Thursday, February 9, 2023

BearWise: A glimpse at early lives of bear cubs

bear cubs

If bears had birthday parties, they’d all be in January and February. That’s when winter dens across the country turn into nurseries as most pregnant bears give birth to cubs weighing in at less than a pound that would easily fit into your hands. Human moms would probably envy a mother bear’s ability to give birth to one, two, or three or more tiny cubs while half-asleep.

Even though cubs are born with their eyes closed, unable to hear or smell and weak and uncoordinated, they instinctively find their mom’s nipples and start nursing. Soon the den will be filled with mom’s snores and the happy sounds of cubs humming and purring while they snuggle up to mom and their siblings and fill their tummies with a steady diet of rich, warm milk. Bear’s milk has a fat content around 33%, so nursing cubs have no problem gaining weight.

Over the next several weeks, cubs will keep eating, sleeping and growing and eventually start cautiously exploring their winter quarters. As winter slowly gives way to spring, their eyes will open, their teeth will come in and the fine hair they’re born with will be replaced by fur coats.

To find out how many cubs are usually born, what a very large litter could mean, and more fascinating facts, keep reading at!

Story courtesy of BearWise. Editor’s Note: Text and photo above were published in the NYS DEC’s Feb. 1 Wildlife, Fish, and Marine Life Newsletter.

Photo at top by Emily Carroll of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

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