Is a Fed Bear, Really a Dead Bear?

My father would be the first to say that the birds of Britain’s parks are far too brave, with his hindquarters having been on the receiving end of an ill-mannered goose’s bill in a Sheffield park. My mother, helpful as always, was streaming with tears as she attempted in vain to prevent her sides from splitting. Completely oblivious to the situation, the scene unfolded behind me as I was awoken in my stroller by squawking from goose and father alike. Too young to remember? Possibly, but that hasn’t prevented the story falling into family folklore. Continue reading “Is a Fed Bear, Really a Dead Bear?”

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Not Out of the Woods Yet

Tired of smelling like sulphur, being covered in bear slobber and just generally seeing a tree every time I opened my eyes, I had decided I would make my way down to civilisation for the day and visit the harbour city of Duluth, on the shores of Lake Superior to the South. Turning right out of the driveway, I realised how foolish I had been to believe that Superior National Forest would relinquish its grip on me so easily. I was greeted by gale force winds and rains that would not have been out of place during monsoon season in Bangladesh. I turned the radio up to full volume, so I couldn’t hear the rain on the roof of the rusting truck; I prayed the windscreen wipers would continue their valiant fight against the elements (a fight, I should add, that they were losing pitifully) and crawled my way through the mist. Continue reading “Not Out of the Woods Yet”

We’re Going On a Bear Hunt

As I opened the door to step out onto the deck, I was greeted by noise of three enormous, male bears gently chewing on three, enormous piles of in-shell peanuts. Wild and captive bears alike are in the depths of hyperphagia, whereby they transform into bottomless pits and eat constantly as they attempt to pile on the pounds for hibernation. My deck-bound friends were no different; each must have weighed more than 600 pounds and stretched over 6 feet from nose to tail. There was no aggression, just the odd, quizzical glance as we walked between them. The bears were perfectly at ease, more concerned with the food at their feet and the prospect of theft than the tall, two-legged beings making their way to the other side of the deck. As the sun streamed through the white pines and across the lake, the precious scene of man and nature coexisting in perfect harmony resembled some strange take on the Garden of Eden. The bears were blissfully unaware of the challenging weeks that lay ahead for them, weeks that are arguably the most difficult of a Black Bear’s year in the Northwoods. Continue reading “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt”

Trouble in Paradise: Worming Along the Angleworm

Even in the dull grey of late summer, the Northwoods were still beautiful. For two weeks, it had threatened but failed to rain in the Ely area; the gathering clouds and smoke from Canadian wild fires further North had ensured my first visit to the Boundary Waters (BWCA) was set to be played out under ominous skies. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, to give them their full name, are a series of interconnected lakes and rivers to which Ely acts as a gateway. People from across the USA and the world come specifically to paddle, camp and fish in these waters. They had certainly come a long way in my mind since I had been forced to ask a fellow passenger on my flight from Chicago what they were. Continue reading “Trouble in Paradise: Worming Along the Angleworm”

Bears Just Wanna Have Fun

“Black Bears are incredibly intelligent animals”. I say it every day; my theory is that if people go away from the Centre with a new-found respect for Black Bears and their intelligence, they are more likely to want to coexist peacefully with them too. I hammer home the point on every tour by reminding people that with their long term and spatial memories, Black Bears have a cognitive map of their home ranges which allows them to pinpoint berry bushes and return to them year after year. They use a gap behind their lower canines to strip branches while foraging; stripping the bush keeps it alive and, at least in my mind, represents this incredible species making a conscious decision to conserve and exploit its resources sustainably to ensure adequate food supplies every year. Whether these decisions are in fact conscious for bears and not just the products of thousands of years of natural selection which has ‘ingrained’ the best course of action, is a topic of debate for many behavioural ecologists. However, when Lucky is at the base of a tree weighing up whether the food in the feeder above is worth getting his 472-pound bulk to shimmy up a trunk, it certainly looks like he has the most profitable outcome in mind.
Continue reading “Bears Just Wanna Have Fun”

Wild Moose Chase: A Voyage to Voyageurs

The same tours, the same questions, setting the same alarm – I could feel myself falling into a Bear Centre bubble. It’s the same bubble that anyone with the same daily routine runs the risk of falling into. I only had the one day off, but was desperate to escape the familiar. I had decided to head north on Minnesota Highway 53 towards the Canadian Border and Voyageurs National Park. National Parks have always had a special place in my heart, drawing up childhood memories of early starts in Argentina to head to a new pristine wilderness. Argentina’s extreme diversity of environments cry out for protection from National Parks and, perhaps surprisingly, are remarkably well organised. The UK’s National Parks don’t have the same appeal; I hoped Voyageurs would not only draw me out of the encroaching bubble but also please that 9-year-old boy inside, still nostalgic about the beauty of Calilegua’s cloud forests. Continue reading “Wild Moose Chase: A Voyage to Voyageurs”

Teeming Tettegouche

After hours of leading tours, talking to the public and telling that one person on every tour that bears do indeed defecate in the woods, I was very much ready for my weekly two days off. I had decided to make the most of them. Realising that my time in the Northwoods was in fact limited and that I wasn’t going to be staying for the rest of my life, I had started to plan my days off a little better; I had a list of trips to do and places to see in my head and I was determined to tick them all off before October 3rd came around. Continue reading “Teeming Tettegouche”