Bears reach maturity at the age of 3-5 years. Bears can reach 20-25 years old in the wild. During her lifetime, female bears can give birth every 2-4 years. Females give birth to cubs in the winter nest in the end of January. The number of cubs is 1-3, rarely 4 cubs.
Cubs usually follow their mother until the spring of their third year, but the mother bear and cubs mutual time together is not continuous.
Newborn cubs follow their mother closely for a year, until the following year in May when the mother and yearling cubs separate during the rutting season. They re-join again later in summer and yearling cubs follow their mother closely again through the end of summer and autumn to the winter nest again. In the third spring after leaving the winter nest, the mother and her cubs paths diverge.
All cubs now wander alone but they may meet with each other, and the family members tolerate each other even at close distances.
At least two different litters have been seen at the hide area every year. Various litters of the same year are seen in the hide area every year at certain times, the previous year’s litters also visit annually.
In the end of April or in the beginning of May when snow is melted small bears and mother bears with cubs wake up. Cubs have difficulties to move in soft snow so they must wait for the melting of the snow before they can leave the winter nest.
New-born cubs with their mother may come to the hide area in the end of May at the earliest. After waking up they move throughout a small area. They can move in the vicinity but not in the hide area. Cubs are still so small that they don’t understand the commands of their mother to escape or climb up in trees. This is why a mother with cubs trys to stay out of sight.
A mother bear can bring yearling cubs to the hide area in early parts of May. Although cubs are already one year old, male bears are a big threat to them, but they understand this and can escape. Yearling cubs are bigger than new-born cubs, but they are still clearly smaller than their mother.
Mother bears with new-born cubs visit the hide area occasionally in early summer, but may visit more regularly later in summer in June and July. Cubs improve their life skills required, for example they can engage in playful wrestling.
New-born cubs move throughout the hide area although it is probable that they will encounter other bears. Cubs are now bigger and faster than previously and they understand when and how to escape or climb trees.
The best time to photograph cubs is during August and September when newborn cubs and yearling cubs visit the hide area regularly with their mothers. Cubs, as all bears, are omnivores and the biggest part of their diet is meat, with around one third of the diet containing berries.
The yearling cubs’ life is now at the point when they are learning the basics of independent life. Their behaviour may seem unsure, dubious and even silly compared to mature fully grown bears.
Yearling cubs have now grown larger and the size difference to the mother is not that obvious anymore. It is possible that sometimes cubs have gained their independence already in their second year of life,
but usually yearling cubs go to the same winter nest with their mother once more.
The yearling cubs walk alone at summer and they can also visit the hide area.
Tips for photographing the litters
- To get the entire litter in the photo, it is good to use a focal length wide enough. Zoom lenses are a good choice.
- When a litter arrives, it is better to have a proper lens attached to the camera body. It is not advisable start to change lenses when a litter has already arrived as photographing time will be wasted and potential noises and the camera positioning may scare the wary mother and her cubs.
- Litters can stay for a long or short time, it is profitable to utilise the entire visit.
- Cubs are quick. At the time of low light, motion blur may occur in the photo, so it is important to maintain shutter speeds fast enough and ISO values high enough.
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