A Cub's First Spring

June 18, 2016 Posted by: David Kopshever

409 and her COY stand on the river's edge
409 Beadnose and one of her COYs stand on the bank of Brooks River. Photo by NPS/Tammy Carmack.

The first spring cubs, or cubs of the year (COYs,) are showing up in Brooks Camp. So far, 409 Beadnose and 128 Grazer have appeared with litters of two and three, respectively. While waiting in anticipation for the arrival of spring cubs, some viewers and visitors may have been wondering, “what’s taking so long?” 

Sows with COYs are generally the last bears to leave their dens. After emerging they tend to spend their first few weeks around the den site, allowing the COY to slowly explore their bright new world. Sows with spring cubs also, when possible, avoid visiting areas where other adult bears may be lurking; larger, more dominant boars and even sows have been known to prey on younger bears. The survival rate for COY’s is around 50%. However, newborn cub development and physiology has adapted in some interesting ways to help give our favorite furry critters a good shot at survival. 

After giving birth in the depths of winter, usually during January or February, the sow and cub remain warm in their den for the next two to four months. At birth, a brown bear cub is incredibly small, weighing just one pound and measuring about 9 inches long. That same bear may multiply its weight well over 1,000 times from newborn to adult. Humans would weigh over 6,000 pounds if we shared the same weight increase.

Illustration of a newborn bear cubAn illustration of a newborn cub.

Nearly bald, completely blind, and extremely vulnerable, the newborn cub continues to develop in the den - its second womb. Its eyes will remain closed for nearly one month, though almost immediately after birth the newborn cub navigates its way to its mother’s teat, where it suckles on some of the most nutritious baby food on the planet. Bear milk contains roughly 35% fat and over 10% protein. In comparison, human milk contains about 3% fat and less than 1% protein.

The rich milk allows the cub to grow at an astonishing rate. A few months after birth, the cub emerges from the den weighing up to ten pounds. During their first year out of the den, fueled by its mother’s milk and whatever scraps of salmon it can scrounge, spring cubs can double their weight every two months. By the time they retire to the den with their mother at the end of fall, a healthy COY will weigh as much as eighty pounds. 

Brown bears have developed these adaptations for one simple reason: it gives them the best chance at survival. While visitors, park staff and cam viewers patiently wait for the rest of this year’s spring cubs to arrive, newborn cubs are already hard at work putting on the weight and learning the skills necessary to grow into successful adult bears. 

128 and three COYs walk along the valley road
128 and her three COYs walk along the Valley Road. Photo by NPS/Tammy Carmack.

spring cubs, Brown Bear, Brooks Camp, Katmai National Park




29 Comments Comments icon

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  3. September 25, 2016 at 03:43
     

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  4. Jan
    June 20, 2016 at 07:31
     

    Great information to have. The pics are fabulous, thanks a million.

     
  5. June 20, 2016 at 07:31
     

    @lacy: Here's where everything is pretty much collected: http://katmai-bearcams.wikia.com/wiki/Katmai_Bearcams_Wiki

     
  6. June 20, 2016 at 07:31
     

    @lacy: Here's where everything is pretty much collected: http://katmai-bearcams.wikia.com/wiki/Katmai_Bearcams_Wiki

     
  7. June 19, 2016 at 05:14
     

    @Deirdre (Mrs Z): That's correct, 409 Beadnose is the "niece" of 128 Grazer.

     
  8. June 19, 2016 at 05:05
     

    @Jane: Like many other mammals who give birth to multiple offspring per litter, differences in size are the result of a combination of genetics and competition with siblings for access to milk. Unfortunately, the "runts" of a litter generally have a lower survival rate. For bears, bigger is better. One of the greatest and simultaneously most difficult things to accept about Brooks Camp is that it is a wild place, where natural processes like birth and death are allowed to take place unimpaired by human interference.

     
  9. June 19, 2016 at 05:02
     

    @Jane: Like many other mammals who give birth to multiple offspring per litter, differences in size are the result of a combination of genetics and competition with siblings for access to milk. Unfortunately, the "runts" of a litter generally have a lower survival rate. For bears, bigger is better. One of the greatest and simultaneously most difficult things to accept about Brooks Camp is that it is a wild place, where natural processes like birth and death are allowed to take place unimpaired by human interference.

     
  10. June 19, 2016 at 12:36
     

    Thanks, so much, for the information! I echo the comment made by Sandy, re: " Lacy's comment above is a good one because I'm not on Face Book and it would be great to access all the information from the bear cam page." Yes, if there were away to link all the blogs, comments, pix & such, it would save on Data usage, too! We don't want to miss a single post about our bears.

     
  11. Pam
    June 19, 2016 at 10:22
     

    Thanks for the pictures and the information. Will sure miss seeing Beadnose on the lip of the falls this year. She was the best at fishing there!

     
  12. June 19, 2016 at 07:07
     

    Thanks for the news, the great photos, and the information about COYs

     
  13. June 19, 2016 at 05:59
     

    Very exiting news! Thanks for the pic's and for the interesting facts!

     
  14. June 19, 2016 at 05:59
     

    Very exiting news! Thanks for the pic's and for the interesting facts!

     
  15. June 19, 2016 at 04:55
     

    Thank you for the well written and informative article! Loved the photos as well.

     
  16. June 18, 2016 at 10:31
     

     
  17. June 18, 2016 at 10:14
     

    Thank you Charlie, Rangers for all that you've done. I so enjoy the cams, especially the bear cams, comments, blogs and posted photos. It's amazing to sit at home and see a place I'll never get to see in person and on top of that, I can download photos at the time something is happening with the camera icon. I think Lacy's comment above is a good one because I'm not on Face Book and it would be great to access all the information from the bear cam page.

     
  18. June 18, 2016 at 10:05
     

    Great blog post. Thanks for letting us know about these two sows - they are favorites of ours. Aren't the sows related? Isn't Grazer like a niece to Beadnose?

     
  19. June 18, 2016 at 08:53
     

    Cubs with 128 are really different sizes. Does that tell us anything?

     
  20. June 18, 2016 at 07:39
     

    these are really wonderful pictures!!! can i request that ALL sites that the Rangers and other employees are posting info on be referenced in the permanent area that comes before the chatters on the Explore camera site? seems like the info/pics/blogs/etc. from the "experts" are getting posted to many different locations, and it'd be nice to have the list of all those sites always easily available (w/o having to go to the basement).... thanks!

     
  21. June 18, 2016 at 06:52
     

    Beautiful Photos....Thank You for the info!!! ☺

     
  22. June 18, 2016 at 06:41
     

    Wow! Grazer went all in for her first litter! After watching her as a prancing young sub adult, it will be interesting to observe her as a mother. And Beadnose... well, we know she is a great attentive mom. Best wishes to both these families. May the cubs be healthy, and the salmon plentiful. Thank you for sharing the photos.

     
  23. June 18, 2016 at 06:06
     

    Thanks for sharing all of your insight and these precious photos. I may never get there in person so this virtual journey is immensely appreciated.

     
  24. June 18, 2016 at 05:57
     

    Thank you SO VERY MUCH for the photos & all the information. Please keep it coming!!! :-)

     
  25. June 18, 2016 at 05:56
     

    Thank you SO VERY MUCH for the photos & all the information. Please keep it coming!!! :-)

     
  26. June 18, 2016 at 05:54
     

    Love the pics!

     
  27. June 18, 2016 at 05:49
     

    Beautiful family, Loved the blog :) Thank you NPS, Thank you Rangers for the amazing job

     
  28. June 18, 2016 at 05:37
     

    Love the pics!

     
  29. June 18, 2016 at 05:37
     

    Love the pics!

     
 
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Last updated: June 18, 2016

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