Local News Spotlight

Video camera captures a bear’s perspective

Updated: 2012-12-01T06:04:57Z

By LEE HILL KAVANAUGH

The Kansas City Star

Maybe if they had put out a forest fire.

Or stolen a picnic basket.

But these new stars of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s contributions to the world of YouTube just can’t compete with the surprised kitty or the escaping beagle.

Bear Cam, attached to the bear, barely shows a bruin.

Thinking outside the box, er, trap, the biologists tagging some of the states’ growing bear population attached a GoPro mini-camera to the animals’ radio collars.

For three minutes, viewers can see the world as a black bear does after coming out of sedation. Loping through a stream. Stepping through vines. Pausing on rocks, its tongue tasting the air, deciding finally to take some laps of water.

But only a total bear enthusiast would find this exciting.

Enter Jeff Beringer, a furbearer scientist conducting the Missouri Black Bear Project.

“I love the detail. I mean, what do they do all day?” he said. “Now, this isn’t very scientific. We’re short on batteries, short on video. But I think it’s fascinating. You can see (the bear) make decisions, like ‘Do I turn left or right?’ There’s definitely some emotions there.”

Emotions. Sure, Jeff.

Maybe you should come in out of the woods a little more often.

The collars, equipped with a GPS locator for retrieval, are programmed to pop off after a time. Seconds into one of the clips, this happens, startling the bear. Once at a safe distance, he turns and charges the camera lying on the ground. Or at least gives it a few licks.

“Maybe he was taking revenge for us poking him with a needle and attaching all that stuff to him,” said Beringer, who has done just that to 108 of the creatures now, collecting DNA samples. The wanderings of some are tracked on the agency’s website too.

“I love seeing them. Bears represent the wildness of Missouri. If we can figure out how to make the videos last longer, maybe we could capture what they do for a month. And that would be amazing.”

We can bear-ly wait.

To reach Lee Hill Kavanaugh, call 816-234-4420 or send email to lkavanaugh@kcstar.com.

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