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In My Backyard

Posted by booboobearbecky Zone 3 (Northern WI) (My Page) on
Fri, Apr 4, 08 at 11:01

We live in the woods of Northern WI and the wildlife is abundant here. I've learned to share my gardens with the local fauna and how to apprciate nature in all it's glory. Here are some photos I've taken over the last 12 months. Some of them are just too amazing not to share. Enjoy!

HOW MANY BEARS?

From Misc Bears

UN'BEAR'ABLY HOT

From Quadruplet Bears

BEARZILLA SCRATCHING HIS RUMP ON A TREE

From Bearzilla

MS. QUILLERAN

From Ms. Quilleran

MR. FOXWORTHY

From Mr. Foxworthy

ROSE THE RED SQUIRREL

From Red Squirrels

ROCKY THE GREY SQUIRREL

From Grey Squirrels

THE WATERING HOLE

From The Watering ...

CINDERELLA

From Cinderella

GOLDILOCKS AND THE 4 BEARS

From Goldilocks

SNOW WHITE

From Snow White

DRIZELLA

From Drizella

CUBS

From Cubs

More wildlife photos "in my backyard."
http://picasaweb.google.com/booboobearbecky


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: In My Backyard

Holy bearness!!!!!


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Poor mama 4 at once. Bad enough to have the normal one or two but four!!!

You must have excellent food resources in your area to have a bear produce four at once.


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Those 3 bears in that swimming pool cracked me up.


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Four cubs is incredible! What great shots. The bears look so healthy. I like Mr. Foxworthy...too funny!

BN


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RE: In My Backyard

maifleur-
Regarding the plentiful resources on our wooded acreage...I agree, there must be plenty, because the same spring Goldilocks appeared with her 4 cubs, Snow White appeared with 3 cubs, and Cinderella appeared with 2 cubs. Amazing! I was busy with my plant books attempting to identify what they were eating. I discovered many plants in our woods that are bear favorites, and of course they love all the acorns from our forest of oak trees. I also discovered a football field sized blackberry patch on our property and those bears know exactly what day those berries ripen. Funny thing is they check them daily and only eat the ripe ones.

Goldilocks was the BEST mother of the 3 adult females with cubs. Snow White was a "nervous nelly," and Cinderalla was a "careless mom." Cinderella and one of her cubs mysteriously disappeared later in the summer, and Snow White adopted Cinderella's stray cub. Snow White was the mama bear with 3 cubs. So by the time fall came around, there were 2 female mother bears with 4 cubs each. It was really something to see that's for sure.

brenda_in_tx-
That kiddie swimming pool belongs to my dog, Pancho. The cubs adopted the doggie pool area as their playground. I left it out and refilled it with fresh water often, as it kept the bears out of my garden.

birding nut-
I thought all the cubs looked really healthy as well. Such shiny coats. When fall rolled around they looked like furry butterballs and appeared as fat as they were tall.

Mr. Foxworthy appeared frequently and kept a watchful eye on my garden area. He was not for looking veggies, but hunting for the rabbits stealing my veggies. I was very grateful to Mr. Foxworthy for keeping the bunny population in check. Nature working the way it should I guess.

toloniferous-
your words: "holy bearness"
I agree, you summed up my thoughts perfectly!!

It's been an educational experience watching these bear families interact and raise their young.

Glad you all enjoyed the photos.
booboobearbecky


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Wow! What a neat experience!

Sam


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The first picture where is the bear is the back is peaking out behind the tree is an amazing photo!


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LOL! It looks like he's playing peek-a-boo with the two in the front right corner. These are all fantastic pictures...how far away were you from the bears when you took these pictures? Any bear attacks on humans in your area? Thanks for sharing.


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anitamo,
No bear attacks in our area. I think there are plenty of resources available in the heavily wooded areas here so the bears tend to keep to themselves. I've noticed that black bears are much more likely to run off than tangle in confrontations. Most of them are really quite shy. I've only seen one bear confrontation in 3 years of watching them as they seem to have some sort of "pecking order." Goldilocks was ticked off at Big Bad Wolf (male bear), because he came too close to her cubs. Both bears were on their hind legs swatting away with their forepaws. Goldilocks smacked Big Bad Wolf up side his head and knocked him on his butt, and it was pretty obvious he quickly learned who was boss as he took off like a racehorse after that. He has since moved on to other territory.

I live on a dead-end road in the woods. In addition, our property is surrounded by several large parcels of woodlands. The blackbears are attracted to the acorns and clover in our meadow in spring and early summer. Once the wooded areas leaf out in early summer they tend to look for grub in the woods instead of our lush meadow. Our meadow is between our home and the woods. All of our living room windows face the meadow and woods, so I have plenty of photo opportunities.

I tend to work outside alot and the bears seem to accept me as just part of the landscape (non-threat). I do head inside quickly when I see a mother bear with cubs though.

My hubby has a deer stand (more like a deluxe condo treehouse) in the woods near our house. I often hike out there with my cameras and observe the bears. As long as they know I am there (they can smell me and see me), I'm fine. They just don't like to be surprised. I keep a gym whistle with me, but only had to use it once. And that was to rescue a cub from an ornery female (Drizella; named after Cinderella's wicked step sister). The cub belonged to a different mother bear, Goldilocks. Drizella had run the cub up a small tree and was determined to attack the poor little creature. My whistle scared off Drizella, and Goldilocks came back shortly to retrieve her stray cub. The bears HATE the sound of my whistle and make a hasty retreat.

As a result of all this bear activity on our property, I thought it was best to learn everything I could about them simply for my own safety. It's been a fascinating experience to say the least.

Two females have recently emerged from hibernation with cubs. Both Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood had flings with Bearzilla (extra LARGE male bear) last summer. Goldilocks once again, gave birth to quadruplets, and Red Riding Hood gave birth to triplets. I have to think of some names for these new cubs (hee hee!) I hope to have photos soon, and will post them here. The cubs are about the size of tiny lab puppies right now, but they can climb like monkeys already.

Female Bears have cubs every other year. It's hard to believe that Goldilocks has had two sets of quadruplets in 3 years!! Let's see that's...um...ah...well a whole herd-o-bears!

Becky


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How cool! Thanks for sharing those amazing pictures!


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The one picture looks like a fat guy hiding behind a small tree. "You can't see me."


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Wow, those pictures are terrific! Love your nick names for the animals and reading about their behavior. I think I'd be a little intimidated by bears in the back yard. Do you have to take any special precautions with feeders, garbage, etc. with all those bears around?


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terrene,
At first I was extremely intimidated by the bear activity on our property. However, the more I learned about their behaviors through observation, books and research, the more accepting I became of them. I don't fear them, but I do have a great deal of respect for them and always use caution.

Yes, I take precautions with our bird feeders and garbage cans. In March the bird feeders come down; especially the suet feeder for the woodpeckers. Our garbage cans are locked inside our garage.

I have more problems with the yearlings than I do with the adult bears. You see, the yearlings are very playful critters, and their curiosity is high. Many of my garden tools have turned into "bear toys." Last spring when I brought my hose reels and garden hoses out of storage, they gleefully unrolled 150 feet of hose and dragged it across the meadow into the woods. Once the hose reached it's end they nearly tugged the spigot off the house! My hose reel was hanging in the air! Not being one to get into a tug-o-war match with bears, I just had to wait until they tired of playing with the hose before I could retrieve it.

Large flower pots are another favorite. They enjoy tipping them over and standing on them (well balanced I might add), and rolling them across the yard with all 4 feet. The site of this makes circus bears look like amateurs.

The biggest mystery was the disappearance of my small garden hand tools last summer which was solved by my dog Pancho. At first I thought I was turning into a scatter-brain misplacing all my garden tools. One day while hiking with my dog, he became obsessed with digging under a log. I let him have his digging in the dirt fun, and he uncovered a rotting deer leg along with my garden pliers, screwdriver, a couple of my gardening gloves, and 2 hand trowels. All buried in the same spot. Had my garden tools become "prized bear toys" buried along with a deer leg for a midnight bear snack and play session? The scatter-brain mystery was solved, but another mystery was created. There are plenty of things around my yard and garden for the "bear thieves" to steal. Why these items? And how does a bear retrieve a canvas chair from a deer stand? My chair was taken out of the deer stand enclosure, down the ladder and far into the woods...undamaged. Huh? Well at least I found my chair without a bear sitting in it (hee hee).

BooBooBearBecky


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LOLOLOL, boobooBecky! What a hoot! Those bears sound like they are a constant source of entertainment (and perhaps some irritation). Maybe the bears were thinking about doing some gardening? How nice that those pesky thieves decided to bury a deer leg along with your tools. That way your dog could find them for you!


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RE: In My Backyard

  • Posted by min3 9N.CA (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 15, 08 at 13:18

I am not able to get your photos either on this forum or on your picasa address. Is it me? I would love to see them. Min


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RE: In My Backyard

  • Posted by min3 9N.CA (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 18, 08 at 16:36

OK it must have been our satellite dish - I could get them today. They are wonderful - worth the wait. Min


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RE: In My Backyard

Min3-
Glad to hear that you could view my bear and wildlife photos!

Everyone Else-
As promised, here are a few photos of Red Riding Hood and her cubs. Red is a first time mom with 3 cubs I have named Trixie, Dixie and Pixie for identification purposes in my photos.

I keep telling my dog, Pancho, not to leave his toys laying about in our yard and that he needs to pick them up after playing, but he never listens. Now his favorite basketball is squashed.

From Red Riding Ho...

Click on the photo or link above to see more photos of Red. I had to convert one of the photos to black and white because it was taken at dusk. However, I've never seen a mother bear nursing her cubs and I was dumbstruck when she rolled over on her back in our meadow and her babies nestled up to her to nurse. The photo I took of a mother bear nursing her cubs doesn't do what I actually saw justice, but it's very interesting nonetheless.

On a sad note, I'm sorry to report that my most photogenic bear, Goldilocks, for the last 3 1/2 years has disappeared. I saw Goldilocks twice in April with her 4 cubs. This is her second set of quadruplets in 3 years, so she was a favorite of my nature photography sessions. Goldilocks was the matriarch of our forest. That means she was the BOSS. The boss of every living creature in our woods. Seeing Goldilocks for the first time 3 1/2 years ago, is what prompted my curiousity about bear behavior.

How did I really know that Goldilocks somehow met her unfortunate demise? Because her 4 cubs bawled their heads off for 3 days in the top of an oak tree outside my living room window. I'm ashamed to say that I closed the windows and took my hearing aids out because the contant squealing and bawling was driving me nuts! Actually I've never heard such a desperate sound from a living thing in my life.

After much guilt, I did what any person who appreciates wildlife would do. I called the appropriate wildlife authorities. Here are their responses (organization names withheld)

1. "We can destroy them if they are an annoyance." (me: WHAT THE HELL!!!!????)

2. "We can hand raise them to adulthood but their chances of surving on their own after we release them is minimal." (me: HOW MUCH IS MINIMAL?)

3. "We can contain them in captivity, but only 50% will survive." (me: UM...AH....50% OF 4 CUBS IS 2; THAT MEANS 1/2 OF THE LITTER WILL DIE. CAPTIVITY? FOREVER?)

I finally got a hold of place that does research on black backs in the wild (but not rescue). With their information, I went from bear photographer to "bear mom."

I understand that this is a controversial subject, so unless there is an interest, I will end my bear updates here. Just so you know....the cubs are not in captivity. So far I've taught them how to climb up a tree when told (not using my human voice/but a mother bear sound instead), taught them to forage, eat clover, to drink, to scrape tree bark for bugs, and to dig up ant hills for bear delicacies (ant larva...yuk). We're currenting working on consuming insects (the cubs....not me god forbid...I just pretend), and soon wild berries. I never touch or talk to them with human words. I'm going about this task WITHOUT turning wild creatures into pets. So far, all 4 cubs are surviving. I've been doing this for two months, and would love to share the experience. Again I don't want to offend anyone, but just like the person who rescued baby ducks in our wildlife garden forum, the authorties were useless. I also dreaded the thought of 4 baby cubs dying up in the top my oak tree limbs, and I really needed to put my hearing aids back in.

Yesterday, the cubs and I all fell asleep under the same tree. I snuck away for a photo op. I've named them in "gardenweb fashion" Forrest, Flower, Flora and Fern. Enjoy.

BooBooBearBecky (hmmmm??? maybe I should change that to the bear whisperer)


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BooBooBearBecky, I love the pictures and narratives about the bears. Please keep us informed on how they are doing and posting pictures. You are a special person to take this on. God bless you for it.


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Oh my gosh, this is so interesting. Do you have an update? Is there a chance that the four cubs at some point will be allowed to hang with the other cubs born this spring, or be assisted by any of the other adult females as time goes on? I would love to hear how they are doing. Malinda


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ohhhh my goodness!! i have out of curiosity read every single one of these posts!! LOL you are one special person!! i absolutely LOVE your photo's and i really do hope that with you teaching them, that you do have the time to update! i will have to bookmark this page, Lord knows i will never find it otherwise!! LOL ~Medo


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Wow, this has been one of the most interesting threads I've ever read here on GW. BBBB; you're awesome; I too would love to read more. I'm shocked that there's not any wildlife organizations that would do anything about these orphaned bears. Even here in NJ there's an organization that takes in the cubs and releases them later on, but they rely completely on public donations and get no money from the state, although the state gives them the cubs. It's all unfortunate BS, but they do it anyway. I wanted to send them a donation but never got around to it, but I'm going to make it my goal to get them whatever I can spare asap. You're my inspiration ;)


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That is very sad to hear about Goldilocks, those poor Cubs. That must have been heart-wrenching to listen to their cries. But you are now a Bear Mom and have been for the past 2 months? What an unusual concept, I have never heard of such a thing. Please give us updates and more details about this very interesting project.


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A very timely and lovely thread, indeed.

Never gave bears much thought before-they only existed in movies and remote areas. Then I bought a second home bordering a large state park. When my husband heard mooing in the woods, he thought a farmer had a stray cow to tend to. Then, our neighbor (aptly nicknamed Grizzley) told us it was mamma bear calling her cubs. Eventually mamma was "relocated" (we were told) and her two cubs were left behind.

A bear recently trashed my bird feeders. My reaction was a high power rifle to protect myself and my dogs against a fierce attack. Got a pamphlet from the local camp store on living with blackbears in Maryland and within a half hour a large male black bear crossed the road in front of us. I was a kid all over again, no fear, only utter amazement. Humans don't have a monopoly on this earth and there is room for bears. It's people who have to change their ways to adapt to nature. I felt so stupid.

There will be no complaints from me to DNR for fear this bear will be "relocated". He is welcome on my property but I have heard grumblings from neighbors. As land becomes available and funds permit, I will purchase additional acreage bordering state property to keep it out of the hands of developers. Not just for bears but for all the hard pressed critters.

There will always be controversy when living among creatures we fear but we should really fear our own ignorance more.

Becky, your bears are absolutely beautiful and divinely blessed to have you. I envy your passion that is guaranteed to earn you the nut label but you are what Mother Nature intended.

Please don't stop your stories.

Linda


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jeane_gallo-
Well, I dont really think I am "special" for taking care of these 4 orphan bear cubs, however it is a situation I never in a million years thought Id find myself in. Even when I first took on the responsibility to raise the cubs myself, I categorized myself as a "nutcase." My updates have been sparse the last couple of months because these 4 cubs are keeping me very busy. Ill do my best to keep everyone up to date.

Malinda-
The only other female in our woods this year with cubs is Red Riding Hood. I made every attempt to "hang out" with Red and her 3 babies, Trixie, Dixie, and Pixie. My thinking was that even if Red would have just adopted at least ONE of the cubs it would be a huge advantage. Her cubs and my cubs do interact, and once my runt, Fern, even snuggled up to Red!! When Red departed the area we were all hanging out in (Thatd be Me [the only one without black fur and claws], Forrest, Flower, Flora & Fern along with Red, Trixie, Dixie & Pixie.yep count emthats me with 8 [picture me peeing my pants] yes 8 bears!!!!) Holy cow! Anyway Fern trotted along with Red and her 3 babies but returned 2 hours later galloping right up to me. Can you imagine how shocked I was that Fern would prefer me over Red? After all, Red knows how to dispense milk properly to her cubs and I all have is a cheap plastic bucket that contains substitute milk made from powder.

Medo-
Well Im happy that you found this post! My orphan cubs are finding more of their own food in the woods now, so I hope to post more frequent updates and photos. Im attempting to post video as well, but uTube shreds the quality of my video clips, so Im looking for alternatives. Some of my cub videos are just a hoot!

tracey_nj6-
There was one organization I found that would take the cubs and raise them in captivity and release them as adults. I was just disappointed when they informed me that only 50% of the cubs would survive. And even the 50% that would be released as adults had a low chance of survival and returning to the wild. I was hoping that I could beat the odds and go for 100% survival without ever going the captivity route. Certainly a huge undertaking on my part with perhaps unrealistic hopes, but in the end I honestly felt that the baby orphan cubs had the best chance with me, "the nutcase."

Linda-
Seeing a black bear "for real" (not in a zoo or a cage) is quite an exhilarating experience isnt it? Im so happy to hear that you had a change of heart about bears after you got to see one out and about. Yes, our home is in the woods, but the bears were here first. Who am I to tell them they have to move out? For me, education was the key for learning to co-exist near them. When I read your post Linda, I nearly fell out of my chair because I was laughing so darn hard. What you wrote.."I envy your passion that is guaranteed to earn you the nut label." Well that has already happened! Yes, everyone who knows Im doing this truly thinks I have taken leave of my senses. And perhaps I have?

Now for the really good stuff..a cub update and pictures!

Ive been taking care of these 4 orphan bear cubs (Forrest, Flower, Flora and Fern) since the end of April. No fences, no cages, and no human words. So far, so good. I have 4 healthy, happy, chubby bear cubs that are learning to fend for themselves. Yippy!

Feeding and food prep took on new meaning when I learned just how much it took to fill 4 hungry bear cub tummies. We started with milk replacer and two big calf bowls from the farm store. That quickly expanded to milk with soft foods and FOUR big calf bowls when Forrest and Fern began their food fights. Feedings became much easier when they began to get their choppers. In case you're having trouble picking me out in the photo below, I am the one that's not wearing black fur.

Since I could not be with the cubs full time, I had to rely on Forrest, the leader of the pack, to keep the crew in order. Forrest is the largest male cub of the 4, and seems to be clearly suited for the challenge. Im amazed how this young cub took the on the responsibility for his siblings. The other 3 cubs wont do anything unless Forrest does it first. When Forrest climbs up a tree the others follow. When Forrest decides its time to go the others quickly line up single file and follow. When the cubs are playing and lollygagging around, Forrest is the one who keeps watch.

Yet at times, all 4 cubs will snap their heads in my direction and run for the base of a tree when they detect a strange noise or movement. You see, a mother bear at this moment would send her cubs up a tree and she would investigate the activity. So, I did the same. It seemed so odd to have the cubs all watching me from the tree branches while I was trying to be brave and explore whatever it was that frightened them. So I ended up chasing chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons and turkeys away (boy did I ever feel foolish chasing a wild turkey). So strange to think that I had to teach a bear NOT to be frightened of these small woodland critters. I was quite pleased when the cubs started doing their own chasing and false charges instead of running up a tree in fright.

Red Riding Hood and her cubs were invaluable when it came time to finding food in the woods. I just watched what they were eating. I pretended to eat it, and the orphan cubs followed suit. Red Riding Hood and I have developed some type of respectful relationship. I dont know how else to describe it. We can be in the same area with some distance between us, but she seems to understand that like her, we both need to protect our cubs. For example, one day in June, which is mating season for bears, a strange male wondered into our neck of the woods. We both made the noise to send our cubs up a tree, and I nearly fainted when all 7 cubs (thats Trixie, Dixie, Pixie, Forrest, Flower, Flora and Fern) all went up the same tree.

If I could have I would have joined the cub party in the oak tree, because I was unfamiliar with this strange male bear. While I was standing there wondering "what should I do now???" Red chased the big fella off. So here I am standing under this big ole oak tree with 7 bear cubs above me and once again wondering "what should I do now???" Red returned about 10 minutes later, called her cubs down from the tree and departed the area. Well heres where my bear mothering techniques suck big time. I cant seem to make the noise a mother bear makes to call her cubs. You shouldve seen some of the strange looks I got from the orphans in my attempts to duplicate this sound. Sometimes I even accidentally frightened them with my verbal pretend bear sputterings. So I made up my own calling noise. It sounds like smooch. I make the smooching noise everytime I bring their food out, and when I want them to follow or come. Most times it works, but sometimes they wont come down from a tree no matter what. Its not uncommon for the cubs to sleep hanging over a tree branch or the fork in a tree branch for 3 or 4 hours. And thats usually when I sit down, doze off, and then wake up with them sleeping around me. The first time this happened I was afraid to move! Then I got case of uncontrollable giggles and had to stifle my laughter with my hands. I simply could not believe what I was seeing!

The cubs have their fun times too. They love to wrestle, chase each other and play hide & seek. Fern is incredibly insistent on initiating physical play with me. I try to divert her attention with a dog toy, ball or some other object. Engaging in physical play with them now would mean BIG (as in bears get pretty darn BIG) problems later on. They like my stuffed "Babe the Pig" the best and sometimes they even suckle on Babe. They love their Mr. Turtle pool and cool treats (frozen jello or frozen pudding) on a really hot day.

They have a few odd behaviors that I cant seem to figure out.my feet. They LOVE my feet. Perhaps I have really stinky feet? They sniff and lick my feet and try to pull off my shoes! Sometimes I just give up and remove my shoes and toss out my stinky socks (and very very quickly put my shoes back on because I sure dont want any bear cubs licking my toes!!). They run away with my smelly socks in their mouths like they just won a big prize. Another behavior I have yet to figure out..the cubs MUST touch me. These are gentle nose touches and once in a while a paw touch. Ive gotten used to this but at first it was a bit disturbing. I nearly yelped when Flower licked a fat juicy ant off my bare leg. I still resist the temptation to touch them. I suppose they crave that touching thing from a mother bear, but they seem to cuddle and touch other plenty so Im hoping that is enough to fulfill that need. Oh dont get me wrong, I would LOVE to snatch up their furry little bodies and snuggle with them, but I just dont think its the right thing to do in this case.

Soon the blackberries will be ripe and Ill be teaching the cubs to eat berries. I plan on eating my fill too. And so will nearly every bear in the county. We have blackberries abound in our woods and last summer when the berry ripeness was at its peak, I counted 14 different bears in one day consuming mass quantities of blackberries.

Next on the agenda is hibernation. Wild bears actually begin scoping out denning prospects around August. I havent quite decided how to handle this situation yet. Im hoping that instincts will take hold but I may need to provide a bit of guidance. I do know that it is imperative that all 4 cubs hibernate in the same den for survival. Ordinarily, a mother bear hibernates with her cubs the first winter. Im not exactly sure how I feel about spending the winter in a hole with 4 bear cubs. Im attending a black bear field course study in August so perhaps the experts can offer me some insight. I certainly fill the bill for a bonafide "nutcase," but I have no intentions of indulging in the practice of hibernation myself. But when you think about it, wouldnt it be nice to sleep the winter away and awake to wild flowers in the spring?

From Orphan Cubs

Click on the link or photo above to view the orphan bear cub photos I have uploaded so far.

More updates and photos as time permits.
BooBooBearBecky (a/k/a "the bear whisperer")


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This is just amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your bears and this experience with us! Just ...... WOW!


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I am so happy to read the update and see the pictures. I have a huge grin on my face as I type this because the pictures are so adorable.

Please keep us informed and I wish you success in getting them to hibernate.


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Your pictures are just amazing. The bear cubs are sooooo cute! I love your story about being a Bear Mama! I will be waiting on the edge of my seat for your next update.

You are doing something very unique and fascinating, certainly not the usual boring life. If it takes being a nutcase to do something so original, then it sounds like fun to be a nutcase!

It's unfortunate you can't hibernate with your babies, the idea of hibernating away the winter is very appealing. I feel that way every January. :)


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Wow! Awesome! Absolutely surreal! When I started reading this post and saw the first pictures I was amazed. Now - beyond words. National Geographic would love to hang out with you! Great job Becky! Really great job!

Maureen


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Love it. Please if possible let us know how the search for a den goes.


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Just wondering how the little ones are doing.


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How big are they now?

I am wondering about what they will do when they are larger and still looking for food from a bowl. I just can't imagine anyone that isn't a millionaire having enough resources to feed four adult bears.

Are you independently wealthy?

What do you plan to do with these bears after they become adults?


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Becky
This has to be the most wonderful story I have ever read!You are truly amazing. I do not consider you a nut case at all! Actually, I am jealous!!
Your pictures are beautiful. I just cannot imagine how hard it must be for you to keep your hands off these babies! AND no human talk only your mamma bear sounds!
Incredible.
I wish you all the luck in the world with these cubs.
I think you deserve a medal for what you are doing!
I am so happy to hear that you & Red have a mutual respect for each other.
Hope everything is going well. Thanks for sharing this marvelous story. You should write a book (maybe this winter when they are sleeping?)
Isn't Mother Nature wonderful.
Good Luck!


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How do you instill the natural fear of humans that will prevent them from bothering other people? In NJ, bears that are "incorrigable" (frequently homes, raiding garbage) are killed by the state.

I have a friend who is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in NJ. She is licensed for bears, and keeps them separate from her staff, volunteers and other mammals. It costs her a fortune to overwinter them, which she must do before they are released as yearlings. She feeds them once a day, and scares the &hi* out of them regularly, to keep their fear of people.

In the spring, bears wake and travel. They cover many miles in their search for food & territory.

I think your work is kind but misguided. I wish you the best.


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I don't think Becky's work is misguided since she wasn't offered any guidance. She didn't have much of a choice but to raise the bears herself based on her earlier post.
It sounds like she tried to enlist the help of appropriate authorities, but in her area the options were not palatable to her. Seems like she is trying her very best to "raise" them to be wild animals. I think it has been a courageous and selfless journey for her to take, and the bears are better off than having been destroyed. Her yard sounds like a safe-haven for bears with plenty of food where they can come back year after year and not bother other people. Perhaps they will not wander many miles. Perhaps they will. No one knows where their journey will take them, but Becky's story of her caring for the bears, as opposed to them being destroyed or shut up in captivity to become neurotic, unhappy animals at least gives them a chance.


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RE: In My Backyard

I just briefly looked over here to see what's happening and I couldn't believe this is going on for soo....long without me seeing!

Didn't read all of it but I will later, all I wanted to tell you,.. good luck and a big thank you for posting
your wonderful story and pictures with us!!!

Konrad


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RE: In My Backyard

She was offered guidance, she just didn't like what she was told.

I'm not saying that the options these bear cubs had were good ones, but now she is raising bears that have learned not to be afraid of people AND not only that, look at the pictures, look at the containers... these bears have learned that containers provided by people contain food....

If you know anything about living in bear country (I used to live in WI), bears who aren't afraid of people, who look for food in people containers, become labeled nuisance bears. Its not a good label for a bear.


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RE: In My Backyard

You cannot please all of the people all of the time...........

I agree, she didn't like what she was told, therefore she did what she could to help the bear cubs.
I would have done the same thing!

Kudos to Becky!!!!!!!!


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RE: In My Backyard

Usually rescued bear cubs are placed with new bear moms or they are placed in zoos or game farms.

If Becky wants to become a zoo or game farm, then kudos to her. She is going to have to start raising money fast, as its an expensive proposition.

If she thinks these cubs will become wild and live on their own, without being a nuisance to others, she is mistaken.

Here is a link that might be useful: bear articles in Wisconsin


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RE: In My Backyard

Joepye, thanks for sharing the articles. They are very interesting and informative.


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RE: In My Backyard

janie_may
Im glad you are enjoying my posts about the orphan bear cubs. I guess I felt compelled to write about my bear cub experience to make it more "real" to me. Also writing about it on the internet to people I cant actually see saves me from seeing the look of "yep, shes a nutcase" on peoples faces.

kallen305
Im happy that my bear pictures make you smile. Im not a good photographer at all. I just got really lucky with the subject matter at hand. Attempting to photograph 4 bear cubs all at once has been a challenge. I dont take my camera equipment with me very often when the cubs and I are tramping around the woods. I need to keep my wits about me. Also, the cubs are fascinated with my camera and they want to play with it. I wipe bear nose prints off the lens often. I usually get most of my photos when the cubs are occupied with food or play.

terrene-
I think the cubs are pretty cute too. Even more so with each one developing their own personality. Forrest is the serious one. Flower is the shy one, Flora is the special one with a gentle soul, and Fern is the goofball class clown. This summer has been an experience that I consider nuttier than usual. More like surreal!

Maureen-
You were amazed at my pictures? Wow! What a compliment. Thanks. Watching all the wildlife in the woods surrounding our home IS just like watching the National Geographic Channel.

softballmom
The den search may not be up to me actually. The cubs have gained so much more independence in the latter half of this summer. In fact, Im no longer able to keep up with the little rascals in the woods any longer. Its amazing how 4 creatures of their size can simply disappear in the brush, ferns and trees. I still plan to create a couple of denning spots for them in our woods where trees have fallen just in case. In our area bears like to create dens at the base of uprooted trees and dig under them.

joepyeweed
I estimate the weight of the bears to be around 50 pounds now. They need to put on a few more pounds before hibernation which shouldnt be too hard considering the amount of acorns and berries that are ripe in our woods now.

No, I am not independently wealthy (sure would be nice though). No, I am not a millionaire (I clip coupons and shop at discount stores).

Once the bear cubs got their choppers (around June), teaching the bear cubs to find natural food in the forest has been a priority. Supplemental feeding from me dropped off gradually to once a day, since food in the forest became plentiful this summer. There were many days the cubs needed no supplemental food at all. Watching them learning to forage for themselves sure made me proud of them.

As for the containers I carried their food in, I considered it a necessity because when I invited them to join me for dinner in my kitchen they refused to use silverware, so I sent them back to the woods to forage on their own. Such baaaaad table manners. Actually bears are very delicate eaters. One would imagine them slopping food down in a pig-like fashion. This is not the case. Their lips are separate from their gums, and they can use them like fingers. Its pretty cool to watch, especially when they delicately pluck a blackberry from a bush or nibble the head off a wildflower without breaking the stem. Did you know that a bear can eat thousands of bugs, caterpillars, beatles, slugs and army worms in a single day? I say bon appetit to them and thanks for preventing a bug invasion in my garden.

Once the bears cubs become adults, I wont have "to do" anything with them. 3 of the 4 are males and they will instinctively seek out their own territory. This "family break up" occurs naturally with bear families in June. Cubs stay with their mothers the summer after they are born, hibernate with their mother that winter, emerge from hibernation as a family the following spring, then naturally disperse in June. A mother bear will allow her female offspring to overlap a portion of her territory. The male offspring instinctively seek out their own territory and can travel great distances to do so.

skippy05
Thanks for all the kind words. It means a lot to me. I grew up on a farm where animal life was highly valued. I guess once I moved into the woods of the north, those values continued to thrive. As for writing a book.well Im a rotten proof reader. My vision is about as bad as my hearing. Im typing this in a 20 point font on an oversized monitor. I have retinopathy and the beginnings of glaucoma. Its nice to know that my disabilities are meaningless to the bear cubs. When they want my attention, they lightly touch me with their noses or gently lay a paw on my arm or leg.

elly_nj-
The orphan bear cubs are naturally fearful of humans and human sounds. Ive done a few harmless experiments to put this to the test. These bear cubs are not pets nor are they tame. The cubs recognize me because of my scent. I am regarded as a non-threat to them based on my scent. Your scent, on the other hand, would send them racing into the underbrush or high in the tree tops. I dont think it will cost me a fortune to overwinter them, in fact it shouldnt cost me anything. Unless of course I actually know exactly where they are hibernating in the woods, and invest in a high tech infrared camera to peek into their den and upload live streaming video of four bear cubs hibernating to the internet (just kidding!!) As for your friend who is a wildlife rehabilitator, there are alternative theories about bear behavior which can be found here:

http://www.bear.org/website/

I was lucky enough to attend a field study course with this black bear researcher, Lynn Rogers, PhD (see web site link above for more info). He and his team of scientists have over 30 years of experience studying black bears and their behaviors. Seems a lot of what was previously believed about black bears is a bunch of bunk. Theres lots of really interesting information about black bears on his website. Perhaps your Rehabilitator friend might be interested in checking it out.

thyme2dig-
You echo my sentiments exactly. After all, we live in an area that is heavily wooded and not densely populated. I live on a dead end gravel road without any full time neighbors. The bear population here seems to be thriving and unobtrusive, so why not give the cubs a chance to just be "bears in the woods?" Perhaps my view is too simplistic?

Konrad-
Well Im thrilled you stumbled upon my post. I think my bear cub experience is a bit odd, but worth sharing. Stay tuned, as I have a feeling we are only at the mid point of this story. The orphan cubs are growing up fast, and their journey has yet to unfold.

Joepyeweed-
Please check out this web page about black bear myths and misconceptions. Its interesting and informative.

http://www.bear.org/website/Myths-Misconceptions/

skippy05-
Thanks Skippy05. I agree, kudos to me for not caring what other people think and carrying on in my usual "nutcase" fashion.

Joepigweed-
I tried my best to adopt the orphans to a nursing mother bear. Didnt work out. It would have been quite a story though.can you imagine? Mother of 3 cubs adopts 4 orphan cubs!?!. Thats like a whole herd of cubs!

No, Im not starting a zoo, however I sometimes feel as though hiking in our woodlands is like being at a zoo (except no cages or bars). Its a thrilling experience to observe wildlife in nature. I dont have to "wait for the orphan bear cubs to become wild." They already are.

Well now that Ive addressed all your questions and comments, Its time to go check out my trail camera. Since the cubs are spending so much more time on their own this fall, I borrowed my husbands trail camera to try and monitor the activities of the quadruplet bear cubs. So far Ive captured shots of raccoons, birds, squirrels and a close up of a bear nose. I cant tell which bear was checking out the trail camera because all I got were its nostrils. I strap the camera to different trees in the woods each day, and so far no bears have run off with it thank goodness.

A quick cub update:
Forrest, Flower, Flora & Fern are doing great! I will post more pictures this week-end and describe their progression over the summer in more detail.

BooBooBearBecky

"Never kiss an ugly bear nor dance with an ugly man."


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky
I think it is fantastic that you were able to attend the course with Lynn Rogers. We have seen his documentary on Animal Planet! He is amazing!
How true, animals do not care about our disabilities.
Thanks for the update, we are looking forward to the photos!! I wish you much success & the best of everything to you & your family (human & animal!)
I do not think you are a nutcase!!
Good luck & take care!


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RE: In My Backyard

Thanks for the update.


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RE: In My Backyard

bump


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RE: In My Backyard

Thanks soooo..much with the update!

Konrad


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RE: In My Backyard

KEWL!!!!!! and I thought it was alot of work bringing in a 7 day old kitten abandoned by her mother.......YOU ROCK!!!


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, I am wondering how things are going with you and the bear cubs?

I really admire what you are doing, and it seems to me that you are breaking new ground in how humans interact and co-exist with the wildlife around us. Joepyeweed does bring up some good points, and I would hate for your bears or any bears to be harmed because they have become too habituated to human activity. Perhaps you are taking a risk, but if we don't take risks, how will we learn? And these bear cubs would have been doomed otherwise.

If we (the big we) can learn something from your experiences, it is well worth what you are doing IMO.


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RE: In My Backyard

I guess up in your neck of the woods, they should be hibernating soon. I believe they start around this time here in NJ. I hope all goes well with them, and I too will be checking back for more updates.


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RE: In My Backyard

Long Time; No Update
I apologize for the long delay in posting to those of you who have been following this thread. A few health issues, along with the passing of my hearing dog threw me for a loop! Despite the chaos in my life, Ive kept up with the nurturing of my orphan bear cubs.

At the moment the quadruplet orphan bear cubs, Forrest, Flower, Flora and Fern are doing great! They are fat, healthy and nearing the point of hibernation.

From Orphan Cubs

Ive spent an extensive amount of time with the cubs since April and Ive come to know them as individuals. Each one has their own unique personality, behaviors and quirks. Let me introduce them to you one at a time.

FORREST

From Orphan Cubs

Forrest, male, is the largest of the four and stands out as the leader. The other cubs take all their queues from Forrest. When to go, when to stay, when to take cover. Forrest could easily survive on his own and in fact would probably fare better without the burden of his siblings. However, he remains true to his family and takes his broods safety very seriously. Forrests main competition for the leadership role was often tested by Fern "the runt." I was often grateful to Forrest for using his leadership skills to keep Fern in line, because I sure had a tough time doing it. If you wanted to learn about classic bear behaviors, Forrest would be the bear to watch. He takes life in the woods very seriously and is always on guard. I nicknamed Forrest "the watcher."

From Orphan Cubs

FLOWER
Flower, female, began her life as the second largest bear cub in the family. As summer progressed and her three brothers grew up, she has become the smallest. This is natural as typical male bears tend to be larger and heavier than the females. Flower was a very shy cub and I feared starvation for her during my first rescue attempts. She has since formed a special bond with me that goes a bit deeper than her brothers. Flower would win a bear beauty contest if one existed. Her features are exquisite and a bit more delicate and defined.

From Orphan Cubs

Flower sometimes ended up alone with me when her brothers ventured off at a pace she was unable to maintain. She would seek out physical comfort from me with gentle touches, and when startled run behind me for protection. I trust Flower more than her siblings and perhaps our bond is a good thing as she will most likely stake out her territory in the geographic area she was born in. If she survives to adulthood, Im quite certain our paths will cross again.

From Orphan Cubs

FLORA
Flora, male, was the third largest cub. Gentle and forthright in his manner, yet always the cautious one. If anything had happened to Forrest, I was always certain that Flora would emerge as the leader. Flora is now close to the same size as Forrest. Flora has a bit of an overbite that makes his nose appear a bit turned up.

From Orphan Cubs

Flora was always the first cub to run up a tree when frightened, yet always the first cub to approach me when I appeared in the woods. Flora has a clear trust in me that I dont take lightly. His eyes appear soulful, wise and knowing.

From Orphan Cubs

FERN
Fern, male, was born the runt of the litter. Perhaps this is what made him the spitfire he is today. Always my "problem child" and forever the class clown. Although this naughty cub was not to be trusted, he provided me with reasons to laugh so hard and loud, that at times I would scare all the cubs away with it. Fern has never given up with his attempts to engage in physical play with me. I fell back on the time honored childrens game of hide-n-seek to avoid the wrestling matches he so wanted me to participate in. The look on this face in the photo below is one of playful mischief. Sometimes I even used dog toys to keep Ferns playful antics in check.

From Orphan Cubs

From Orphan Cubs

Fern is probably a bit too smart for his own good, and his curiosity knows no limits. His intelligence is far superior than that of his siblings even if his seriousness about being a bear stinks. The thing I know for certain about Fern is that even though his instincts are a bit convoluted, he will survive with his cleverness.

From Orphan Cubs

I actually became quite adept at anticipating Ferns antics but was taken by surprise recently when he snuck up behind me and snatched my gardening gloves out of my front jeans pocket, all the while speeding past me like a streak of black fur. When I attempted to get my gloves back, Fern was simply delighted and a game of keep away ensued. What a brat.

From Orphan Cubs

WEANING
Mother bears normally wean their cubs off milk around the beginning of September. I started weaning the orphan cubs off milk replacer a few weeks earlier than that. It took about two weeks of gradually decreasing the amount I provided for them. It seemed to go well, and Fern was the only cub who fell backwards a bit and began suckling on Babe the Pig again (something they all did as small cubs).

From Orphan Cubs

MY FEET STILL STINK
As some of you may recall, my feet seemed to hold a mysteriously high interest for the cubs when they were younger. At least I no longer have to toss my socks out to the cubs in order to get them to leave my feet alone. The funny thing is though, as our excursions through the woods expanded during the summer months, I began finding socks stuck here and there throughout our forest. My socks. My stinky socks that the cubs ran off with like coveted prizes. Currently, its just a few sniffs and licks of my shoes. Maybe my feet dont stink so bad anymore?

From Orphan Cubs

BEARS LIKE CARROTS AS MUCH AS HONEY
I discovered quite by accident that bears like carrots. Did I say "like?" I meant LOVE! Im quite certain carrots rank up there with Winnie the Poohs pot of honey. Watching the cubs delicately hold carrots with their forepaws while devouring them, was another one of those times I was sent into a fit of giggles!

From Orphan Cubs

From Orphan Cubs
From Orphan Cubs

THE SECRETS OUT
Although the cubs are about 95% on their own now, they still stop by for an occasional visit and snack. I no longer search them out in the woods and call them with our special secret sound. However, when I do see the cubs, I make my secret greeting sound to alert them to my presence. Imagine my surprise (shock) when I uttered my greeting call, to have SEVEN cubs appear, instead of just four. Um ahthats like three extra cubs!! Oh, I get it.Forrest, Flower, Flora and Fern are having a play date with Trixie, Dixie and Pixie (Red Riding Hoods three cubs). Flower approached me as usual for her "touch me" greeting, except when the cub was touching me I realized.HEY..youre not Flower! Or Fern! Or Flora! Or Forrest! Holy Cow I was peeing my pants! It wasTrixie! Reds largest male cub. Oh-Oh. Then of course Trixie started licking my stupid stinky feet. Good grief!!! And so Ive come to realize that I MUST invest in some serious foot stink prevention powder. After a few minutes had passed, I saw Red Riding Hood nearby simply relaxing in the ferns under an oak tree nibbling on acorns. I was too stunned to whip out my camera and take a photo of all seven cubs surrounding me. My eyes remained glued to Red, who almost seemed grateful to have her brood out of her hair, so she could do some serious eating in preparation for hibernation. After a few weeks of this, Ive come to the conclusion that Red and her cubs have indeed learned my "secret sound," because now when I greet my four orphan cubs with my secret greeting sound, Red and her three cubs appear. Im sure that ALL of you are finding this scenario as amazing (shocking?) as me. Imagine me sitting in our woods or meadow surrounded by EIGHT bears who pay little attention to me except to let me know that my feet stink. Even if my orphans arent ready for hibernation, I think I am now ready for them to start. This latest develop with a multitude of bears is more than.well more than I can "bear!"

HIBERNATION
My husband and I built 2 dens for the cubs. One directly in the earth under some fallen trees and another in a natural indentation in the ground next to a thicket of dense brush. We laid logs over the "hole," then covered it with brush and leaves. I tried to replicate what I saw in the brush pile bear den I explored at the Black Bear Field Study Course in Ely. I also think the cubs have been frequenting the den they were born in. They have entered and exited the "man-made" brush pile den, but I can't figure out if they have chosen it for a winter denning area yet. In any case, the quads are moving very slow and lethargic these days. Mostly nibbling on greens or chomping on acorns and lazy playing. I think hibernation mode is starting to set in. You can see just how large the cubs have gotten in the photo below.

From Orphan Cubs

These four orphan bear cubs have given me so much more than I have given them. This has truly been an experience that I will never forget, and no matter how hard I try, the words I put to paper regarding this bear adventure just dont seem to do it justice. As fall comes to a close, I finally did it. I captured a photo of all four bear cubs together in one spot all looking up at the same time. Not an easy feat (believe me, Ive been trying all summer!)
LEFT TO RIGHT: Flora, Flower, Forrest, Fern

From Orphan Cubs

If the cubs hibernate successfully and emerge next spring, I feel that my goal will have been accomplished: "Raise four wild orphan black bear cubs in the wild without resorting to captivity or demise." I think Im almost there.

Thanks for reading about my adventure.

BooBooBearBecky

Here is a link that might be useful: Orphan Cubs


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RE: In My Backyard

Boo....
Thank you for this update!
You sure have done a outstanding job, putting sooo....much time and effort into something like this is not a easy task.
All I want to say to you is,... THANK YOU!
For all the work you're doing and most of all, being a mother for these orphan bears!

Konrad


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, thanks for the update! I enjoyed reading every word of it. Your bears seem to be doing very well. They are spending 95% of the time on their own now? Congratulations! I hope their hibernation goes well.

Amazing that the 8 bears are so comfortable hanging out with each other and with you. I love your description of Red Riding Hood relaxing while YOU are on baby-sitting duty!

As for the "stinky sock" fetish - LOL - what is up with that? Perhaps the smell of your feet helps them to identify you or reinforces some sort of bond with you? Similar to the way dogs greet each other by sniffing each others behinds...;)


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Fascinating, Any updates?


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You could write a book Becky! I enjoyed reading this. They look so healthy. I'm not surprised that the orphan bears would be used to you but I think it's amazing that the other bears would approach you and even lick your feet. It makes a person wonder how much they can communicate with each other. Maybe the quads somehow let them know that you're ok.

What are you going to do when they emerge from hibernation though? Do you worry about them approaching your neighbors when they start to find their own territory?


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My 10 year old daughter and I came across this thread today and we're just fascinated by your story. I hope you will continue to keep us posted on how the bears are!


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Becky,
I saw your siggy on Name that Plant & came over here for an update. Thank you so much for all you have done for these lucky, lucky bears. I thought I was doing something by taking in stray dogs & cats-Ha! You should write a book (as previously mentioned by another poster) Your story is both fascinating & inspirational. I have followed from the beginning but never posted before. I cannot imagine how much work you put into this endeavor & seem to have done so very successfully. Keep us posted! Also be careful-especially around Red's offspring. We both need you-bears & humans!
Susan


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WOW!! just stumbled across this post, a truly fascinating story! How wonderful your home and yard sound. I don't know if I would have the guts to go out in the yard never mind walk thru the woods. lol.
You are a great "foster Mother" and I wish you well w/ the bears. Looking forward to hearing how they faired thru the winter and what the will do come spring.

Annette


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Becky, thank you for 45 minutes of a wonderful tour through your backyard and life with the bears. I am speechless about what you have done and your fantastic pictures. Yes, you should write a book!!

Thank you so much for sharing this.


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RE: In My Backyard

Hi Becky, I am new here and just came across your posts. I think it is wonderful the way you took care of the orphans and taught them to be bears. I like black bears and just visited the Bear Center in Ely last summer.
I live in west central WI and we have plenty of bears here, too. One hangs around our yard every spring and summer. When corn starts to form ears in the fields around our woods he leaves. I'm looking forward to updates from you in the spring.


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  • Posted by bbcathy 5-6 SE Michigan (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 22, 09 at 12:33

Becky You are an excellent "Momma Bear" and a wonderful writer. I can't wait to hear the next chapter. I know what a huge sacrifice of time this was for you. No matter what the outcome remember efforts like these are surely what gets a person into heaven. Blessings
Cathy


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I am just speechless, Becky! What a wonderful person you are to have taken all the time, research, expense, etc. to care for your four beautiful bear cubs, and to keep such a wonderful photo journal for us to enjoy and feel a part of it all! I admire you very much! And now, I'm almost afraid to ask.... but did the cubs hibernate successfully? Kat in KS


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Becky you have worked hard to take care of the bears the best you could and you've shared your wonderful adventure with many of us. Thank you for your kind heart and nurturing nature. You are a special person. I have enjoyed reading about your devotion to the bears.
Robin


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Konrad-
You think I did a good job being a mother to these bear cubs eh? Just an FYI, Im not even a Mom in real life! My only experience with infant critters has come from farm life growing up. One of my farm chores was teaching young calves how to drink from a pail. I simply used the same technique to teach the cubs how to drink from a bowl. Heres how its done:

Dunk hand and fingers in the pail of milk
Trickle drops of milk on the snout and lips of the calf
Let the calf lick your fingers and suckle
Slowly move your hand down into the pail of milk
Now the calf is drinking milk on its own!

I did the same thing with the bear cubs, because bottle feeding 4 cubs at the same time would have been impossible unless I had 8 arms. Not to worry.at the time I was teaching the cubs to drink, they had no teeth.

terrene-
Yes, the bear cubs were 95% on their own when I wrote my last post. Between my last post and the time when they hibernated, they were completely on their own. This time period of complete independence covered last November and December.

You commented on Reds Riding Hoods comfort level with me as the summer and fall progressed. This is something I am still mystified about. She pulled her baby sitting trick often last fall while she was feeding heavily prior to hibernation. Shed spot me and the quad cubs, drop her 3 cubs off, and completely LEAVE the area to go feed. Isnt that strange? I have no explanation for her behavior whatsoever.

The "bear greeting" is a nose touch and sniff. So yes, terrene I suppose this is similar to the dog butt sniff. OMG, does that mean my feet have the aroma of "eau de dog butt?!?" So maybe when the bear cubs touched, sniffed, and licked my feet they were greeting me. They also often touched and sniffed my hair with their noses if I was sitting on the ground. I sure hope my hair isnt giving off a dog butt aroma.

tennecil-
Keep reading because I have lots of updates today!! (and new photos too)

Christie-
You stated: "I think it's amazing that the other bears would approach you and even lick your feet. It makes a person wonder how much they can communicate with each other."

Actually bears communicate quite a bit with each other. Not with roars and growls so much, but with huffs, puffs, sniffs & grunts, along with teeth clacking, tongue clicking, nose & paw touches, licks, posturing, gestures & stiff legged walking. If youd like to hear some of the noises that black bears make and read about what they mean, check this out:

Black Bear Sounds

You asked about my role in the bears lives once they emerge from hibernation. Actually when the cubs emerge from hibernation, my part in their lives will be mostly over. Ill be there at first to offer assurance and familiarity, but for the most part, theyve learned everything they need to know to survive on their own. When the male cubs leave to find their own territory, it will be up them (not me) where they go. My neighbors are few and far between, so they will have lots of forest area to chose from. I am curious to see what choice the female cub, Flower, makes because mother black bears allow their daughters to share/overlap her territory. If Flower makes her home in our woods, does that mean she thinks she's my daughter? Or would it be because Flower's real mother, Goldilocks resided in our woods before she passed on? She could even to chose to spend the summer traveling with one of her sibling brothers.

lucky1_gardener-
Im glad that you and your 10 year old daughter enjoyed my posts and photos about the black bears and other critters in our woodlands. Stay tuned for more

organic_bassetlvr-
I have taken in stray cats and dogs as well, I just never imagined that Id take in 4 orphan bear cubs! I once snuck a stray kitten home in my purse! It took my husband 3 months to notice that one day there were 4 cats sitting in the living room instead of 3 (up until that time all 4 cats had never been in the same room; how very clever of them.) Im pretty sure he would have noticed 4 black bear cubs sitting on the couch fighting over the remote control though. My only previous experience with wildlife rescue was a baby squirrel. I called him Peanut.

Playintheyard-
You said, "I don't know if I would have the guts to go out in the yard never mind walk thru the woods." I gave your statement quite a bit of thought. Ive gone through a good portion of my life being afraid of what might happen if I do this or if I do that...and no matter how much I wrangled with some of life's toughest decisions, I always took the "sure bet." So what if, just for once, you did something in life without being afraid, even though failure was high? Thats what happened to me when I first encountered the bears and other critters in our woods. To some this might sound foolishafter all what does being frightened of a bear have to do with living ones life? It demonstrated to me that sometimes risks just need to be taken because the payoff will come back to you a hundred times over, despite the skeptics. I cant even begin to express how much this cub raising experience has taught me about myself. It actually CHANGED me. I've learned that courage comes in many forms.

Marciasc-
Oh boy another person who thinks I should write a book (Im seeing a theme here mentioned by several posters). Hmmlets seewhat would we title it??? "The Nutcase Who Rescued Some Scared Bear Cubs?" Not very catchy eh? How about "BooBooBearBecky and the Four Bears?" Suggestions anyone? Not that a book will actually be written, but ya never know and its kind of fun to dream about being a famous author (ha ha!)

Woodlandgal-
Im so happy that you had a chance to just visit the Bear Center in Ely last summer! What a great place to learn about bears and their behavior. I cant thank the North American Bear Center enough for offering the Black Bear Field Study training course, because it taught me so much about bears. I was very lucky to be able to attend the course during my bear cub rescue mission. Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield are THE experts when it comes to black bears. I see they still have a few openings for this years course if anyone is interested.

North American Bear Center

bbcathy-
You said, "No matter what the outcome remember efforts like these are surely what gets a person into heaven." Ya think? Really? Gosh I sure hope so! My mom always said to "treat others as you would want to be treated." Id like to think that if I was stranded in a tree balling my head off for several days, starving and frightened, that someone would want to rescue me.

kat in KS-
You asked, "And now, I'm almost afraid to ask.... but did the cubs hibernate successfully?"

And the answer is (suspenseful lengthy drum roll please) You'll have to keep reading to find out.

sowngrow-
Yes, I have worked hard to take care of those little bear cubs. Will the work pay off? Will Forrest, Flower, Flora & Fern thrive as adults? Will they make it on their own? Only time will tell.

Orphan Bear Cub Update

So lets get everyone caught up!

My last post was in October. We had a mild fall which meant a plentiful source of food for the local fauna and of course the orphan bear cubs. All of the cubs were doing what comes naturally this time year, EAT!


The Last Supper

I gradually decreased their supplemental feedings down to nothing by the end of October. Seems like a strange thing for me to do given that bears need all the nutrition they can get prior to hibernation, however, their hunger caused them to forage heavily on their own. As you can see by the photos below they kept up their weight gain. Woodland food was plentiful.

October passed into November, with mild weather continuing. And, oh my, what strange happenings. For a week, Fern foraged with Red and her 3 cubs. Was Fern, the class clown, finally going to get a serious lickin' from a REAL bear mom and learn how to behave the way a bear should? And then for the next two weeks I watched in total bewilderment and wonder as Red, Trixie, Dixie, Pixie, Forrest, Flower, Flora & Fern foraged together! For two whole weeks!! Was Red Riding Hood finally adopting my orphan cubs now that all the cubs were weaned and eating on their own? Would my orphans hibernate with Red & Family? It was like watching the Brady Bunch Bears! Then things settled down the last days of November and the game of musical bear chairs ended. Red and her 3 cubs disappeared, mostly like to begin hibernation, and the 4 orphan cubs went back to being "the quadruplets." I assumed that the cubs would take notice of Red's behavior and begin hibernation as well. In anticipation of them holing up soon, I captured these photos of my butter ball bear babies. FAT FAT FAT. Yipeeeee!

I can't believe they are still dragging "Babe the Pig." around! I thought that stuffed toy was long gone.

In anticipation of the cubs not taking inititive to search out their own den, my husband and I built them one. Here's a picture.


With the aid of a field trail camera and a solar power source, I was able to keep tabs on the activity surrounding the man made bear den. Here's a picture taken after 3 of the cubs went inside the den, with Flora on the outside peeking in.

Other critters showed interest in the den as well. This is Mo, from Goldilocks' previous set of quadruplets checking out the den. Mo is a single female who mated with Peter Pan and Robyn Hood last June.

Even Mr. Foxworthy seems a bit interested. You can see Mrs. Foxworthy's eyes glowing on the other side of the brush pile.

Alas, Big Sigh. My carefully designed and engineered bear den was rejected. Here's the last photo I got of the cubs on the trail camera, taken the 3rd week of December (notice that Fern's eye's are glowing like the little demon he is.) I was worried sick because the cubs should have been hibernating by this time.

Just a few days later, the snow blanketed the area entirely. I checked for bear footprints often but saw nothing. I took this as a good sign. And so the long cold snowy winter began. I hoped for the best, but prepared myself for the worst. And I spent all winter wondering...

Wondering if the cubs had found proper shelter.
Wondering if they had gained enough weight prior to hibernation.
Wondering if they hibernated at all.
Wondering if they would die.
Wondering if they would live.

Wondering and wondering and wondering and imagining all sorts of outcomes. Self doubt crept in and reared it's ugly head. Had I done the right thing? Had I interfered with nature? What was I doing...a novice nature photographer trying to rear bear cubs??? Who the heck did I think I was anyway....attempting to raise quadruplet orphan bear cubs in the wild! All the naysayers ganged up on me in one fell swoop.

I set it all aside and spent the winter focused on training my new hearing dog, Maximus Aurlius (rest in peace Pancho Villa) sniff sniff.

BooBooBearBecky


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RE: In My Backyard

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

The snow is finally melted, the weather is warming up. Yeah!!!

Red Riding Hood and her 3 yearlings emerged from hibernation the second week of March. The all looked healthy and happy. None of the orphan cubs were in tow though. After all the bonding the two families participated in last fall, I thought perhaps their relationship would continue once all the bears were out of hibernation.

I watched Red and family off and on for a month. March passed by and April began, and still no orphan cubs. I was really starting to worry now, but had made my peace with the outcome of the orphan cubs either way.

I took a few hikes in the woods to look for "bear sign," something I learned a great deal about while attending bear camp in Ely last summer. I was looking for typical signs of bears in the woods and found plentyclaw marks on trees, bear hair on tree bark, fresh scrapes on dead logs & of course bear scat (for you non-woodsy people that's p**p), but I found nothing that specifically pointed to the orphan cubs.

On April 14th I found something in the woods that made me stop in my tracks.

Babe the pig with his ears suckled clean off.

I was certain that Babe the pig had both of his ears intact last fall. I checked some cub photos just to be sure. Yep, there was Babe, count em 1, 2, furry pink ears. Could it be that the orphan bear cubs had dragged Babe into their hibernation den with them? And now brought him back out after hibernating minus his ears? They were certainly attached to that silly stuffed toy pig, thats for sure. I realized I was grasping for straws and imagining silly stories as I wiped a tear from my eye. I held Babe up to my face and breathed in bear drool. I took Babe back to the house with me for a keepsake. I decided I would never launder him again. Holy Cow what a sentimental sad sap I was turning into.

What happened next is just plain weird. The next day, April 15th, I was heading to the living room to watch TV, and I just got this "inkling feeling." I retrieved my binoculars and went to the window and lo and behold there they were! 4 yearling bear cubs and YES by golly it was Forrest, Flower, Flora and Fern nibbling on emerging clover in the meadow. I let out a whoop so loud, my dog even started howling and barking. I grabbed my coat and hat and then I remembered that the cubs didnt like it when I wore a hat (I think it prevented them from sniffing my hair.) Tossed the hat and snagged Babe out of the laundry room and raced out to greet them. My heart was poundingWould they remember me?? Before I write one more word, those of you who have been following this thread will recognize exactly what these bear cubs are doing. See the pictures below:

Yep, my feet still stink!! Horaaaay!! Feet licking and hair sniffing abound. They remembered me! Im stunned!!! How can this be?

My eyes watered a bit, because it was at this exact moment that it smacked me upside the head with what I had actually achieved. I successfully raised quadruplet orphan bear cubs in the wild!! Last year it was just such a one day at a time thing, and I was so wrapped up in their care and research regarding their care that I never really had time to step back and look at what I was I doing objectively. I now realize what a truly rare and unusual thing I have accomplished. I'm proud of myself for taking on what at first seemed like an impossible task that was far beyond my means (skill-wise), and tackling it. I am now wearing my "nutcase bear badge" with honor instead of shame (and grinning ear to ear about it!)

All 4 of the yearling bear cubs looked healthy, a little groggy from recently emerging from hibernation, but still very, very good indeed. Their winter coats looked shiny, thick and luxurious. They were hanging out next to what I call their "rescue tree." This is the large oak tree on the edge of our meadow where I first found them last April in distress. I happily returned Babe the pig to his rightful owners, the orphan bear cubs. I snapped some photos.

I decided this called for a special celebration. I ran to the house and fetched some carrots and cream cheese. Went outside and made my special sound to call the cubsthey all looked up and they all came to me. Do bears have memory? Im beginning to think so.

Flower

Flora

Forrest

Missing from the carrot cream cheese photo shoot is Fern, who ran off with the cream cheese container. Typical Fern. When he returned, I realized just how much "the runt of the litter" had grown. He was now second largest. Forrest still remains the largest and has held on to his role as the leader. Flora lost the most weight of the quads, but still looks good. Flower is the smallest, same as last fall.

The yearling cubs spent 3 whole days with me before heading out on their own. As I understand it, bears dont just suddenly wake from hibernation. It takes a little time for them regain their full alertness, and I observed this behavior in the time I spent with them.

7 days since their emergence, the cubs are now bounding all over the woods, foraging on their own, and visiting favorite spots. It seems as though they remember where certain plants grow that they like to eat. Right now their favorite meal is early spring plants & greens that are just beginning to emerge, along with leaf buds.

I guess all moms go through a time where they face cutting the apron strings. I always laughed at that saying, but Im quite certain I know what they are feeling now. It comes with feelings of happiness, sadness, and a whole lot of love.

Lets all wish Forrest, Flower, Flora and Fern a successful spring and summer season as they begin their new way of life as Yearling Bears.

BooBooBearBecky

p.s On the same day that the quad yearlings showed up, Mo, my garden bear, (that's a whole 'nother story), appeared in the woods with cubs.

Mo, 3 1/2 year old female, first time Mom.
-Daughter of Goldilocks' previous set of quadruplets
-Sibling of Enie, Meenie & Miney
-Step sister to Forrest, Flower, Flora & Fern
-Mate of Peter Pan and Robyn Hood (yes females can mate with multiple males and have multiple cubs by each male)
-Mother of ?(1) ?(2) ?(3) ?(4)

Crap...I'm running out of bear names!!!


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RE: In My Backyard

OMG Becky,
Thank you so much for the up date,it brought tears to my eyes,you are truly an amazing woman.Please consider writing a book,simply titled,Becky,Bear Whisperer.
The whole world would love to read this wonderful, loving,kind,funny,sad,adventurous,and amazing story.
This has brightened up my day,thank you.I , like so many others, worried about your babies all winter,my husband and i mentioned a few times over the winter months,we hoped your babies were ok.
You should feel so proud of the work you have done,this should be written down for a history lesson,some one else will need to know this,hopefully.

You wondered if bears have memory,yes,every thing does, there are those naysayers who will tell you other wise,but do not pay attention to them.
Every year,for about 4 years, we had pair of Phobia birdes make a nest on the underside of our porch,they came back every year, to the same spot,we would sit out there with them, they tought their babies how to leave the nest with us out there,execpt for one year,a Bluejay,discoved they had a nest there,and was very interested in their babies, i would scare them off,when i was out there, but i could not be out there all the time,and sure enough, one day we got up,went out side,and the babies were gone,we know the Blue Jay took them.
The pair of Phibie went to the nest only a couple of times,and did not lay thieir second set of eggs there.
The next year,they came back, flew up to that same spot,made some bird noises,only they could understand,but they did not build there.They remembered what had happened,this will be the third year with no nest,we have seen them this year already,they have vivited the area, but so far, no nest building.
My Koi, fish remember me,even the frogs i have in the pond,i can feed them by hand,but if some one new comes up to the pond, they hop in the water.Nature is a wonderful thing, a gift given to us all,if you live in harmony with nature,you reap the rewards,don't let any one tell yuou other wise.
I hope you keep us updated Becky, and please, start that book, i will buy it!
Carol


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RE: In My Backyard

All I can say, Becky, is a big WOOHOO!!!
Kathy


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RE: In My Backyard

So glad they got through the winter ok. What a nice story. I wonder if they deliberately left the pig for you to find.

Anyone can write a book nowadays Becky. It wouldn't have to be selected by a publisher. Of course if you wanted to make money, you might need one. We made a hardback "book" after my daughters wedding with her photos. We used Snapfish.com after seeing it on Oprah. They were showing how to put kids' artwork into a permanent book on her show but you can use photos too or whatever else you can scan. It looks just like a regular book when they're done with photos on each page and words below. I'm not sure what it would cost. We had a special Oprah offer so we only had to pay postage.


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, thanks to my friend, Malinda, I'm checking in and reading the WONDERFUL update! I am in total awe and so happy to read the latest "bear" news! Give yourself a huge pat on the back, job well done!

Yeah, you really should write a book! And, your new dog is a real beauty!


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RE: In My Backyard

Timothy Treadwell had nothing but the best intentions, but his efforts ended in tradgedy for not only him but some of "his" bears as well.

Bears should be treated as wild animals. They should not be fed people food in people containers. Nor should they play with people toys.

The pictures are very neat, I hope nothing but the best for the bears. I just question the need to continue to feed these bears, especially in their second year.


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RE: In My Backyard

WOW! How on earth did I miss this update from over TWO months ago??? Such a pleasure to read your update finally BBBB! :)

So glad that the 4 orphan bears made it through the winter and are doing well. I imagine you worried yourself sick over the winter, and with the delay in their emergence. A big congratulations to you!!

Your story would make a fabulous book, for children and adults alike. There was a show on Animal Planet recently called "Bear Man of Kamchatka". Bear expert Charlie Russel raised orphan grizzlies by hand in the Russian wilderness. "Upon discovering the motherless cubs in 1997, Russell acted as a surrogate parent and taught the cubs how to hunt and fend for themselves.."

Sounds like you...Maybe you should be the "Bear Woman of Wisconsin"!


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky - any chance for an update? I am hoping the bears made it through another winter and you are seeing them again. Hopefully with some new cubs, as well.


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, what an amazing story. Thank you for documenting this wonderful adventure. What a way to start my Memorial Day. God bless you.


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, do you suppose your feet sweat and they could taste the salt. Maybe they need a salt block. LOL


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, very much enjoyed reading about your experience. Laughed a lot while reading it. You express yourself very well. Learned about this site while reading the blog on the bears studied by Dr. Rogers. Hope you do an update sometime soon. Thank you for sharing your adventure.


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RE: In My Backyard

Oh!Becky, what a wonderful adventure you had. I happened to come across your page from the Bear Center. I have been following Lily and Hope since last Jan. I am so amazed with that story and than yours. How great is that? It has taken me over an hour to read all and in the end shed tears of happiness for you and your cubies. You are truly blessed by the highest to have this honor of raising these babies. I wish you the very best and keep up the wonderful job. I hope Flower bring by her cubies for you to see your grandcubies when she has them. Love to you and all the good work you do.


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RE: In My Backyard

OMG I loved the whole story. I saw you telling us all about your adventure on the Lily and Hope chat page today and had to come over and check it out for myself...OMG I am so happy I did.I am not an big reader but you kept my interest and I just couldn't stop reading until it was done. Too bad that joey whoever had to be a "spoilsport" and try to ruin such a beautiful story. But we all saw right through that "dud"..we went on together reading and sobbing all the way. I love watching nature in it's own home and believe people need to remember who lived here first..they are not in OUR yard we are in THEIR yard. Keep up the good work and YES you shpould become a writer, you are able to express your words well that we all felt like we were in your back yard with you. good Luck!! Naples Bears or Shirl Pierce-Siebert on FB


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky Thank-you so much for sharing your wonderful story. I saw your link on Lily & Hope's web cam yesterday. All I can say to you is, you are one amazing lady!!!!! You are a lucky to have had the rewards of this experience. You do need to put your story in a book to help dispel all the myths that abound about our beloved black bears. Please post any news you have on your bears. God Bless Your Bear Loving Soul !!!!


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, Hope all is well with you and the bears. We'd love an update!!!!
Cathy


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RE: In My Backyard

Hi there, Becky,

Your entire thread (well, a link to it) was posted over in the Cacti & Succulents Forum (it must've really had an impact on the individual who posted it), and I came on over to check it out.

I have to say, I'm all astonishment, in complete awe, and thoroughly moved. This has been an unbelievably beautiful story. You've been part of an amazing blessing. Few things are this magical - which is an utter shame, truly. As a species, we expend so much energy separating ourselves from the miracle of life. You have surrounded yourself in it. Oh, that the rest of mankind would be so attuned to its Mother.

I will admit, much of the thread I skimmed over. (As a quick aside, you really should consider having this story published as a book or photojournal.) I did catch the few posts from such folks as "joepyeweed" and others. Their comments aren't without merit. They have some real and valid concerns, and I don't disagree with their arguments. I think, however, that theirs, in contrast to yours (and, it would appear, the majority of everyone else here), paints the situation in an either/or scenario - either the bears are allowed human contact, or they're not. One position says you're doing just fine; the other says that you're interfering with nature, and (thus) putting at risk not only any humans the bears might decide later on that they're not afraid of, but also the bears themselves (as a consequence of a lack of fear of humans). Bears are wild animals, and should be treated as such. They need to be afraid of humans, so that they'll stay away from humans, and human foods, etc.

I suggest a third perspective - one, I think, that would actually require a paradigm shift. As I said, as a species we expend so much time, energy, effort and resource trying to separate ourselves from the natural world; this is as much a result of our notion that we actually are separate from the natural world as it is a prime contributing factor to that notion. (We think we're not part of nature, so we separate ourselves from nature; we've become so removed from nature, that we don't recognize that we're actually part of it.) I suggest that this notion we've developed that we are separate from nature is folly (indeed, it's responsible for much of the destructive, overconsumptive behavior that is presently destroying the Earth), and that the idea that we need to maintain that separation is flawed. Your contact with the bears is, in my opinion, natural. You chose to live in their natural habitat; but instead of trying to drive them away, you chose to live peacefully in harmony with them. You weren't domesticating them. You gave them a chance at survival; and (at least at the time of your last post) you were successful. They recognize you by scent, by sound, and by sight. I don't know how much and what kind of contact the Native Americans had with the bears back before the New World was colonized, but I'd venture to say you have lived with these bears much more as the Native Americans did than as anyone in our present society and culture today ever would consider to. You have lived as part of nature - not as an outsider or an intruder, or even as human who lives in the country. You have been an active part of nature. More of us should seek to do so.

Unfortunately, with our current paradigm, it is dangerous for bears and other wild creatures to lose their fear of humans, because we humans certainly have not (nor will we soon) lost our fear of the wild creatures; and we absolutely do not understand (or have any respect for) how the wild creatures live and behave. As far as we're concerned, if they frighten us, inconvenience us, or otherwise threaten our creature comforts, we simply destroy them. I do have to say, if you should ever decide to move from that place, and someone else moves in who doesn't have the same respect for wildlife that you do, I worry what will happen to the bears should they be spotted. You've established such a beautiful relationship. I don't want anything ill to come of it.

I also want to say - and this is very important for you to remember - that in all of this, you've made some remarkable observations on bear behavior and personality. If you were a wildlife biologist or something else along those lines, the observations you've made would become invaluable in terms of wildlife research. As it is, since you're not, you get stuck with the moniker "Crazy Bear Lady" and labeled by those who criticize your work as "misguided," "inappropriate," "harmful." Consider Jane Goodall. Consider Dian Fossey. These women didn't see their "subjects" as simply "wild creatures." They recognized them as living, sentient beings with feelings and distinct personalities. So, too, have you with the bears. And you've learned a great deal - a great deal that the rest of us could stand to learn from you. (I'll say it again, you really should consider publishing your experience in a book or photojournal.) I dare say that the field of wildlife biology and research could benefit from what you've learned with these bears.

I'm highly curious to know how things are now, almost a year since your last post. Are you still around here on GardenWeb? Are you still in contact with the bears? If you're still here, please post an update. This has been a truly remarkable story. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.


Jessica
(aka "Chaparral Girl")


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RE: In My Backyard

Well said, Jessica.
Penny


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Becky, thank you so much for the story. I loved it. I read every post in this thread and loved all the update.
Please continue to post with more pictures.
Marie


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, thank you for your story. I was also linked here from the Succulents forum. I read every post. My heart sank when I read that the bears had disappeared after the winter and I cried when they were alive. What a moving story. I agree with chaparralgirl-- you've explored a different paradigm of interaction with nature here, and achieved a 100% survival rate for the cubs, and you're to be commended for it. Well done.


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky, Wondering how you are doing? I'm back on GW now and truly loved your Bear stories. Hope all is well with you and the Bears! You are amazing!

Mary Oates


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RE: In My Backyard

Just got to see this now and I'm glad all is fine, ..you did extremely well as a momma substitute!

Yeah...as you were saying how you have learned, feeding calves milk in your younger years,...I had to do exactly the same when growing up and helping my dad on the farm in Switzerland, I guess this is universal.

Hope everything turns out for the good in the long run, human and animal.
Thank you for all this work you've done and sharing with us.

Konrad


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RE: In My Backyard

What Disney name would you give to these bears?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_bear_attacks_in_North_America

You are unbelievably irresponsible and are playing with dynamite. I hope your Frankenstein bears are killed or captured before they make the list above.


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RE: In My Backyard

Becky- What a truly awesome documentary. I felt like I was there. Besides being a cub "Mom", you have the gift of story telling. Any updates?


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