Jim Fahey checked in on Thursday with a message for both hunters looking to take advantage of the Marsh Island opportunity and those who oppose hunting on the island.
“[I’d like to] remind archers to use good, sound judgment and comply with all applicable laws and to also realize that sometimes even if the law supports what you’re doing, it doesn’t always mean that [what you’re doing] is the ethical thing or the best way to proceed as far as where they’re hunting,” Fahey said.
“By the same token, I’d like to see tolerance by people on either side of the fence here,” Fahey said. “If hunters are within the law, conducting a lawful hunt, they can’t be harassed or interfered with by people that may not agree with what they’re doing. That would be a good message to convey, one of tolerance.”
A message to consider, to be sure.