Yesterday, I saw a sow with two yearlings who we’ve probably never seen before (and certainly haven’t captured before–they were untagged). While they may not realize it yet, the time these yearlings have with their mother is short, and they will find themselves on their own probably in about a month. This seemed like a close-knit family–the yearlings were staying very close to their mother. What will they think when she abandons them (so she can mate again)?

The same day, I read that an already-abandoned yearling in Great Smoky Mountains National Park bit a visitor who allowed the bear to approach him for a photograph. The visitor received a minor wound not requiring medical attention, a cool story, and probably some nice photographs. The 60-pound yearling received an early end to her life.

I’ve noticed over the years that yearlings–the teenagers of the bear world–behave rather similarly to teenagers of the human world: they think they’re invincible. I’ve noticed how they seem to have little fear of people and frequently approach people or allow people to approach them. Oddly, this is something they wouldn’t have tolerated while with their mother–and (if they make it past their yearling phase) is something they tolerate a lot less when they’re older.

So, the question is: how will these yearlings fare? It depends on us respecting these bears from a distance, lest they meet the fate of the Smokies yearling.

Sow and yearlings

Sow and yearlings in Yosemite Valley

(You can read the Great Smoky Mountains story at the website of the Asheville Citizen-Times.)

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