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Cubs highlight black bear census

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>A male bear cub is kept warm while officials check out mom

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    A male bear cub is kept warm while officials check out mom Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA.  The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA. The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA.  The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA. The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA.  The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA. The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>A male bear cub is kept warm while officials check out mom
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA.  The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA.  The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick holds two male bear cubs that were being checked out and weighed by Mass Division of Fisheries and Wildlife on Monday morning in Conway, MA.  The 175 pound mother was sedated and examined before the all three were returned to their den.

— Gov. Deval Patrick was late for his early Monday morning appointment — the annual black bear census. But when he finally arrived, two 4-week-old cubs were waiting for him, in the arms of news reporters and wildlife officials, on a narrow dirt road in the woods.

“Curbside service this year?” asked Patrick, as he quickly opened the top of his jacket, tucked the shivering cubs inside and stood before a dozen snapping cameras.

“What’s that they say about politicians and babies?” he joked. “And now bear cubs.” Around the bend of the dirt road, near a frozen pond, the 175-pound mother bear lay sedated, so that she and the cubs could be weighed and physically examined, as part of the state’s annual bear count.

Upon learning that the momma bear had been “sleeping” for about 45 minutes, Patrick and the snuggling cubs led the party down an icy slope toward the den.

After the bears were weighed and examined, the mother bear, estimated to be about 5 years old, was moved back to the den, about 10 feet from where she lay. Her cubs — two males, each weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces — were tucked in around her. Fisheries and Wildlife workers piled pine boughs around the brush pile bear den, for added warmth. They said the cubs were able to nurse while the mother slept off the sedative. Also, they said, bears do not “reject” their cubs after they are handled by humans.

This particular mother bear was one of 16 or 17 female bears across the state to wear radio collars, so that their activities, offspring and migration can be monitored, said Tom O’Shea, assistant director of Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “We’re trying to understand how they use this landscape.” O’Shea said the bear population seems to be expanding eastward, into the Worcester area. “There are at least 4,000 bears in the state, and they’re moving eastward, into areas they would have occupied many years ago,” he said.

When the bear count began in 1970, there were about 100 black bears in the state, according to wildlife biologist James E. Cardoza. He said the state’s field work research on “cub production and survival” began in 1980, when the first bears were collared.

Bear cubs are born around Feb. 1, and the monitoring is most easily done while the hybernating bears are in the den.

O’Shea told the bystanders: “You will see people holding the bear cubs to keep them warm. They’ll remain in that den for at least a few weeks. And then they’ll start scouting for food.”

In late February 2009, Patrick accompanied state wildlife officials to a bear den in Whately, where the officials held and checked on three cubs.

Patrick told the audience on Monday that his first experience was “magical.”

“They’re about the size of big lab puppies,” he said. “I imagine this was the first time they’re seeing the sun and wind, and of course, people.” “People are going to see that bear cubs look a lot like teddy bears,” Patrick told a TV reporter. “Kudos to the DFW for such great stewardship.”

Richard K. Sullivan Jr., secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, got his first chance to hold a bear cub on Monday. He said he had come out to join previous bear counts, but the bears had already left the den the last two years.

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