Bondi Resort Blog

Come on into our Blog for a look at the wonderful world we've got to share! With over 240 hectares (600 acres) of wilderness woodlands surrounding the resort, just ten minutes from Algonquin Park, we feature over 400 metres (1200’) of waterfront and beach; boat rentals; summer hiking trails winding through fields and woods; 20 km. of groomed cross country ski trails and snowshoeing in winter; access to nearby snowmobile trails for sledders, and a toboggan hill for the young at heart.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bear With Us

We would like to introduce you to Velvet. This little bear was rescued up near Dryden, after her Mom was scared away from the den by a wood-chipping operation. Mom didn't come back.  Bears in hibernation can and do wake up if there is something disturbing happening. They are in hibernation, not comatose... And it is while they are safely in the winter den that the Mother Bear gives birth to her cubs. That blessed event takes place in January, and the cubs will have at least two, often three months, to grow and get strong before they come out into the world.

 Bear With Us, a fabulous place not that far north of Bondi Village at Sprucedale.

When it became apparent that Momma Bear wasn't going to return, and time was ticking on this little one, the cub was brought to

Molly, after 17 years at BWU, is still wary
of people after her life as a circus bear, forced to dance
by electric shocks
Run by Mike MacIntosh, BWU has been rescuing bears in need for over twenty years.  With a four-point mandate, BWU works hard to rehabilitate orphaned cubs and injured bears and return them to the wild in a high state of health.  They offer a safe sanctuary for bears that cannot be returned to the wild -- including two of their very famous residents, Yogi and Molly, who were circus bears and had to endure torturous conditions in the circus and in a zoo before finding Mike. A group of school children in Ireland helped raised the funds to rescue Molly from the failing circus and provide her with a forever home that included rocks and water and trees -- a 40,000 square foot sanctuary. She has been living here happily now for 17 of her 26 years, along with her companion Yogi, another ex-circus bear.
Do NOT try this at home! Mike checks on a bear
BWU works to promote education about bears. This includes slide-shows and talks at schools and seminars, nature clubs and more. Bondi was one of the first places that Mike gave a presentation on his bears, way back when he was just getting started with developing the Sanctuary. We're hoping that he will be back with us this summer!

And the big male bear within checks on Mike.
BWU also works with the MNR to deal with what are called "problem bears." Although, as is often the case, the bears are usually not the problem, the people are the problem. Inadvertently attracting bears to property by leaving food lures -- which can include tasty hummingbird feeders -- can cause bears to lose their natural wariness around people, and human-bear encounters usually go badly for the bear.

In late March and April, bears across Ontario are
coming out of their dens.

after 16 hours in a vehicle - "thanks for saving me,
MNR! But I miss my Mom"

The Human-bear encounter certainly didn't go well for tiny little Velvet, who found herself orphaned before her eyes were truly open.  Bears are born with blue eyes -- and since the dens are quite dark and dim, it is important not to use bright lights around such young cubs. Mike won't permit any flash photography around eyes this young!

We are all accustomed to seeing pictures of adult bears, but this photo shows how tiny a baby bear is when it is born. This photo is not Velvet -- sadly, this little cub and his sibling were not rescued for two or three days after (again) the mother was frightened off during a logging operation, and the lack of food and warmth for that length of time proved to be insurmountable. They were rescued, and heroic efforts made to save them, but for this little creature, the human-bear encounter ended before it even began.

Velvet fared better. She was rescued sooner, and came into the best of caring hands. She soon learned that a warm bottle was a good thing.

Naptime. Not a long winter's nap... just four or five
And, with a full tummy, she can sleep for 4 or even 5 hours a night -- the longest she goes between feedings.

On March 24, eyes are open, and she's looking
around at her brave new world, with big blue eyes.

Mike and Velvet
Thanks to the MNR, her rescue was co-ordinated and she was transported to BWU. It was a 16 hour journey that took her into a foreign universe.  Without the care and teaching of their mothers, bear cubs have to learn it all on their own -- a task that doesn't happen in the wild.  Many cubs were orphaned during the Spring bear hunts, when the mother bears sent the cubs up a tree for safety while they foraged for food. Coming alone to the bait stands, the bear would not be readily identified as a nursing mother, and the hunters would not be able to tell. That would leave little ones of three months old quite literally up a tree... and alone.  The Spring hunt no longer takes place.

To raise Velvet and return her to the wilderness able to function as a bear should is a daunting task.  Tiny cubs require a lot of handling, a lot of contact. They cuddle -- and need to do so.  They are not alone in this -- the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary reports that beaver kits must have physical contact, or they simply give u and die. Their volunteers can be found going about their day with a little kit snuggled up against their chest in a baby carrier.  But later on, Mike's baby bears will need to learn to hunt for themselves, to live by themselves, and to have a healthy respect for humans...
 So the process of teaching Velvet to be a bear has begun. She has been outside, exploring the snow, and the trees.  She was very brave and scrambled up a tree, but didn't know what to do next, and fell.

She cried, and is now a more cautious climber.  The Mother Bear would go and get a bear cub stranded in a tree. Velvet's doing it all by herself.

Everything is strange and new, and there is no-one to explain it to you. There is no-one to play with. Bears are quite social, particularly as cubs and the young ones love to play.  Play helps ready them for the real world, just as it does with our own kids.

As Winter loses it's grip, there is more and more to discover.  Twigs and branches to sniff. Logs to pull apart. Trees to clamber on.

 Dirt to dig in with her lovely little bear paws.

 Velvet is growing well, and is an active, interested citizen of Bear With Us.  You can follow her adventure on their Facebook page, which has almost daily updates.  

Mike MacIntosh. If bears could hand out
medals, he'd have a roomful!
To date, BWU has rescued almost 330 bears. They have educated countless people on bears. There is no need to fear the black bear, but everyone who comes up to the wilderness should know about bears, be Bear Aware, and ensure that they are not the part of the combination that puts the Problem into Human-Bear encounters.

Bear With Us is definitely a Not For Profit, and is a Registered Charity. They rely on donations to provide the care needed for these orphans, and the injured bears that are brought to them. So far, Mike has rescued over 330 bears at BWU.  So check out their Website -- and yes, you can donate right there, on-line. Please do.

Friend them on Facebook - you'll learn so much about bears and their ways. And you will be treated to some truly spectacular photographs.

Velvet will never have this idyllic Bear Family experience as a cub. But thanks to Bear With Us and Mike and his crew, in 2014 she will be returned to the wild as a fully functional bear, and take her rightful place in the forest.  With luck, perhaps one day, SHE will be the Momma Bear and will experience the perfect bear family from the other end.

Thanks Mike for letting us borrow your fabulous photographs.  And thanks, big time, for the work you do with the bears.  

Here are some pictures of little Velvet, exploring her world this past month. We hope you enjoy seeing her as much as we do!

One of her very first visits outdoors...   trying to make sense of this wonderful backyard!

'well, I'm up... now what???"

Looking a bit anxious - this was not long
before she fell from her first tree
climbing venture.

Up... we are supposed to be able
to go up... How does that work?

Such a big world for such a little bear!

Can these be eaten?

So tiny -- but with luck and care she will
grow big and strong

Velvet is curious about everything. Just like any kid!

Getting better at climbing. Right now, all over Ontario,
baby bears are learning how to climb trees. Their moms
will send them there so they are safe.


  1. What a wonderful job they do.
    Great post.
    Daisy could teach Velvet something about tree climbing! We did a forest walk.

  2. Thank you very much for sharing.

    They're amazing animals, and a sanctuary for those who can't be returned, while gearing those who can be sort of service is the ideal choice.

    I've never understood the mentality that makes people want to train a wild animal to do tricks. Circuses, places like Marineland or Sea World... those places should be ashamed of themselves. But they're not capable of it.