If you’ve always wanted to visit a bear den and check out the cubs, this may be your lucky year. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is taking entries into its latest Keeper of the Maine Outdoors contest, and the grand prize is a den visit for two people.
The winner and a guest will join biologists in a field visit to a den. Entrants must be 18 years old to be eligible for the contest, and the entry deadline is Feb. 19.
Maine biologists visit the dens of more than 75 female black bears each winter as part of a long-term project that monitors the health of the bear population by checking on adults and their cubs, according to a DIF&W press release. The adult female bears have been previously captured and are fitted with radio collars, which allows crews to find them in their dens.
On the den visits the state field crew sedates the adult female, then collects biological data from her and her cubs. All the bears are weighed, and then placed back into their den. On those visits, biologists see how many cubs are born, then check back in a year later to see how many of those cubs survive.
Newborn cubs often weigh as little as six pounds, while the mother bears may weigh more than 200 pounds.
The DIF&W unveiled the Keeper of the Maine Outdoors Experience series in 2019 in order to give lucky Mainers day-in-the-life experiences with biologists and game wardens and help people learn how they protect the state’s wildlife.
Maine has more bears than any other state in the lower 48 — more than 35,000 according to the DIF&W. The majority of those bears live in northern and eastern Maine. The department’s bear-monitoring program began in 1975, and helps inform management efforts.