No reason to fear mama bear with cubs


By Cheryl Millham

It is time to dispel some myths about our black bear families.

Mother bears are not dangerous. Nor, are they more aggressive when they have cubs.

Mother bears will not bring their cubs out of the den until they can climb a tree. If a mom feels her baby is in danger, she will send it up a tree for safety. Sometimes she climbs up after them and sometime, she will sit at the base of the tree.

If it is time to nurse her babies, she will climb the tree and position herself with her back leaning against the trunk and straddle a branch. The baby will come to her and climb onto her lap and nurse.

If a dog is harassing her babies and the tree is far off, she might swat the dog. It is her way of telling the dog to stop.

So, if you see a mom with babies (the babies are about 5 pounds at this time of the year), don’t let your dog chase them.

Tom and I have been between a mom and her babies many times. She is not dangerous to us. She just wants to get her kids back and, as soon as she gets them close to her, she will send them up another tree.

Such is not the same with a mother grizzly bear. She will attack first and ask questions later. Grizzly bears are very dangerous. I am so happy that we have black bears here and not grizzlies.

Here is a little informational tip. There are no more grizzlies living in California, even though you will see a picture of a grizzly on the California state flag.

So, why am I telling you this information? You guessed it. We have just gotten sighting of mother bears with little, tiny cubs, following her.

Keep your eyes open and you might see a little bit of nature right here in your own back yard. So, enjoy the wildlife around you. And remember, when you shoot wildlife, use a camera.

Cheryl Millham is executive director of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care on the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe.

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Comments (15)
  1. Dumbluck says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    Love the Millham stories about the Tahoe animals. Keep them coming.

  2. John says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    This article is rediculous. Avoid all wildlife, particularly animals that have the capacity to kill you. Black bears kill people every year in the US. Yes lightening kills more people. But you probably go inside to get out of a lightening storm also, just to be prudent. Never get between a mother bear and her cubs, if not for you own safety then to avoid harrassing wildlife. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/fitness/articles/2011/05/29/fatal-black-bear-attacks-rare-but-rising

  3. Kathy Compton says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    MAMA BEAR was scratching her butt on a tree at the Y yesterday ,Yes it was a sight to see,Baby cub,was learning fast ,So beautiful to watch, The tree is getting thinner ,the branches all over now on the ground ,y

  4. Kathy Compton says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    John I do not think the mother will harm you,,We have them here ,and seems to me,they do there thing and move on, Respect them ,and they will respect you,Do not feed the bears, They are very Beautiful ,hope for you to see one ,and to find out ,they are harmless,as long as you let them do there thing,

  5. Mark Smith says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    John, get your facts straight. In 2010 and 2011 not one person was killed in the US by a black bear. In fact, more people are killed by deer than black bears and in the last 30 years more Nevadans were killed by bear hunters than by black bears. In the history of the Great State of Nevada, there are NO documented cases of bear attacks against humans. You are 90,000 times more likely to be murdered, 38,000 times more likely to die in an auto accident, 1,400 times more likely to be accidentally killed by gunfire, 437 times more likely to win the lottery, and 143 times more likely to be killed by your neighbor’s dog than to be killed by a black bear.

  6. Mark Smith says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    John, the statistics do not align with your opinion. In 2010 and 2011 not one person was killed in the US by a black bear. In fact, more people are killed by deer than black bears and in the last 30 years more Nevadans were killed by bear hunters than by black bears. In the history of the Great State of Nevada, there are NO documented cases of bear attacks against humans. You are 90,000 times more likely to be murdered, 38,000 times more likely to die in an auto accident, 1,400 times more likely to be accidentally killed by gunfire, 437 times more likely to win the lottery, and 143 times more likely to be killed by your neighbor’s dog than to be killed by a black bear.

  7. jenny says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    Thank you Cheryl. Every time we’ve come across a bear (and we have seen mamma and her cub in our neighborhood), the bear has either carried on her activity or left us in avoidance. We respect their space and keep our distance and enjoy the brief moment.

  8. Bob says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    Nice article Cheryl. And thank you Mark for the rebuttal on the misinformation. Jenny and I saw a bear the other night near 15th just doing it’s thing eating grass. This was close to the garbage dumpster on 89. That was a great sight.

  9. John says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    Now just for people who dont get it. Stay away from wildlife. Anyone who gets between a ma bear and its cub cares nothing for wildlife and nothing for their own safety. That is a stressful situation for the bear. Noone with even a little common sense should put an animal in that situation.

  10. Patricia Banner says - Posted: April 29, 2012

    I’ve been near and between mamma bears and babies when I lived in Tahoe and they did just what Cheryl said. Once my dogs stood under the tree barking but I was able to get them away. Yes, respect their space but don’t go fear-mongering.

  11. Kathy Compton says - Posted: April 29, 2012

    Mark I have to say you pinned it right on the nail,I read up and you are so right ,Thanks Mark You are in the Bears for sure, I will count on what you say,I do believe every word,

  12. Dave says - Posted: April 30, 2012

    Unfortunately John, your perception is shared by many. ” Don’t get between a mother bear ( sow ) and her cubs ” As one poster commented, this holds true with a grizzly bear which is a much more aggressive bear. As one who has studied with Lynn Rogers at the Wildlife Research Institute in Minnesota, I recall one specific day when Dr. Rogers along with the 8 research course paericipants, set out to put a radio collar tracking device on a cub. While attempting this not so easy feat, the cub, along with it’s 2 siblings AND Momma layed less than 3 feet away with absolutely no aggressive tendebcies displayed. As you say John, a good number of people ” just don’t get it ”
    Marks statistics should attest to that.
    Educate yourself and others –
    http://www.bear.org / http://www.bearstudy.org

  13. Laine says - Posted: October 9, 2012

    Been following Dr.Rogers for almost 3 years. Have learned so much about REAL black bear behavior.

  14. Bill Lawson says - Posted: October 11, 2012

    The trouble with black bears and congested areas,Tahoe for instance,is that people are feeding bears and unqualified people are nursing bears with no regard to their wild nature.The result of treating bears like the neighborhood dog will end in tragedy every time.Mark Smith and the organization he is aligned with need to look at their practices closely.