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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The 2nd Fur and Feathers Journals, Ch. 7 : In which we mind our bear manners and reap the results, Part Two

Part Two 
In which we mind our bear manners and reap the results

Coastal brown bear sow with two cubs has cut me off from the safety of my group and is walking towards me.  

I back up against a Piper Super Cub tied down in the yard.  I am using more bear manners—don’t impede a bear’s progress, and make yourself look large (up against the airplane).   I am also fervently hoping they work.   Equally as fervently, I am hoping this young sow with her cubs up a nearby tree subscribes to the detente between humans and bears.

The sow stops to inspects a recently-repaired, i.e. bear-damaged, septic system inspection cap.  This gives me the opportunity to slip under the plane's engine and at least put a flimsy fabric-covered airplane between us.

I know it's out of focus but I include it because I think it's hilarious that she stepped on it after inspecting it.  Somehow, I knew she was going to do that.

In a final statement of authority, she puts one front paw on the cap as if proclaiming this her territory.  

Then she walks right past me and the airplanes.

She  circles those strange contraptions that haul humans around.  One of our group, stuck in the cabin, photographs from a partially-opened door.

The two cabins aren't as close together as they seem to be in this photo.

By this time, the cubs are out of the tree and join her, latching onto her nipples if they can.   I think she is a small bear and this might be her first litter.

That's a raincoat over the camera in the doorway.

Rick brings the group closer to the airplanes and I join them.    The sow walks over to a spot in front of us, perhaps thirty feet away, and sits down to nurse her cubs.

I am gobsmacked, flabbergasted, and dumb-founded, but I don’t forget to press the shutter button numerous times.

This is when a sow and her cubs are the most vulnerable, should a nearby boar rush in to kill the cubs.

As I watch this idyllic scene, I wonder why she chose this particular spot, a spot inhabited by humans all summer, with those humans now lined up making those clicking noises.

Note the milk on the muzzle of the cub behind her.

Is she thanking us for minding her cubs?

I am well aware that these are wild animals, fully capable of wreaking major disasters on humans should they feel it necessary.   The National Park service has set down regulations for bear-viewing, allowing only a certain number to be "on" a bear at a time, no ATVs operating between 10 P.M. and  6 A.M., and so on.  In addition, the lodges encourage people to stay out of the adjacent forest, which leaves the bears with a refuge.  

For their part, the bears have the run of the area, free to chew on garden hoses (unless they're seen doing it), take bites out of the foam cushions on the ATVs (unless they're caught doing it), crunch up a septic system inspection cap (darned if I was going to say anything), and so on.  Last summer I watched a bear walk into a shop building, look around, and walk out, totally ignoring the people with cameras.

But something seems to be going on out there.   The sows seem to be unusually trusting of humans, just exactly the opposite of what I’ve grown up believing about bears.   I’m certain a bear who feels her cubs are threatened by people would protect them by any means necessary, and yet, it’s really quite an experience to have a sow wander around the yard of where you’re staying, walk past people, then sit down near you and nurse her cubs.

Later, I ask Rick about my hunch.   “Was she using us as a means to protect her cubs, by running them up a tree right in the yard and nursing them in full view of us?   Using us as baby-sitters?”

Rick verifies my thinking and tells me he has seen a sow with cubs place the ATV pulling the trailers between her and a boar.

Yes, it's a repeat.    I just thought you'd enjoy this precious moment again.


Our cabin is at left,  the cubs were in the spruce tree in center, the sow was in the field just beyond the spruce, iIck and the group were beyond the airplanes and across from the spruce, I was huddled up to one of the airplanes when she came back into the yard.  After making her inspection walk around the yard, she sat down near the spruce to nurse her cubs, while we observed about thirty feet  or more, close to the planes.

1 comment:

  1. Unbelievable pictures ... you left off the last post holding your breath and I had been holding mine since in anticipation of this continuation ... well worth the wait! All of the pictures with the sow and her cubs nursing are especially priceless, but the repeat one and the one of the sow laying all the way back, with her eyes closed, and touching noses with one of the cubs were especially moving. You lead a charmed life to experience this Jeanne! Hugs! Patti and Cap