Bear captures, sedation and moving quickly

Captures are the most interesting part of this job, and the best opportunity to improve wildlife field skills. We have done a few captures in the last two weeks. I was involved with two of them, Yellow 70 and Orange 66.

Yellow 70 was a 7-year old male bear that we put a radio collar on. And we finally captured bear 3565. This bear is an 8-year old male who dropped his radio collar over the winter. We needed to capture him and put a new radio collar on because he has been coming in to developed areas and people have been getting quite close to him. This bear has a special place in our hearts because he is so beautiful and has been exhibiting such good bear behavior this season.

On the night of the 11th, Orange 66 walked in to a trap and forever changed the course of his life. The previous statement is a bit dramatic. The only change he was to experience was a radio collar around his neck, and a new tag number. I transported the trap back to the office and we soon began the work-up. The first step is to guess the weight of the bear and everyone has a fun time seeing who can get the closest. This time it was Jon who guessed 253lb. The bear ended up weighing 250lb. He looked strong and healthy as we pulled him out of the trap.

During a bear work-up, the crew has to move efficiently and quietly because we are working with a sedated bear. Loud noises and stimulation can disturb the bear’s sedation. My main job was to take a blood sample, and take vitals. Just like a human, a bear must stay within a range of vital signs during sedation. I took heart rate, breath rate, and temperature every five minutes. I had a lot of trouble finding this bear’s heart rate at first, which was frustrating as heart rate is very important to monitor.

We put a new collar on and gave the bear a new tag number, as his old Orange 66 tag had also been mangled. We checked his ankle for damage, as we suspect the bear was hit by a car. His ankle was slightly injured but my supervisors think he will heal just fine.

This work-up had an exciting twist towards the end. It had been 45 minutes since the bear was given a sedative, a mixture of dissociative and depressant drugs. We were doing some final tasks and had taken off the bear’s mask, which is designed to minimize any sunlight stimulation. All of a sudden, Orange 36 (his new tag) opened his eyes and rolled all four legs into the air. He started making eye contact with us and looked extremely confused. To my untrained eye, it looked like the bear had come out of sedation completely.

Ryan jumped into action and the crew immediately put the bear on the litter and back in to the trap. I was told rare it is rare for a bear to wake up that quickly, but the bear was still dissociated from his body, and was not capable of making coordinated movements.

Since the workup, Orange 36 has been doing great. He was trapped again and released on site a few days later. We have also seen him eating plenty of apples and climbing trees. He seems to be afraid of people and has not been getting human food. His limp seems to be getting a lot better as well.