Do you remember this little black bear family from last spring? They first showed up in April 2011, surprising and delighting all of us who live on the street. The cubs would scamper up trees, frolic and play, always under the watchful eye of the big Mama bear.
The last time I saw them was in late April, though I occasionally heard of sightings from neighbors on and off during the spring. But the reports became less frequent as spring turned to summer. I suspect that as food became more plentiful, they headed back up into the mountains.
Looking at a Google Earth view of my property, the front of the house faces the rest of the neighborhood, and just on the other side of that a busy four lane road with restaurants, strip malls, etc. Behind the house, heading up the mountain, you see the occasional small road or two, but after that nothing but wilderness as it spreads out into the land owned by the government for the Blue Ridge Parkway. I used to marvel that there was so much wildlife here, in the city limits, a stone's throw from a busy commercial street. But I believe the bears, coyotes, and other critters wander down here from the park service lands up above.
So look who showed up here last week...
Is this the same family? It seems likely. I bet they remember from one year to the next which houses have the best birdseed!
The Mama bear ate with the youngsters for just a moment or two, then wandered over to the neighbor's yard just on the other side of the trees, stopping briefly to scratch her back on a tree. The she sat down and kept a lookout while the cubs ate for another 10 minutes or so.
(The sun was rising right into my camera, getting good photographs was difficult!)
Look how big they are! Could these youngsters be only a year old? My brief research online this morning turned up photos of yearlings that look much smaller. Then again, the articles I found say that the mother bear stays with her cubs until June or July of their second year. So perhaps they are very well fed, chubby yearlings! What do you think? Does anyone have any expertise on the topic of baby bears?