With grizzly bears, sometimes you get cute and sometimes you get grumpy.
When bear biologists noticed a mother bear beginning to wake up this spring from her Island Park den, they set up a trail camera in hopes of recording the action.
The trail camera captured video of a sow and two new cubs attracted to scent bait, the mother reaching high on a small tree for a taste.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game posted the video online combined with another clip of two large bears having a physical argument.
The 1-minute video clip are snippets from two different cameras set up by bear biologist Jeremy Nicholson and wildlife technician Kyle Garrett. The segment of the sow and cubs was shot east of Highway 20 after a 2-mile trek to “the middle of nowhere” and the segment of the brawling bears was taken not far from Harriman State Park. The video can be seen on YouTube at tinyurl.com/pr-griz-cam.
“They put a little scent bait on the top of that tree,” said James Brower, regional communications manager with Fish and Game, about the video of the sow and cubs. “You can see her sniff it and smell it because there’s some scent lure up there. It helps her pose for the camera a little bit. She just happens to have two cute little baby cubs with her.”
Brower said the clip of the disagreeable bears is a bit rare.
“To have two bigger bears come in and decide to get in a brawl right in front of the camera is a pretty unique instance,” he said.
While most cameras are set up to determine if an area is suitable for placing a bear trap to sedate and collar bears passing through, the camera set up near the sow was to learn more about the bears.
“Because she has a GPS collar on her, they were able to tell when she had completely left the site,” Brower said. “They went back in to retrieve the camera, and they were able to go inside her den and check it out and see what went on there during the winter.”
Nicholson said bear trapping in the Island Park region began in June.
“This is a reoccurring thing,” he said. “All the data we collect, we combine it with all the other states, the park service, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team and analyze it and go from there with it.”
Nicholson said his team wants to understand how bears are surviving, what’s killing them, their movements and what they are eating. Collaring bears is one of his main tools.
Brower said the scent used to attract bears to trail cameras is made mostly of rotting fish or roadkill.
“They let it rot and turn it into a mush,” he said. “The back of the bear trapping truck is the stinkiest thing you’ve ever smelled. They wash it out pretty frequently but it is rank. It stinks. We try to keep everything contained in a plastic bin that fits in the back of the truck. But it inevitably splashes out and it’s pretty rank.”
Besides bears, Brower said the cameras and traps sometimes attract other interlopers, such as coyotes, pine martens and humans.
“We get hikers every once in a while,” he said. “They’ve had a few individuals with little to no clothing walk by on occasion. Most people are aware that they’re on camera.”