Letters from Charlie...

Letters from Charlie...

August 20, 2005

In order of distance from my camera Buck, Paul (the sound man), Sky, Jeff, Blondie, Andy and Mallesh

Jeff filming Andy and Mallesh.

Jeff and Sky are having a chat.

Irina with Buck, and Sky (closest to the water). Note that Irina has pepper spray in her hand. A few minutes before this photo was taken, a cranky old female who has a grudge against Sky and Buck, but not against us, had run them back to us. She stopped a few feet away from Irina. The yearlings like to be very close to us when this bear is around.

(Click on any Image to see a higher resolution version)


Against all odds, things are finally coming together here. Jeff Turner has come and gone and was pleased with what he got towards the BBC documentary. Sky and Buck, two of last year’s cubs have shown up nine months after I had last seen them and are very big and healthy. It took a while for me to understand that it was them who had come home and I was embarrassed, even ashamed perhaps! This would be something like not recognizing one of your own children after she or he had been away for a year. These bears were telling me who they were by their behavior, but for the life of me I could not make the connection. They look like three-year-olds and everything about them is different, their color, shape, size (especially their feet). They stood at the gate and look longingly into the electrified pen at Andy and Mallesh, obviously remembering last year when they too had been pampered. One night they slept two meters from the cabin. This haunted me. I asked them who are you? Finally someone saw Buck’s small ear tag hidden in his long fur. He was the only yearling of the remaining four that had one.

I had had no trouble recognizing Chico, Biscuit and Rosie, after their first winter because I was back here when they came out of their den. They looked almost exactly the same except lighter in color. Three months ago, Sky and Buck were probably also very recognizable.

Sky was a hellion last year, doing everything as naughtily as only she could have figured out. She is much more laid back now, I guess knowing what it means to have to be responsible in order to survive. They have been great subjects for Jeff’s camera. At times we would have five bears on our walks the two cubs of this year, two from last year and one of Sky and Buck’s buddies we call Blondie (see Photo #1.). This documentary is the best chance I have ever had to tell the world what I have learned about sharing land with bears. I am very grateful that Jeff and Sue Turner persisted in going ahead with it even though I was having very many difficulties continuing my work here.

Andy and Mallesh are growing fast and much easier to manage on our walks now. They are very fat so that might be why they do not want to run fast for very far. Of the 10 cubs I have taken to Kambalnoye these are the only ones that allow for a person to walk at the end of the line. Irina takes the rear guard and I the lead. We got in the habit of going this way for practical reasons because of all the thick fog we are having. I am more familiar with the landscape and we want the cubs to cover as much different ground as possible. Despite the weather they need to learn everything they can about it quickly. The gate of the pen will be left open soon and they will be free to come and go on their own.

Irina is good at herding them along when all they want to do is wrestle, or for some reason, head off in the wrong direction, usually because they smell something. It seems at times that wrestling is all male cubs are interested in doing. That and sniffing the ground for the past record of other bears that traveled there, and god knows what else it tells them. There are definitely some differences in behavior between the sexes. Two of last year’s cubs were male but their behavior was influenced by the three females who set the pace and also somehow established the mood and demeanor of their relationship with us. Mallesh and Andy have no females to influence them and the difference between sexes become more evident. The main distinction is that although they do look for some guidance and leadership and are very polite, they are not very much interested in interacting with us on a personal level. Andy and Mallesh travel with us very well though, most of the time recognizing that they should stay quite close.

I have looked at my notes and thought very hard about whether we might be encountering similar thing a mother bear would experience regarding the different sexes of their cubs. Do they also experience different behavior on a personal level? I thought about what I had observed with Brandy and her cubs? The first set that she raised here were Gin and Tonic and they were both males. Her second set Lemon was male and Lime was female. My memory and notes indicate that Gin and Tonic mostly played with each other, not with their mother very much, but Brandy played a lot with at least one of her cubs. At the time, I did not think to note which one she played with the most, but I am quite sure that it was Lime, the female, that insisted on playing with her mother. I will go over the slides of them and see if they help to answer this question. All cubs play with each other a lot.

Last year, Sheena, Geena and Sky wanted to play with us a lot and they soon learned that they needed to be gentle in this play. Buck and Wilder did not partake in this at all and Andy and Mallesh are the same. Females have different games they enjoy, like tag, first one chases someone and then if reverses once they are tagged. The females also were much more aware of what was going on around them and explored into every nook and cranny. Buck and Wilder played with each other very intently and without letup. Then Wilder would notice they were alone and he would run quickly to catch up, leaving Buck far behind because he was very slow. I would look back and see him and call “Buck, Buck”. Sky got to know that my calling meant that, once again, Buck was being left behind and she would go back and urge him along. It was a beautiful ritual. They still have some remnant of this kind of relationship although Buck now has the attitude of a survivor.

Bye For Now,

Please note that Charlie's computer has crashed and we will not hear from him until it is fixed.

© Pacific Rim Grizzly Bear Co-Existence Study, 2005