A mama bear who was frightened away by the sound of farm equipment has afforded Carolinians a rare glimpse of weeks-old black bear cubs while still in their nest.
Three photos posted on Facebook Sunday show two cubs snoozing on a bed of corn stalks, and they appear to be only 3 to 4 weeks old. In North Carolina, black bears are born in the dead of winter – January or February – and weigh less than a pound. They don’t stray from their nest (or den) until they reach 4 to 6 pounds, experts say.
The photos, posted by the N.C. Black Bear Festival, have received more than 1,000 reactions on social media. Some commenters on Facebook were worried about the cubs’ fate, noting their vulnerability to the cold and coyotes.
“I can not see a mother bear leaving her cubs for anyone,” posted Marti Brinson of Windsor.
“So precious,” posted Brenda Overbaugh-Hummell of Virginia Beach, Va. “I just want to hold them. I know I can’t, but I want to.”
“This is what I want for Valentine’s Day,” wrote Kristin Thompson of Merry Hill.
The images were captured last week by an Eastern North Carolina man who was driving a piece of farm equipment when he spotted a big grass nest, reported the bear festival’s Facebook post.
“In the depression on top of the nest were two newborn bear cubs,” said the bear festival’s post. “Evidently, the sound of the equipment scared away the sow bear. … He never saw her. … He took a couple of photos and immediately left without disturbing the newborn cubs.”
It was believed the mother bear was nearby.
In North Carolina, black bears number about 20,000 and can get up to 700 pounds. They are largely found in the far eastern and far western counties of the state. However, a growing number have been seen near Charlotte area, including one that was struck by a vehicle last summer on Interstate 485 around the city.
It’s commonly believed that black bears raise their young in dens. However, coastal Carolina bears do things differently, noted the N.C. Black Bear Festival.
“On the North Carolina coastal plain, where the land is so low and the water table high, digging a den often is not a option … so bears have to improvise,” reported the festival. “In this case, the sow appears to have either built a grass nest above the damp swampy area or made it on top of a muskrat’s grass house. … The sow uses her body as a cap on the den, to keep it warm and dry for the cubs, while she remains totally visible and exposed to the weather. It is another example of the sacrifices mothers make for their children.”
A similar photo was reportedly taken late last month in Richie County, W.V., showing two cubs lying on a bed of pine needles and leaves.