Bears Can Have the Zoomies

Grizzly bear splashing water in a pool

Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPs), more commonly known as “the zoomies,” are a frequent phenomenon in the average pet owner’s household. Mostly associated with cats and dogs, the intense, random burst of energy that sends an animal running, jumping, rolling, and spinning around in circles is triggered by sheer excitement and joy. It turns out that bears have the zoomies, too.

Recently, in preparation for the bears’ move into their new quarters, we opened a door between two of their original gardens, giving them double space and access to two ponds. The idea was that this would give them a view of their new gardens to the east and of the fenced passageway we will guide them through. Bramble, the braver of the two, went first; he followed his marshmallow trail, sending out his long, soft, sticky tongue to gather each one up as he tentatively stepped into his garden, carefully observed his surroundings, and sniffed the air.

At this point, he had not yet noticed the new opening. Rather, his attention was captured by the pond. It was his first outing since waking up from hibernation, so he was initially hesitant to dive in. He eased his way down the side, testing the temperature of the water with his muzzle, bobbing his large head back and forth. Once satisfied, he dipped in his large front paw and began to swipe and smack at the water, growing openly more excited by the splashing. When he tired of this, he eased the rest of his large body into the pond. The theatrics began: one large paw after the other, he slapped wildly at the water. The ripples caused his large red ball to drift into his line of sight— inspiring a new game. Guiding the ball under himself, he reared up to his full height and flung himself down onto it, pushing it beneath the surface of the water. There he held it for a few moments, the buoyancy of the toy causing him to float atop it. Eventually, it slipped from his grasp and exploded out of the water.

Grizzly bear playing with a large ball in a pool
Bramble playing with a ball in the pool • Photo by Heather Holcomb

Delighted, Bramble repeated the game again and again and again before the excitement became too much for him to contain. The soggy bear proceeded to plow through the water and exited the pond with far more vigor than he had gotten in. He ran to the fence where Susan was standing, slid to an abrupt halt, and flung his head to the side playfully. He took her in for a moment, brown eyes gleaming with the joy of it all, before turning to race past the pond to the other end of the garden.

That’s when it finally caught his attention—the doorway. Something new in his environment! Was it safe to pass through it? Would something happen should he cross the threshold into the other garden? Slowly, he started to explore this new possibility. After confirming that there was no hotwire preventing him from passing through, he put his first paw through the threshold. Waiting. Testing. Then the other paw. Then the rest of his body ambled through the doorway. He had done it, and he was thrilled. Immediately, he went to investigate the significantly larger pond. It didn’t take long for him to leap into the water, splashing and chewing on his favorite log, which we had put in the pool. After a few moments of play, he rushed out of the water, his energy peaking, and raced back into the other garden, running around the smaller pond and to the other end of the garden, then back to the pond. He dove into the water as if to compare the quality of it to the other. When you’re a large bear, it only makes sense to want something bigger and better. He was quick to choose the larger pond, where he spent the remainder of his garden time.

The excitement of Bramble’s first outing, clean ponds, and extra space resulted in a rush of energy from him that every person watching felt. We continue to look forward to moving day, a day that is just around the corner. Soon, Bramble will have an acre of space, an enormous body of water that eclipses even our largest pond, a waterfall, and a stream. His outing gave us a glimpse of the happiness that is in store, and soon, Bramble will be zooming in his beautiful new home.

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