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
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
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