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Thursday, February 23, 2012

2012 black bear season begins!

Black bear in culvert trap
(Addison, NY 2/12)
I spent the day with three of my students from FLCC in Addison, NY while the NYS DEC and a Cornell graduate student changed the radio collar on a black bear. This marked our first bear visit of the season (for previous posts on bear den visits click here). The bear in question has been leaving his den and visiting some bird feeders. So wildlife staff members from the DEC placed a culvert trap out yesterday and within hours, the bear was captured (It isn't always that easy). At the left is a photo of our guest of honor today. He is a big male, five years old and weighed in at 380 pounds. As you can see he already has ear tags. i mentioned he is part of a Cornell study to bear movements. He had a radio collar as well, but managed to pull it off while in the trap. You can see it between his front legs. I took a few photos through a small opening in the trap and he became a little agitated. He showed that by vocalizing and popping his jaws. I got the hint and stopped taking photos.

Agitated black bear in culvert trap
(Addison, NY 2/12)
The bear was immobilized using a jab stick. Imagine a syringe on the end of a pole. Here Matt from Cornell on the left delivers the drugs while Jeb from NYS DEC distracts the bear with a stick.
Culvert trap
(Addison, NY 2/12)
While we waited for the drug to take effect, we looked around in the mud for tracks.
Black bear tracks, rear (l) and front (r)
(Addison, NY 2/12)
It took less than five minutes for the drugs to take effect. We marked the data sheet "Head down" at 11:36 am.

Everything just went so well with this bear. That doesn't always happen. But today they estimated the weight exactly and the bear responded as he was supposed to. Once the bear was out of the trap and laid on his left side, his eyes were covered to protect them from the bright sun and any dirt or other debris. When the bear is immobilized, it cannot blink.
Next came a general health inspection. TPR = temperature, pulse and respiration. Below, the guys inspect their tattoo work from this summer. Usually, the tattoo number matches the ear tags.

The bear was fitted with a new collar. This is a pretty high tech collar. It takes GPS locations and can be reprogrammed with a cell phone.

Tomorrow, a look at his den!


  1. Do you bait the culvert trap? how does the trap work?

    1. Yes, the trap is baited. In this case, they used expired pastries that were donated from a store. The food is placed at the far end of the trap so the bear has tro enter the trap to get at it. The bait is essentially on a wire and when the bear grabs it, that causes the wire to pull out the support pin and the door slams down. It does not always work, as some bears have learned to keep their rear end sticking out while they reach forward as far as they can. The trap is sprung but the door closes on thier hindquarter and they can then work their way out... pretty smart.


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