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Black Bears Emerging From Hibernation

3-26-18 black bears sleeping 1545

A year ago, in April 2017, while following Black Bear tracks in New Hampshire, I had the good fortune to encounter the bears themselves. Because Black Bears have started coming out of hibernation (April is when most do so) I felt it was timely to share some of my photographs and observations of that encounter. (I did not do so a year ago for fear of bringing attention to and thereby disturbing these bears.)  As I followed the bear tracks, I eventually came upon a refuge, or “babysitter,” tree – where bears rest and cubs/yearlings take refuge when their mother goes off foraging or when she senses danger. I had read about such trees, but never discovered one myself. It was very recognizable — a very large White Pine surrounded on the ground by bear scat and gnawed saplings – fresh signs that bears frequented this area. At the base of the tree were several large “bowls” or indentations in the pine needles that looked as if large animals might have bedded down repeatedly in them, forming nests.

I continued tracking, eventually turning around to head back to where I entered the woods. On my return I passed by the babysitter tree again. To my utter delight I discovered a mother bear with her three yearlings fast asleep in the beds at the base of the tree. It was snowing lightly, and I surmised that this family had recently emerged from their deep winter’s sleep and was still a bit groggy. (Adult males are the first to emerge; females with cubs are the last.) While the yearlings slept on, the mother opened her eyes and decided to tolerate my presence for the next couple of hours. In Naturally Curious posts this week and next, I will share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with you as well as the behavioral observations I made.

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48 responses

  1. Absolutely beautiful! And thanks for keeping it until this spring.

    March 26, 2018 at 8:28 am

  2. Wow, I am so impressed that you were able to hang out with them. I look forward to reading more.

    March 26, 2018 at 8:36 am

  3. geronimojr

    Hey Janie, look what the neighbors are up to! Guess I’ll be a little more vigilant when we snow shoe in the woods. Wish you were closer, I fill you up with soup. Love, B

    Sent from my iPad


    March 26, 2018 at 8:45 am

  4. Wow,incredible I amso jealous of that wonderful Picture!she must have been groggy you wouldn’t think she would allow you there! I am off to Mary Hitchcock to have gall bladder surgery tomorrow Ugh love, Kay

    Sent from my iPhone


    March 26, 2018 at 8:45 am

  5. Audrey Ball

    What an amazing experience for you, and what a beautiful picture. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to seeing more pictures and hearing more about that marvelous day.

    March 26, 2018 at 8:51 am

  6. Suzanne

    Mary, Did you have your dog with you that day? if so, how even more extraordinary that the mama bear was comfortable with your presence.

    March 26, 2018 at 8:53 am

    • For some reason I had the presence of mind to leave Emma in the car…I wasn’t expecting to see bears, but fortunately decided to err on the side of caution.

      March 26, 2018 at 9:33 am

  7. Kimberly

    Beautiful post and picture! thank you.

    March 26, 2018 at 8:57 am

  8. Dianne Wright

    WOW !!! 🙏

    Sent from my iPad


    March 26, 2018 at 9:01 am

  9. janetpesaturo

    Such a fabulous find, and a wonderful experience it must have been!

    March 26, 2018 at 9:01 am

  10. Francie

    you’ve made my day / such intimacy observed Francie

    March 26, 2018 at 9:10 am

  11. Cheryl Johnson

    Black bears are out and about here in Norway ME right close to town. One laid waste to our 3 large bird feeders, ripping them apart and bending the iron pipe the feeders were suspended from right to the ground. It happened over night so we didn’t get to watch and I’m glad. We could see large 5 to 6 inch paw prints in the snow. He would have been within 6 to 8 feet from the house…too scary!

    March 26, 2018 at 9:11 am

    • Bill On The Hill...

      And what lesson was derived from this experience?

      March 26, 2018 at 11:41 am

      • Stay tuned for the next few posts! 🙂

        March 27, 2018 at 3:50 pm

  12. Jane Marshall

    So special. They look so comfortable and safe, certainly now worried! Thank you for sharing.

    March 26, 2018 at 9:25 am

  13. Diane

    What a neat experience! Good you waited to post.

    March 26, 2018 at 9:27 am

  14. Rema Boscov

    Wow! thanks.


    March 26, 2018 at 9:32 am


    Oh, Mary. How beautiful. Each time I think I’ve seen your most awesome post, you manage to come up with a better one.

    Thanks again for your presence in my life, Jean Pace

    Sent from my iPad


    March 26, 2018 at 9:41 am

  16. Lou

    It is so very fitting that it was you, Ma

    ry, who came upon the spring home and tree of this bear family because you appreciated and knew how to handle the discovery, now shared ! Thank you!

    March 26, 2018 at 9:48 am

  17. This is so wonderful & beautiful, thank you so much.

    March 26, 2018 at 9:55 am

  18. Beautiful, Mary! I love her expression. And you rock!

    W –

    March 26, 2018 at 10:02 am

  19. Lisa H

    An amazing, sublime moment! Thank you for sharing!

    March 26, 2018 at 10:10 am

  20. Kathryn

    Mary, you are well and truly blessed to see such a thing. I know that a lot of work and luck go into such a blessing! Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    March 26, 2018 at 10:16 am

  21. Leah

    This is breathtaking–what a moment. Thank you so much for being there and being who you are so we can see this.

    March 26, 2018 at 10:23 am

  22. Sue Wetmore

    Wow what a wonderful photo. A very special moment in nature.

    March 26, 2018 at 10:35 am

  23. Looks like she found a true grandmother tree to shelter them. How very special for you to have this intimate encounter, and now share it with us.

    March 26, 2018 at 10:56 am

  24. Warner Historical

    Wow – what an awesome photo and story. A once in a lifetime experience for most people.


    March 26, 2018 at 10:57 am

  25. Gail S Platz

    Great photo, and what a fantastic experience! Thanks for sharing it!

    March 26, 2018 at 11:56 am

  26. Wow! Such a special encounter. I look forward to hearing more about it. Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories with us!

    March 26, 2018 at 1:01 pm

  27. What a gift!

    March 26, 2018 at 1:30 pm

  28. Randi Filoon

    Wow – this such an awesome picture!

    Sent from my iPhone


    March 26, 2018 at 1:41 pm

  29. Mary Jo

    What a wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing this photo and story with us. Remembering that books don’t always stay in print, I’ve just ordered many of yours, for future grandchildren. Have a lovely time with your daughter, grandson, and grandchild-to-be!

    March 26, 2018 at 1:58 pm

  30. Mary Ann Barrett


    March 26, 2018 at 2:17 pm


    WOW! What a magical experience that must have been!

    March 26, 2018 at 2:29 pm

  32. Alice Pratt

    Mom Bear sensed you weren’t a threat. I feel, that usually…often…animals know which humans are their ‘friends’ and are not going to harm them. I’ve had many experiences of helping Hummingbirds (3 times rescued them), other birds, a goose, with fishing line & hook wrapped around it’s leg & I removed it…it let me….they just ‘know’…it’s a special experience. Maybe it’s the lacking ‘fear’ pheromones. Just let a bee land on you….they then don’t sting. Totally unrelated…I saw a Red Fox on our patio this am….a mouth full of ‘squirrel’? A few yards from the window where I was standing….

    March 26, 2018 at 3:36 pm

  33. Dianne C Jewett

    OMG, Mary that is so informative. thank you.

    March 26, 2018 at 6:35 pm

  34. What an awesome experience.

    March 26, 2018 at 6:44 pm

  35. What an awesome experience!

    March 26, 2018 at 6:45 pm

  36. Karen McCarthy Eger

    You must ha e end BURSTING with excitement!

    March 26, 2018 at 6:51 pm

  37. Kathy Schillemat

    What an amazing experience! I look forward to more posts about this.

    March 26, 2018 at 7:36 pm

  38. Susan Shea

    Amazing photo. Sue Morse is always talking about “babysitter trees”.

    On Mon, Mar 26, 2018 at 8:24 AM, Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: ” A year ago, in April 2017, while following Black > Bear tracks in New Hampshire, I had the good fortune to encounter the bears > themselves. Because Black Bears have started coming out of hibernation > (April is when most do so) I felt it was timely to share ” >

    March 26, 2018 at 8:42 pm

  39. Susan

    Thought you might find this interesting per our discussion earlier today! Let’s hope we don’t have a “baby sitter tree” in our back yards !! Susan


    March 26, 2018 at 8:45 pm

  40. Susan

    Oh,wow! Such a very special experience. I didn’t know about babysitter trees, though I have seen a sow send her cubs up my apple trees for awhile. Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to hearing more.

    March 26, 2018 at 9:25 pm

  41. Dorian

    Wowee! Thanks so much for sharing this amazing picture!

    March 27, 2018 at 11:05 am

  42. Kat Coriell

    Hi Mary, Great photo! Must have been a tight den that winter with four big bears!

    I’m wondering if you know about the Wildlife Research Center in Ely, Minnesota? Its run by wildlife biologist Lynn Rogers, who’s been studying black bears for, I think, 50 years. He’s done some incredible studies where he conditions wild bears to accept his presence, and he can then put radio collars on them, take their heart rate, and observe them without having to sedate them. He’s also put den cams in place and filmed cubs being born and cared for over the winter.

    He’s broken a lot of myths about the nature of bears, convincing me that black bears are not savage predators out to kill us, but are shy and will do everything in their power to avoid a confrontation with people. I’ve gone from being nervous about seeing a bear in the wilds of Maine, to hoping that I get a glimpse of one some day in Baxter State Park!

    Love your newsletter, thanks for all you do! Kat Coriell Maine

    March 27, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    • Hi Kat, Yes, I’m familiar with Lynn Rogers’ work – and there is also a bear biologist, Ben Kilham, in New Hampshire, who raises orphaned cubs and collars some of them, who he’s been ob serving for many years. Have to love these patient men!

      March 28, 2018 at 9:26 am

  43. Incredible encounter, Mary! Beautiful photo!

    March 30, 2018 at 5:41 am

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