AUGUSTA — The final contest in the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Keeper of the Maine Outdoors Experience series will bring the winner on a black bear den visit with wildlife biologists, according to a news release from the department.

Every winter, MDIFW biologists visit more than 75 dens of female black bears. These visits are part of the country’s longest run bear study that monitors the health of the bear population by checking on adult bears and their cubs. The visits let the department know how many cubs are born, and how many cubs survive until a year old. Some female cubs are fitted with a tracking collar, bears are weighed, and blood samples are taken for testing.

The contest winner and a friend will join a team of biologists in the field to locate a radio-collared bear at its winter den, and observe as the biologists immobilize the bear and collect important biological data from the bear. This is an opportunity for a first-hand look at the work of a wildlife biologist in the field, and a chance to learn more about wildlife management in Maine.

The department will select the contest winner from entries completed online at Entrants must be 18 years old to be eligible for the contest, and the Bear Den Experience entry deadline is noon Wednesday, Feb. 19.

MDIFW began the Keeper of the Maine Outdoors Experience series last spring to give the public the opportunity for a day-in-the-life experience with a biologist or game warden to learn how they protect Maine wildlife or serve in the Maine outdoors.

Maine is home to more than 35,000 black bears, the largest species population among the lower 48 states. Bears live throughout the state but the majority of the population resides primarily in northern and eastern Maine and can survive 30 years in the wild. The program began in 1975 and plays an important part in the department’s mission to have a stabilized bear population.

The department preserves, protects, and enhances the inland fisheries and wildlife resources of Maine. Established in 1880 to protect big game populations, the department has since evolved in scope to include protection and management of fish, non-game wildlife, and habitats, as well as restoration of endangered species like the bald eagle.

In addition to its conservation duties, the department is also responsible for enabling and promoting the safe enjoyment of Maine’s outdoors — from whitewater rafting to boating, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and wildlife observation.

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