November 10, 2004
I am still at Kambalnoye Lake cabin. I had hoped that the cubs
would have been in their den by now, but all I had to go by
is what Chico, Biscuit and Rosie had done in 1997. That year
there was no snow until November 1st and then during a cold
storm on the 8th they disappeared and I never saw them until
I came back the first of May the following year. This year it
started to snow on October 9th and there was a big storm on
the 23rd that dumped about 40 cms and it was cold. The cubs
hadn't seemed confused about denning, perhaps because there
was so much for them to eat at the time. The storm caused them
to try digging but they were perhaps overwhelmed by the size
of the hole it would take to hold all four of them.
One snowy day I watched them start excavating. I'm not sure
if it was a den they were trying to make, but Sky and Sheena,
who were doing most of the digging, soon ran into rocks and
stopped their excavation. This got me thinking that perhaps
they did not have what it takes to find a comfortable place
to spend the winter. I never found the other cubs' den. They
had just disappeared into the storm and I could only guess what
mountainside they had holed up on. Perhaps they only burrowed
under some pines in a hollow and let the snow drift over them
and then just made a pocket in the snow. I have found where
adult bears have done this and it seems to be quite adequate.
The other difference with these cubs is that with all the problems
we had with the male bear wanting to eat them they had developed
a deeper sense of needing protection and since they have no
mother they have depended on humans for safety. That is my job.
The first cubs were more independent from the start, but they
did not have the same threats. If these cubs were with a mother
bear, they would be even more dependent on her than they are
of me. Additionally, these cubs will not have a mother's milk
throughout the winter.
I decided to help them with their den. Volodia and I dug a hole,
five feet by five feet by three feet deep, into a hillside where
there was drainage. We made a layered roof starting with boards,
a space filled with insulation, then tarpaper over that and
then more boards on top. I knew the cubs would dig down through
the dirt so this way they could not damage the tarpaper and
insulation. We left only a small hole under the roof so that
they could fashion their own entrance once we showed them the
place, which they did with apparent glee and a lot of flying
There is snow built up on it now and they
have been sleeping in it almost every night since it was built.
Occasionally when it is above freezing, they sleep out on the
mountain as they did last night when it was raining. The rain
seems to be no problem to their comfort, but as soon as the
temperature drops a few degrees they are back in the den. Today,
it dropped only 4 degrees and they went into their nest at 3pm.
This is a good sign that they are getting ready to stay in.
I am going to order a helicopter for Friday November 12th. There
is a slim chance that the weather will cooperate so that it
will actually come that day, but at least it sets the process
of getting out of here in motion.
I am ready to get away from here. It is hard work living in
the wilderness, hauling water, washing clothes, mending them,
fixing all the technical things that go wrong. A few days ago
it was the windmill that quit working. I took it down off the
tower, went over a few possibilities and put it back up. It
still did not work, but eventually I figured out that it was
the regulator in the cabin that was the problem. I could not
fix it so the windmill is down for the season. Then I had to
rearrange and rewire the solar panels into the cabin so that
they would be more efficient. I am very grateful that Reno,
now Vladimir have been doing most of the cooking, I do the cleaning.
Of course the biggest job has been making sure the cubs have
had the best chance of survival.
Observing this valley for so many years, I am obsessed with
understanding what is happening, which bears have denned, on
what ridge and figuring out what other animals are using the
area now that winter is setting in. It is easy walking now that
the lake is frozen and a hike around its shores a few days ago
revealed tracks of two wolverines, two river otters, and a wolf.
I have seen all these animals at various other times of the
year, but this day only their tracks told me they were here.
There are also many golden, white tailed, and Stellers eagles.
Those except for the golden are catching spawning char and salmon
in the unfrozen up welling springs and the golden eagles are
there because of a few remaining ducks, two species of ptarmigan,
large hares, who I hardly ever see, but who's tracks in the
snow indicate that there are many. I recently saw a pure white
gyrfalcon and peregrine falcons are common. On rare occasions,
I see snow sheep on the high ridges above the lake.
I am tired and feeling out of touch with the world. I will have
been here exactly five months on Friday. This is the fourteenth
year that I have spent at least two months living in the wilderness.
Once I get to the city I will have to relearn how to act in
a civilized manner.
November 18, 2004
The helicopter made it to us on Saturday November 13th. I had
a great Sunday relaxing, but at 8:45 am Monday, two police came
to the door and arrested me. My interpreter friend, where I
have stayed for many years, had left the house and I had no
way to understand what I had done, or as it turned out, what
I hadn't done. I was taken to the police headquarters in a Russian
style jeep with curtained windows, fingerprinted and locked
in a room until my partner Tatiana who conducts the scientific
part of my bear work in Russia, got there. It turned out that
she was also in trouble as my agent. The problem was that though
my visa was good for a full year, I had only registered for
two months when I came here in April. I had planned to go back
to Canada in June and Tatiana forgot to reregister me when my
plans changed once I decided to rescue the five cubs. We paid
a 2500 ruble fine and I was freed, but the process took 5 hours.
So much for civilization.
I fly back to Canada on November 28th.
Bye For Now,