CONWAY, Mass. (WGGB) — Mass. Governor Deval Patrick joined researchers Monday as they conducted their annual survey of black bear cubs in Franklin County.
In collaboration with UMass Amherst, MassWildlife began studying the population and health of the state’s black bear population in 1970.
43 years ago, about 100 bears were in Massachusetts. That now number has grown to about 3,000 bears.
“We immobilize the mother and then actually reattach the collar to make sure it fits properly,” says Tom O’Shea, assistant director of wildlife at MassWildlife. “We collect the condition of the bears, their weight, so forth, and their health and then we reattached the collar and put the bear back into the den.”
The folks at MassWildlife wait until early March to do the tagging because the bear cubs are now old enough to leave their mother for a short period of time. And today, these little guys had a pretty attentive babysitter — Gov. Deval Patrick.
“They’re about the size of big lab puppies with much longer claws and they’re better climbers, to be sure,” says Patrick.
The team at MassWildlife says the mother will know other people were handling her cubs because she’ll pick up the scent when she wakes up. But she won’t abandon or harm the cubs — that’s just a myth.
The bears will spend the next few weeks in the den, then they’ll hit the road and roam around the region in search of food.
“We’re finding out that some of the litters are actually growing in size, especially those in suburban areas like Northampton, where there may be more food at times,” says O’Shea. “So we’re seeing now more cubs per litter, which is something we didn’t see a lot of a few years ago.”
MassWildlife plans to track this particular bear for the rest of her life. When her cubs get older, they hope to attach collars to them as well.
Their collars contain a GPS unit, which records mapping data every 45 minutes.