COURTESY OF TSALANI LASSITER
Rae Wynn-Grant trudges through the woods. It’s the middle of winter, and snow covers the ground. She spots a hole in the forest floor: a bear’s den. Inside, a mother bear is hibernating. She’ll remain in a deep sleep until spring. Her cubs, though, are awake and cuddled next to her. Wynn-Grant is here to check up on the animals.
Wynn-Grant quietly crawls into the den and quickly injects the mama bear with medicine to keep her asleep. Then the scientist eases the wiggly cubs out of the hole. She measures their height, weight, and fur thickness and listens to their heartbeats. It’s cold outside the den, so she tucks the cubs into her parka, using her body heat to keep them warm.
Wynn-Grant is a carnivore ecologist who studies large meat-eating animals. She currently focuses on grizzly bears and black bears in the U.S. and is researching how human activity affects them. Wynn-Grant has done similar research on lions in the African countries of Kenya and Tanzania. She spoke with Science World about what it’s like to work with these amazing creatures.