It’s time to get back to work.
For almost two weeks, tens of thousands of people from across the world tuned into Glacier National Park’s streaming bear cam to watch a sleepy black bear, high in a cottonwood tree den, trying to wake up after his long winter’s nap.
On Friday, the park turned off the web cam after the bear became more active, leaving his den and moving around long enough that some squirrels came in to check it out.
“We’re giving the bear a little more space now that he’s out and about,” Lauren Alley, a spokesperson for the park, said on Monday. “There weren’t any bear sightings over the weekend, so we think he may have moved on to his spring and summer business.”
The announcement was met with joy and sadness on Glacier’s Facebook page, with posts noting how much people enjoyed watching the bear and would miss him.
It wasn’t unusual for the bear — experts believe it was a male — to toss and turn, his two little brown ears popping up one moment, the next stretching a paw from the den.
He sat at times with his head lolling about in the den’s opening, with a look on his face that many anthropomorphized as being bored with winter and wanting the snow to stop. He also stuck his backside out of the den to answer the age-old question of what a bear does in the woods.
In recent days, the bear was climbing out of the den into the upper branches of the cottonwood, breaking off small limbs to drag back into his den for a midday snack.
The YouTube video was viewed 225,000 times, according to Alley. On April 4 at its peak, 60,595 people from around the world tuned into the bear cam.
Nicole Cooper of Chicago noted on a Facebook post that her entire office “loved checking in on the sleepy bear” and Michelle Gardiner in London posted her thanks, noting that the felt as though she woke up with him.
First-grade teacher Gail Stone-Scroggins said her students were enthralled.
“Thank you so much for sharing,” Stone-Scroggins wrote on Facebook. “My first graders loved watching ‘their’ Glacier bear. It was such a great educational opportunity. We have written stories about the bear and researched hibernation.”
Alley noted that the bear cam was a good opportunity for people to see not just the exciting moments, but also the quiet times as the bear lethargically took its time to rise out of a state of torpor. Bears aren’t true hibernators; instead, they go into torpor, which is an extended period of resting with decreased physiological activity.
Despite some Facebook posts accusing people of disturbing the bear, Alley said they didn’t know of anyone getting near its den. However, activity is increasing in the park, so they wanted to give the bear more privacy.
“We always want to make sure the wildlife have as little stress as possible,” Alley said. “We didn’t want to have that location readily identified.”
Alley added that this is a good reminder that bears are out, and people should put away their bird feeders and other bear attractants. They also need to break out the bear spray when recreating in bear country.
“There are so many opportunities to view wildlife throughout the park this summer,” Alley added. “Most people do a good job staying away from the wildlife and give them space to do their own thing.”
Stacy Courville, a bear biologist for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, said in a press release that bears also are emerging on the Flathead Reservation. He noted that interactions between bears and domestic chickens, pigs, goats and sheep have been a particularly serious problem in the past few years. Three family groups of grizzly bears were sent to zoos; in two of the families, the adult female grizzly was killed.
Courville encourages anyone with small livestock or chickens to erect an electric fence, which should protect livestock and prevent bear conflicts.
For those not able to visit Glacier, the park has 12 other stragically placed webcams. And for those who yearn for more wildlife cams, Glacier notes that the Channel Islands National Park off the California coast has webcams streaming nesting raptors, Yellowstone's Old Faithful Geyser is online, and the world-famous webcams at Katmai National Park in Alaska will be live in June when their bears awake.