Rick Mercer, god bless his venturesome little heart, was in Algonquin Park recently, snowshoeing about in the snow, and lending a hand with a hibernating mother bear and her radio collar. And her cubs.
It was a delightful episode, and who could blame Rick for wanting to take one of the little cubs home with him.
Mother bears have the system figured. The cubs are born while the mother is in hibernation. On their own, they find their way up through her thick fur to nurse. By the time spring rolls round and it's time for everyone to leave the den, the cubs are, well, ready to leave the den.
About every two years, when our apple trees are heavy with fruit, we get the occasional bear showing up here. This is Igor, hanging out in Carol's crabapple tree near the office.
The problem with this is that the bear is too heavy to be clambering about in small apple trees -- so the method used is to climb as far as you can, wedge in nicely, and then pull the branches in to you so you can eat the fruit. This causes the branches to crack, and break. Whereupon you pull in another. And another, until you have a nice little platform you can climb onto and reach even higher into the tree.
The resulting mess of branches near the top of the tree is known as a Bear Nest. We've got some great examples of them in apple trees growing up through our back fields.
And this time of year is a good time to check them out, because the leaves are off the apple trees, and it's easy to see them.
Igor the Cub was undoubtedly cute, but nowhere near as adorable as the little tiny cubs, eyes not quite open, that Rick got to play with in the name of Science!
A friend of ours who's been out surveying the bush this winter has found three hibernation dens in his travels. These, and the bears resting within -- as all bears -- are best left strictly alone. Never crowd a bear. Never feed a bear. Never bother a bear.
Unless you, like the Algonquin research crew, have good scientific reason for doing so, and, also like them, really know what you're about.
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