Little, But Less So

Two black bear cubs walk single-file up a hillside

Two black bear cubs follow their mother (she’s just out of frame to the right) up a hill in Yellowstone National Park in October 2006. She was very protective of these two, when another adult bear came wandering by she sent them scurrying up a tree without waiting to see if the other bear meant trouble (it didn’t). The cubs were still quite small compared to an adult but were much heavier than they would have been in the spring, a necessity for the winter that arrives early in Yellowstone.

Taking Advantage

A black bear cub high in a tree eating pine cones at Yellowstone National Park on a rainy fall day in October 2006

In a world where might makes right being small wouldn’t seem to have any benefits. Indeed whenever the mother of this cub and its sibling sensed danger from another adult bear in the area, she’d send the little ones scurrying up into the trees. When it came time to feed however this little cub discovered its small size gave it an advantage. The larger bears couldn’t climb into the thin branches at the top of the tree so this part still had plenty of pine cones, ripe for the picking for the adventurous cub. Like a kid in a candy store, there were more cones at the treetop than the cub could possibly eat but it stayed for quite some time, feasting on the treasure it discovered.