Major Bear favors the flaky pie crust before digging into the cherriesPhoto by: Earthfire

— by Susan Eirich, PhD —

The other day it was lying chickens. Now it is jealous humans –  jealous of the bears. 

Kindly visitors had asked what they could bring for the animals. Among other things*, we said meaty bones for the foxes, coyotes, wolves and cats, and cherry pies for the bears. Visitors and bears enjoyed the pies enormously – the visitors watching, and the bears eating. The pies were consumed in various styles:  two gulps for one, setting down for a long pie session for another,  delicately licking the cherries and juice out of the crust for a third.

I came back to the office and mentioned how much the bears had enjoyed their pies. I got a chorus of indignation (they say light-hearted indignation): “We heard the about the pies – where’s ours?” I am not sure about the chain of animal- human gossip that resulted in their knowing about it. I had not mentioned anything and the people and pies never came to the office. How did they know?** But apparently there was an intense and detailed discussion about pies; what kind they were; which they liked and didn’t (Sally really didn’t like coconut); why they weren’t getting any. I was tempted to ask if they wanted the raw bones too, but I was already in the dog house so to speak.

It reminded me of what happens as we distribute treats to the bears. Since we give them one at a time, the others are watching closely– “Where’s mine!” Where’s mine!” Where’s mine!,” sometimes banging loudly in their insistence on getting their share. The humans were slightly more restrained, but the underlying outrage was the same.

I have to admit in the interests of honesty and guilt, I had, in fact, taken a small piece (small) out of one of the pies for myself. I couldn’t resist. They were right there in front of me. I delicately licked the cherries and juice out of the crust.

Since I stole a piece and indulged myself, in the interests of fairness I will in the future ask for treats for the human animals as well. We’ll see how people respond.

In the meantime, in my guilt I made a special trip to town and bought a freshly-baked strawberry-rhubarb pie (it is a small town, they didn’t have any cherry). It was eaten.

“Mine!” Strawberry-rhubarb pie pacifies envious staff | Photo by Hope McKenzie

*This gets complicated.  First of all, which animals? Which ones do you want to leave out? If I say pies for the bears Jean says, “What about the other animals?” and he is quite right.

**I investigated this further. It turns out I was talking with Jean outside and he said, “The visitors are here and they brought pies.” Not loud. Outside the office. With a closed door. Apparently Hope’s right ear had unconsciously and with unerring accuracy keyed on the word “pie,” and she then communicated that fact to Sally. If you think about it, perfectly reasonable; brain picks out the most relevant stimuli among many – i.e. pie being highly relevant.


Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.

 

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