The black bears in Ely, Minnesota are possibly the most studied in the world and well-known through TV shows such as Life, Bearwalker of the Northwoods, and Bear Family and Me, and have become minor celebrities online through the work of Lynn Rogers.
Cubs are born in the den, usually during January or February and emerge at the start of spring, for the first time with their mothers. They must quickly learn how to climb trees and escape danger. On top of living in a tough environment where food can be scarce, a mother’s experience is also crucial to guiding her cubs through the most dangerous first few months of their lives.
May is a crucial time for a young family as mating season is fast approaching. Cubs will usually stay with their mothers for around 17 months. This means a female black bear will typically have new cubs every 2 years. However, if the female accepts a male before then, she will drive her young cubs away early. This family break-up is a very traumatic experience for the young bears, left completely alone and fending for themselves for the first time.
We will mainly be following Juliette, a 9-year old experienced mother, and her three cubs Sam, Sophie and Sybil, and 3-year old first time mother Jewel and her two cubs, Herbie and Fern.