On Sunday, wildlife biologist Randy Cross invited me to tag along on an impromptu visit to a bear den in Orono.
Inside a hollow tree, we found four bears — three hefty yearling cubs and their mother — which had decided to camp out for the winter within 50 yards or so of a landowner’s front door.
One of those yearlings, a 97-pound male, was the largest Cross had documented in more than 30 years researching bears for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
On Tuesday, I received an interesting email from another Orono man, who passed along some more bear photos from his trail camera. The photos were taken in August, and that man, Tim McCluskey, thought the bears that visited his bear bait might be the same ones that are camping out just off Stillwater Avenue this winter.
Here’s what McCluskey had to say:
“Great article on the family of bears found behind Mr. Melanson’s home on Stillwater,” McCluskey wrote. “I thought you might find it interesting to see some of the bear-hunting photos my daughter and I obtained when hunting behind our house in Orono (on Essex Street, a little less than seven miles away from Mr. Melanson’s house).
“That same family came into our bait one day (and only that one day; I had many others come more frequently),” he wrote. “Here are some photos of mom and the three cubs during the baiting season.
“Note the one of mom climbing the tree, the one of mom helping another cub get into the bait, and that one photo of all four in the same photo. We love our game camera!”
McCluskey is among those hunters (add me to the club) who enjoys setting up trail cameras and discovering what kinds of visitors have been stopping by. And although bear season wasn’t a complete success, he’s not complaining.
“Though my daughter Molly, age 12, didn’t shoot a bear this year (she actually had a nice boar in her scope on two different days, but it didn’t provide a good shot for her to take),” McCluskey wrote. “She loved the experience and we both loved checking our game camera every few days. We obtained some calendar-worthy pics of some other bears!”