The snow has just melted, but there is a lot of ramson greens everywhere around here. Since olden times these leaves were saving people of Kamchatka from scurvy (lack of vitamins). Bear's onion is another name for this plant. However I never saw bears eating it. Apparently, only humans are capable to bear such a strong odor, similar to mix of onion and garlic.
Just today near Kronotskaya river I came across a first bear family this spring consisting of a mother and three large cubs (probably they are 3 years old). The winter was harsh on them: animals are extremely skinny and exhausted, especially the mother (second from the left on the picture). But they should be able to survive, now the first grass is coming out already, so the bears should be able to fed on it and last out until the salmon spawning.
My first thought was "how did they all fit into one den?" when I saw them this morning.
Several days ago Suzemka brought to my station her first boyfriend (he is on the left on the picture). This admirer is even slightly shorter than her, his fur is in pathetic condition with some hairless patches, and he is constantly scratches himself. I am seriously concerned about our young beauty health with such a boyfriend!
Now the mating season is just starting for the bears, the culmination of bears' "weddings" will happen only in June. But the female bears has already lost their usual distrust and aggression towards the males of their kind, and became very playful.
I got partially involved into bears' love affairs this year. And even though I almost accepted the clumsy appearance of Suzemka's choice, and even decided not call him "Clumsy" (not to offend), but just neutral "BoyFriend" instead, still, my short sleep has became even shorter nowadays. As if they are on schedule, at 3:50 am, even before the twilight the clatter of bears' feet wakes me up. In a mating chase Suzemka makes circles around our house and "Boyfriend" is following her. This is natural, this is how females ensure that the chosen male is healthy and will be a good father for the future generation.
So Boyfriend is chasing Suzemka all across the land, but if she goes in the cold waters of nearby river he gives up and waits for her at the river bank. After such a chase they usually eat fresh grass that just appeared along the river. The most grass is right next to my station. The well-educated Suzemka understands that the yard - is my territory, and that it is not polite to come to the human closer than 30 yards. But this uncouth hooligan thinks that it looks cool if he scratches his back against the corner of my not-so-sturdy and quite old house! Still sleeping at these times student-volunteer always thinks that the shaking is caused by an earthquake. Apparently, "Boyfriend" thinks that by leaving droppings near the storage unit or sleeping by the toilet door (especially when it's mostly needed) he will impress Suzemka with his courage! Yesterday we even had to use a flare to scare him away. Hopefully he will remember the lesson!
It's time for the first green grass around here.
Psychological portrait of "Boyfriend". The direct stare means a challenge in animal language.
I do not understand: What did she find in such a "macho"?
I strongly believe that this "Boyfriend" is a temporary thing. Very soon the mature and heavyweight bears will come into play. On this picture it is our old acquaintance, Robinzon, who also lives nearby on a river island. He does not hurry to start the mating games, but when the time is right (when the females will have their ovulation), the males similar to this one will chase away all the youngsters and will be the fathers' of future cubs!
The top image illustrates the process of data acquiring.
Just as he promised, the student has made the sketch of the den. All the dimensions are given in centimeters below.
Meanwhile, the owner and builder of the den, a young, four-year-old female bear, Suzemka, spends her days near our house recently. The reason for that is the green grass that is starting to appear along the river, first grass in this season. Day before yesterday she brought her boyfriend with her - what can I tell you... We were disappointed! He seems to be kind of clumsy and with bad manners... We still hope that the father of the future cubs will be a male with a better reputation!
Do you remember how did you celebrate your twenty-second birthday? My intern-volunteer Alexey will remember his for a long time. On the picture he is inside the Suzemka-bear's den in which she spent seven winter months hibernating (this is how it looked when she just came out). Alexey, whose college major is computer graphics, has made all the nessesary measurements inside, so very soon we will see a 3D model of the den.
Original post is by Igor Shpilenok (both text & images) in Russian here.
A long time ago I noticed that Spring makes most of its progress in the battle against Winter during rainy days. Not during the shiny sunny days, but under the spring rain. It has been raining here, in my ranger statin, continuosly for almost 72 hours. The rain has melted the leftover snow from taiga around, washed away the gray volcanic ash from bushes and grass, and nature is shining again with clean early spring colors. After five months of Kisimen Volcano erupting with abundant ashfall I almost forgot how beautiful it can be. Now if I walk outside I won't leave a trail of ash behind me. Can you imagine how easy is it to breathe now? The snowdrifts are only left in deep gullys and under steep river banks.
Animals feel the relief too! Today my intern, Alexy, and I were working inside with the computer and plotter preparing the photographs for the summer exhibitions in the Reserve, but even from our windows we saw four different foxes, two wolverines and two bears passing by. And all of them were galloping or at a trot as if in great excitement.
Only a female deer with a young one is grazing within 200 yards of our porch, so we try to go outside as little as possible not to disturb them. But near our windows we have a little "ring" now. It is a molting male white partiridge; whenever a larger animal comes near he anxiously starts his courtship ritual song, which alarms us, so the only thing left for us is to look outside and enjoy the view of a new visitor.
The spring and even summer has already started all around the northern hemisphere now, so most of my photographer-naturalist friends are sharing photos of the new leaves, spring flowers, singing birds... I don't have anything like that to show you yet. However during the rain the buds on the bird cherry trees have swollen, and the first singing skylarks appeared in the tundra sky. In Kronotsky reserve the spring will first come to my station, since it's located in the warmest spot - at sea level. In the mountains this rain has fallen in a form of snow, covering all the stations and tourist places with a thick white and cold blanket.
The animal is waiting for the people to take off for several drops of fuel that will be left on the landing area. The bear will spend a long time sniffing into the smell and will even roll on his back on the ground there. After a while he will dig a hole in the ground, lay down in it with his belly up to the sky, and will stay for a while in this "nirvana" position.
Just like this one, who is already done with his sniffing.
Last helicopter has brought to my station not only the intern, Alexey, but also several barrels of fuel to be used in a power generator. Before we had a chance to secure the barrels near the house, the local female-bear, who I call Suzemka, became interested in them. Apparently, she is facinated by the smell of fuel!
In this last picture, my new intern, Alexey, has caught the moment of photographing the bear. (c) Alexey Matveev.
Original story and photos are posted by Igor Shpilenok in Russian here.