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Montana bears prepare for winter

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Oct 25 2012 07:16:07 PM MDT
Updated On: Oct 25 2012 08:15:02 PM MDT
EAST MISSOULA, Mont. -

A few weeks ago, NBC Montana brought you the story of a black bear and her two cubs who'd taken refuge in a tree at a Missoula motel.

The motel was situated along Interstate 90 and Highway 93.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear specialists drugged the young family, then relocated them to a safer location.

The mother bear was in a hyperphagia state. That means she was eating as much as she could, as fast as she could. She was getting ready to hibernate.

That's why normally shy bears take chances this time of year.

The bear family in the tree at Days Inn captivated onlookers. But it was a tense afternoon the animals couldn't afford. Mom was in search of as much food as she could find.

"They average putting on about six pounds a day, " said Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear biologist Jamie Jonkel,"That's why they go into this feeding mode.

They're getting ready for their long nap.

"They'll virtually live in a den for four months on fat reserves," said Jonkel, "No water, no food intake."

Jonkel said bears should gain at least six pounds a day.

Females can put on 60 to 70 pounds. Big males can gain 100 pounds.

Most bears probably already scouted out their winter homes.

It could be a cave, an abandoned cabin, maybe a haystack or under a cottonwood tree log.

There's amazing video of an orphan male bear cub named Bruno in his winter den.

Ryan Alter owns a company that builds custom wildlife monitoring equipment.

He built Bruno's winter home near Condon, and set a camera up inside the bear's cozy digs.

"It's peeling back the curtain of whats going on in wildlife, when we're not watching," said Alter.

An Alter Enterprise Inspired Classroom biologist watched Bruno from late fall 2009 to the spring of 2010.

The bear slept a lot. But he woke up almost every day for up to an hour or two.

Alli Depuy is an educator here who shows the virtual video to classrooms all over the world.

"He'd stretch and do his bear yoga,"said Depuy. "He'd fluff up his bed, all the things that you might do if you were waking up from a long sleep."

There's incredible video of Bruno waking up quickly after a skunk entered his den. You can see the skunk check out the den, then beat it out as fast as he can. Bruno gets up and chases him out.

He's also seen chasing a vole out.

Bruno left his custom made den in April 2010.

His friends at Alter Enterprise Inspired Classroom think they saw him come back for a last visit three months later. But they haven't seen the bear since.