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DNR studies state's bear population

BiologyMaryland Zoo Baltimore

Biologists from Maryland's Department of Natural Resources got to hold some cute bear cubs Monday.

But it was more than just an opportunity to see the state's wildlife up close. DNR's Wildlife and Heritage Service used the winter check-up to "keep an eye on the size and health of Maryland's bruin population," said DNR spokeswoman Candus Thomson.

Staff ventured into the woods Monday, while sows and bears were still located in their dens, Thomson said. The exercise allowed biologists "to change the batteries in radio collars worn by some sows and tag the new cubs with microchips, so they can be scanned in subsequent years without disturbing their hibernation."

State veterinarian Dr. Cindy Driscoll and a team from the Maryland Zoo performed check-ups on the sows. The medical detail treated minor medical issues, like cuts, and performed blood work, while the sows were tranquilized, Thomson said.

Cubs were weighed, and their gender documented, before being dabbed on the head with Vicks VapoRub to mask human scent and returned to the den, Thomson said.

In Western Maryland's most recent black bear population survey, conducted in 2011, DNR found an estimated 701 adult and sub-adult bears, according to the DNR website.

While bears are more frequently found in the state's western counties, a bear was reportedly sighted in Fallston earlier this month.

sjwelsh@baltsun.com

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