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Tracking Maine Black Bears | Photographs

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Follow a team of wildlife biologists, including photographer Carl D. Walsh, into the winter shelters (yes, that means the dens) of Maine black bears.

Last winter I went deep into the Maine wilderness with wildlife biologist Randy Cross and his crew of technicians in the state’s black bear monitoring program. Their task: tracking Maine’s black bear population. A total of 23,000 bears is the current conservation objective.

In my 23 years of professional photography, I’d never seen a sleeping mother bear in a den with her cubs. As I was shooting, I prayed that mama bear wouldn’t wake up suddenly to find my lens about a foot from her face — I was certain she’d quickly become a most uncooperative subject.

Later, a nine-week-old cub looked me in the eye, sauntered over, and proceeded to climb up my leg. I picked him up by the scruff of his neck. We were eye to eye — an amazingly intimate connection with a wild animal. At times, I had to discipline myself to keep shooting and not stop and play with the little bears.

Maine Black Bears

“Biologist Randy Cross told me that in more than 1,400 den visits over the years, he’s seen only eight or nine treetop dens. We heard the cubs squawking inside — they were tucked beneath their mother in the large hollow opening in the crotch of the tree.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

“Traveling on snowmobiles and snowshoes, Maine wildlife biologists use wireless telemetry to track radio-collared bears to their dens.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

“David Pert tugs a tranquilized adult bear out of the den. She’ll be weighed, measured, and given a thorough physical exam.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

“The cubs are docile enough to be handled, even cuddled. With their mother sedated, the little ones often seek out the humans near them for comfort and security.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

“Bear biologist Randy Cross knows that gathering field data is the best way to protect the future of Maine’s bears.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

“These triplet cubs need a healthy mother to see them through the long winter.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

“In the rarely seen world of a bear’s winter den, cubs nestle close to their mother, still sleeping off the effects of the tranquilizer.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

“After making sure the mother bear and her cubs are secure, David Pert squeeze out of the den.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

“Our base camp is a century-old log cabin on Rowe Lake in Aroostook County. After sunset, even though the wind chill was below zero, I stayed out to shoot. The sky was like diamonds on black velvet.”

Carl D. Walsh

Maine Black Bears

Rowe Lake in Aroostook County.

Carl D. Walsh

Tracking Maine’s black bears began decades ago. Read Mel Allen’s account from 1978.

Comments
  • Wonderful pics. I love that cabin looks warm and cozy. Wow, the claws on those babies are really something. No wonder they are able to tear open a tree trunk looking for grubs and such. I love seeing your expeditions.

    Reply
  • “ManHolding3Bears” must give new meaning for giving “Bear Hugs”
    I can Bear-ly contain my humor- sorry.

    Seriously, I find this a beutiful way of connecting (and that was no pun) with the wild. EMiner50@aol.com

    Reply
  • All I can say is WOW! What an experience. Can I follow Lyn on your next trip. I’ll even bring the hand warmers. Great shooting. Tell us what equipment you used to shoot your best shots.
    danwright7@mac.com

    Reply
  • Very interesting article and wonderful photos. Those babies sure are cute!!
    We were visited by an adult bear and a “big kid” bear in our backyard in Asheville, NC.
    We round out they sure do like grapes…right off the vine!!

    Reply

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