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Reproduction - Mating and Pregnancy


The bears’ mating season lasts from May until July. A male can sense a sow in heat from a long distance and can follow her around for a whole week, chasing all competing males away in the process, to make sure than he and no one else will be the father. Scuffles between ‘amorous’ males are won by brains rather than brawn; it is not the larger and stronger but the more agile and cunning male that usually gains the upper hand.

Preceded by a lot of sniffing and frolicking, copulation itself lasts between a few seconds and three minutes. During the time (about a week) spent together, the couple copulate up to 16 times a day, thus stimulating ovulation and the fertilization of the egg. A zygote starts developing only in November, when it becomes an embryo. Thus, the actual pregnancy only lasts for about 60 days.

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The seemingly clumsy brown bear is not just incredibly fast and agile; it is also capable of the most loving care for its cubs. Bear sows usually give birth once every three years, in January or February, to between one and four cubs, which come into this world totally blind, helpless and with the size of a squirrel (300 to 500 grams in weight). Most simply don’t make it. The mother nurses them until they are 4-5 months-old. Then she must start looking for food for herself while guarding and training her offspring. In the first months after leaving the den, the young cubs never stray from their mother. The sow is caring yet very strict with them, lest they fall easy prey to wandering males, other predators or humans. This is why female bears are so fierce and dangerous in an accidental encounter during that period.

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