Michigan DNR, Predator-Prey study perform 'den check' on tranquilized momma bear and cubs

Published: Feb. 21, 2018 at 5:16 PM EST
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Weighing cubs and taking vital signs of the mother bear is all part of the Predator-Prey Study, an effort between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Mississippi State University.

"It's a really good opportunity to collect a variety of data on the bear ranging from condition, biological samples in the form of blood and hair, more fermetric data, and really just get a feel for how the bear is responding," said Nick Fowler, a PhD Candidate at Mississippi State University in the Carnivore Ecology Lab.

The work today done on the female bear, or sow, is part of a larger project focusing on Michigan's white tail deer population.

"The relationships between winter weather habitat and predation in relation to white tail deer is actually quite complicated," said Jerry Belant, Wildlife Ecology Professor at Mississippi State University. "We need to cover the range of conditions that we see here in the U.P. to better understand what mechanisms are driving white tail deer populations."

The study is an eleven year project that will be completed by May of 2020 and part of that involves tracking carnivores like the black bear and taking vital signs while the bear is dormant.

"It's really interesting to get in there and see them whenever they're hibernating like that or whenever they're denned up, their behavior is cool and it's just neat to see those cubs in there and to think this is happening everywhere, all over the U.P.," said Fowler.

Special care had to be taken to keep those three cubs nice and warm, just as if they were sleeping next to mom.

"Today was the first bear den check for me and it was obviously an awesome experience having those cubs clinging to my chest," said Joe Goergen, Acting Director with the Safari Club International Foundation, a sponsor for the study.

The Predator-Prey Study will complete twelve den checks by the end of February.