Okefenokee – Standing Up to Bears

Science Diaries: Okefenokee – Standing Up to Bears

Music; Ambience: alligator hissing

Campbell: “She was successful in keeping the bears out of this nest. We came out here one day when she was guarding it, and there was a bear pacing around about 100 yards out that way.”

Well, you hear nests, and you think birds, right? And surely a robin or a chickadee is no match for a bear. So what kind of mom is standing up to a giant nest raider? Stay tuned; and welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Chip Campbell is a naturalist at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and he joins us on a rainy day.

“This is an old alligator nest. She built that about four years ago now, so that’s the remains of it. It was a good bit higher when she built it.”

An alligator uses vegetation to build nests which can stand four feet high, protecting the 30 or so eggs that she deposits there. Alligators hiss when threatened, and it sounds like this.

[alligator hiss]

CC: “The alligator that built that is a large female, about nine feet long, which is about as big as female alligators get. The bears destroy 65 to 70 percent of these alligator nests every summer, so they are a major control on the reproductive success of our alligators, which speaks to the fact that Okefenokee really is a functionally intact ecosystem. We have those top order consumers in great enough numbers to actually make a difference. People tend to think of bears as a creature of mountains, but bears actually thrive in some of these big southern swamps, and there’s-there’s a lot of food for them and once you get outside the Southern Appalachian Mountains, our remaining strongholds of Black Bear in the Eastern U.S. are in these big swamps.”

[alligator hiss]

Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation.

Okefenokee - Standing Up to Bears

What hisses at bears to defend its nest eggs? Hint: it's bigger than a robin.
Air Date:07/01/2015
Scientist:
Transcript:

Science Diaries: Okefenokee - Standing Up to Bears

Music; Ambience: alligator hissing

Campbell: "She was successful in keeping the bears out of this nest. We came out here one day when she was guarding it, and there was a bear pacing around about 100 yards out that way."

Well, you hear nests, and you think birds, right? And surely a robin or a chickadee is no match for a bear. So what kind of mom is standing up to a giant nest raider? Stay tuned; and welcome to Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Chip Campbell is a naturalist at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and he joins us on a rainy day.

"This is an old alligator nest. She built that about four years ago now, so that's the remains of it. It was a good bit higher when she built it."

An alligator uses vegetation to build nests which can stand four feet high, protecting the 30 or so eggs that she deposits there. Alligators hiss when threatened, and it sounds like this.

[alligator hiss]

CC: "The alligator that built that is a large female, about nine feet long, which is about as big as female alligators get. The bears destroy 65 to 70 percent of these alligator nests every summer, so they are a major control on the reproductive success of our alligators, which speaks to the fact that Okefenokee really is a functionally intact ecosystem. We have those top order consumers in great enough numbers to actually make a difference. People tend to think of bears as a creature of mountains, but bears actually thrive in some of these big southern swamps, and there's-there's a lot of food for them and once you get outside the Southern Appalachian Mountains, our remaining strongholds of Black Bear in the Eastern U.S. are in these big swamps."

[alligator hiss]

Pulse of the Planet's Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation.