"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Fur and Feathers Journals, Ch. 8, In Which It's Hard Out There for a Bear, Part Two

NOTE:   I have temporarily modified the template for this blog to enable full screen photos.   It makes the text harder to read because you might have to scroll back and forth.   Hey, it's worth it though, right?   Hopefully the larger photos will put you right there with the bears.   Remember, stay together and don't make any sudden movements!   It will take longer for the photos to load, so go do some chores and then come back.


A lone cub in her second season runs from the meadow towards the beach at the mouth of the creek.  She is no doubt searching for food.   

She wades into the water and sits on her rump, just as she had seen her mother do.   But, she lacks the knowledge and technique of her mother and no fish miraculously appear.

On the near creek bank, she digs for clams,  finding only empty shells.

Suddenly, she senses another bear in the vicinity and heads for the beach vegetation behind us.  

There is much display of concern, an excess of caution, with both bears.   They often stand to get a better view, though they have notoriously poor eyesight.   Each is ready to flee.

Yes, slightly out of focus, but too informative to delete.

There’s a tentative meeting at the creek…..

An approach.

A recognition and...


Note the difference in facial features.   This is Rick's explanation:  Normally males have a longer face and the females a much rounder face.   Face length is an indicator but not always valid, as in this case where both cubs are female.  The lighter-faced cub already has shed and its new coat is longer which often makes the face look rounder.   The darker cub is still shedding and the new coat is shorter, revealing more bone structure.

What a playground!

These two are called The Orphans, though they are not true orphans nor are they siblings.   Their mothers are alive but kicked these cubs out earlier this summer. 

Cubs usually stay with their mothers until their third summer.   After that, she runs them off to fend for themselves.   All sibling relationships are soon forgotten and the young bears begin a solitary life, avoiding other bears, especially boars,  for their own safety.

For now, they have teamed up for companionship and a false sense of safety.   A third cub, a male and literally orphaned when his mother Pavlov was killed in what must have been an epic battle, used to hang out with these two, but has moved farther south to Shelter Creek.

Occasionally these two become separated for a few days, then find each other again.   That is what has happened as we watch.  

They play fight for a long time, pausing only for a second or two.   It is quite special to watch, yet common sense--and Rick--say there is little chance these females will still be alive next summer.   It's a sobering thought as we watch the exuberant joy of these two cubs.

They should still be nursing, still be under the protection of their mothers, still relying on their mother to catch fish for them, still learning how to be self-reliant bears.   Instead, they find food where they can, perhaps the sedge grasses, perhaps berries or rodents in the forest.   They should be fattening up for their long hibernation, yet it's obvious that under all that shedding fur, they are lean and unprepared.

Instead, it’s all fun and games on the beach as winter approaches and one can’t help but think of the Aesop's fable about the busy little ants working to provide for winter while the grasshopper fiddles.

Eventually, we return to the lodge where we dine on fresh salmon.    

A beautiful salad with fresh greens from the lodge's garden.

Oops.   I forgot to take a photo.

So, I ask the man at the next table --shown below at right in patterned shirt--if I could take a photo of his plate.

There will be no salmon tonight for The Orphans.


  1. I kept thinking these two might be siblings ... but then you answered that they are not. It is sad to think that they likely will not live to see next year this time. Again, I speculated that perhaps you meant they would be killed and eaten by an adult male bear, then you said they are just unable to know enough to fatten up, and cannot, because they do not have the fishing skills that their mother would normally teach them. Of course, they could still be killed by an adult male. Stunning photos ... very, very special to be able to watch them "play" with one another in your post. Thanks for this special day on the beach with these two young ones. Smiles and gratitude ... Patti and Cap (Cap in Mongolia)

  2. It surely is sad to realize how short these beautiful bears' 'lives may be. So fun see them having a playful time.

  3. It surely is sad to realize how short these beautiful bears' 'lives may be. So fun see them having a playful time.

  4. It makes me wonder why .. IF hungry enough .. they would NOT attack humans so close to them preferring to play games with each other. I think YOU can have this close contact with the bears. I will enjoy your photos and comments. Quite safely away from being their dinner or even one of their playthings. Mothers with poor mothering techniques. They would easy pickings for an adult male for sure. With so much salmon no doubt they are safer than if the males were hungry. The bears will soon begin to den for the winter I imagine. Safely far away .. Cap and Patti too ..