In these first days of the year, while people all around the world are celebrating the entrance in 2013 and wishing happiness to each other, bears are in their hibernation period and not so many people think about them and what will happen to them during the coming months. The winter time doesn’t necessary mean that the bears are deeply sleeping in their caves or winter dens. They might sometimes go out of their long sleep and enjoy a bit the sun of January 🙂 Whatever the weather, the very beginning of the year stays the time for bear mothers to give birth to their cubs (from 1 to 4). These very little animals, only 300-350g at birth (as small as kittens!), come to life blind and hairless. Their survival depends on their mother, her care for them, the contact with her body to stay warm. She will feed them in the den, with her rich milk, while she is not even eating but just using the resources of fat stored during autumn for her needs and the ones of her cubs.
At the beginning of the spring, the little bears will start discovering the world with their mother. For the whole year and the next winter, they will stay with her, learning how to survive, how to find food, how to protect themselves in the forest but as well from human activities and infrastructures (roads, trains, villages…).
The next year, they will leave the protection of their mother, now strong and experienced enough to live alone in the wild. However, young bears from the same litter will most of the time stay together for a while, stronger as a group for the beginnings in their independance.
Every year in Croatia, cubs lose their mothers during their first months of existence, due to hunting, poaching, traffic accidents, or other causes not always identified (cubs being separated from their mothers crossing a road, getting scared of something…).
Alone in the wild, they can survive if they are already old and strong enough, but most of the time they will starve or be victims of predators. Some of them might be “saved” by people, who will find them, feed them, pet them, by wanting to help but actually making them accustomed to human presence. These surviving cubs will thus become “nuisance bears”, staying close to villages, looking for easy food around human settlements. Having lost their natural fear for people, they might make damages or be dangerous, getting too close to people who do not know how to react facing bears. Once in this situation, few solutions are available. The bear can be “removed” from the place… or it can be decided to send him to Kuterevo, where he will get the chance to survive but never to enjoy his freedom in the wild nature…
For this new year, we can only wish that more people will realize how important are bears and wilderness. And that they will really act and change their habits for a better coexistence…
“Bears keep me humble. They help me to keep the world in perspective and to understand where I fit on the spectrum of life. We need to preserve the wilderness and its monarchs for ourselves, and for the dreams of children. We should fight for these things as if our life depended upon it, because it does.” Wayne Lynch, Bears: Monarch of the Northern Wilderness, 1993.