the fog and darkness started coming in, Charlie picks up bits of a dead
loon that the cubs had found and hides them so that they would continue
on towards home.
The five cubs and Reno, 5 kilometers from home.
Bay is a favorite place to look for salmon drifting into the beach.
for the big male to make his move.
Sky imitating Reno reaching for the sky.
continues -- see Reno's shadow.
(Click on any Image to see a higher resolution version)
Hi from Kambalnoye Lake,
I am very aware that it has been a very long time since I last
wrote a letter informing you about how the cubs are surviving
and other things. Unfortunately, Wilder is dead as of September
11th, the day after I last wrote to you. It was not a terrorist
but it felt like it at the time. It was the male who has given
us so much trouble before and who just persisted until he got
one of the cubs. Sky was anxious to be independent and did not
like being inside the electric fenced pen. She would dig out
occasionally, taking the rest with her. One day we did not notice
what had happened and when Reno discovered it, they were gone.
We went looking for them in the fog and found the big male bear
eating Wilder only a short distance from the cabin. I can't
begin to express what it felt like to watch that after all the
hard work to keep them safe, and having developed such love
for them. Not only was it heart ripping about Wilder, but it
was obviously becoming an impossible situation for the rest
of the cubs.
When we got back, the rest of them were home and suddenly seemed
to understand very clearly why we went to all the trouble of
trying to be with them on walks. For a week, Sky was good about
not digging out again, but now the male became even more determined.
Having a taste of the cubs that were living right where he could
watch them, and there not being very many salmon at the time,
he began to be persistent. Each morning, once we had left for
a walk, he would check to see in which direction our scent trail
led and then follow. He would wait for the right moment to attempt
to cut off one or all of the cubs from us, which he sometimes
tried by ambushing from the side or behind a bush, or a small
hill. It became absolutely nerve-racking, and I say once more,
I could never have managed without Reno, who charged, more than
once, right into the face of the big male, pepper spray in hand,
ready for battle. Two things saved us and the rest of the cubs.
One was that once he had experience it, the bear had complete
respect for pepper spray, and the second was that after getting
zapped once, he never touched the electric fence again which
made up the perimeter of the cub pen.
It became obvious that because this bear was such a resident
of the area around the cabin, never giving us a break, that
we might as well give up and go home, leaving the rest of the
cubs to their obvious fate. As most of you know I do not give
up. I found that the Russians in charge of the area had been
given the technology to drug and take the bear away by helicopter
and were eager to test their skills at doing that. I had many
reservations, but the deed is done and it has been heaven here
ever since. It is as though the cubs now own the place. It took
about a week for them to gain confidence and they have, to a
certain extent, but they are not as independent as our other
cubs were at this time of the year. I think it is because of
those many weeks of needing us in order to say alive. Chico,
Biscuit and Rosie never felt that need. They took everything
onto themselves, except of course the extra sunflower seeds
they got at the cabin twice a day, as these bears get also.
Sky, Buck, Sheena and Geena, are about 120 lbs now. I can estimate
fairly close because with great effort, I can still lift Sheena
off the ground. This is about twice the size of the cubs around
here that have real mothers at this time. At this date, approximately
3 weeks before denning, they are showing little signs that they
are thinking about that. In 1997, Chico, Biscuit and Rosie would
disappear for several days at a time, and although we did not
know where they went, we assumed that they were checking out
places they might den. When a wild snowstorm blew in on November
7th, they disappeared and I never saw them again until spring.
I have a feeling that these bears might dig a den very near
the cabin. There are some good places close by so I see no problem
for this to work and it would sure be interesting to watch how
all four manage to get in the same hole. I will wait until their
den is covered deep in snow before leaving here and then I plan
to be back here before they reemerge, so their safety from poachers
will not be an issue.
For those of you who may have forgot, this is not a study about
how to reintroduce bears into the wild even though I plan that
by the end of this movie making project, there will be a tight
protection of this World Heritage Site and 8 orphaned cubs will
have a chance to live a wild, free life again. What this exercise
is, is the reenactment of what Maureen and I did here for 7
years which was to pursue an understanding about whether bears
were inherently dangerous once they lost their fear of humans,
because they are unpredictable or really are ferocious. I have
learned a lot more now about how it is human actions and misunderstanding
that causes almost all of the problems between man and bears.
Remembering Timothy Treadwell, Vitaly Nickolaenko and Michio
Hoshios's deaths, I never lose site of the fact that there are
exceptions which usually involve large males, but the dangerous
bears and others I have studied associated with human deaths
have given a lot of warning about their dangerous natures. I
never ignore these warnings. I stay away from those bears that
show signs of disrespect or not liking me and I carry pepper
spray always. As a side note, both Reno and I agree that the
bear who killed Wilder, never once threatened us in any way.
He was only after the cubs.
I have never seen so many pine nuts as this year and another
big salmon run has given the bears ample to eat. There has been
very little eating of salmon going on for almost three weeks,
by the cubs or the other bears. It seems that pine nuts are
the food of choice when they have a choice.
Reno is back in Canada. He left at the end of September on the
same helicopter that brought some friends from Holland here
for a week. These people from Beaver Zwerfsport also generously
purchased all the materials for insulating the cabin and brought
them here from Petropavlovsk.
It was very interesting for me to see how strangers to this
situation could handle themselves with the bears with only a
few instructions as to how to control them when they wanted
to play. After my having checked out the results of playing
before with Chico and finding no down side, Reno and I have
encouraged play with all of them. It has gotten pretty wild
at times when all five converged on one of us at the same time,
but we are missing no fingers and in fact hardly ever even got
scratched. A firm NO from us usually ended the session. Having
a walking stick along ensured that we could stop any roughhousing
at will, just by holding the end of the stick against the bear's
chest. This is how the Dutch kept them at arms length. It was
like they had been around bears in this manner all their lives.
I also found with the other three bears, that they got gentler
with us as they got bigger. It is a matter of the cubs learning
about their own strength and about human fragility.
Volodia Gordienko is now back with me again, having come on
the helicopter that fetched the Dutch people away. We are insulating
the cabin against the inevitable blast of wild snowstorms, one
of which we have already experienced and since then, it seems
to snow with every passing cloud. The ponds are freezing over
and the last of the leaves have been torn off the alders and
sent howling into the long nights. It is a very melancholy time
for me here. There are so many things that this place represents,
some of them horrible, but most of them unbelievably beautiful.
Once again I worry about whether these cubs will know enough
to dig a den. It is only a matter of faith that they will, but
of course there is the knowledge that I have suffered these
anxieties before with the other cubs only to be rewarded by
the bear's inevitable resourcefulness.
I won't wait so long to write the next letter.
Bye For Now,