Huckleberry Bear Bear
— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
Huckleberry Bear Bear is quite elderly now, so foolishly, we trusted him. We wash the bear enclosures with a powerful hose, which is an object of great interest for the bears. (Ramble the grizzly snares one with some regularity and seems to find a thrill in the upset caused by the need to replace a severed and well-punctured hose at $60 and a 3-hour round trip drive.) But gentle black bear Huckleberry?
Now that it is spring and the bears are awake, Huckleberry goes out into his Garden. There is a passageway from his enclosure to the Garden that passes quite close to the water spigot and its attached hose. Jean had moved the hose, he thought, out of Huckleberry’s reach. But he was wrong. Instead of heading directly out to the Garden, Huckleberry lumbered over to the spigot (which was behind a fence), laid his bulk down to the ground with great care, and stretched, streeetched, streeeetched his left front paw ever so far until he was just able to reach the hose and pull it to him. He wanted to thoroughly investigate it.
Sitting in the office at the computer in another universe, I got a call frantic call from Jean—bring some marshmallows quick! I envisioned 5 bears running loose in a great fight. No. It was just Huckleberry investigating the hose in a gentlemanly manner. But Jean is very possessive of his hoses, having lost many. Huckleberry had the hose, Jean had the marshmallows. Huckleberry is very interested in marshmallows. So a trade was amicably reached. But we keep being reminded not to underestimate any animals—we do so at our peril.
The snow is melting. There are pools of water, and tiny little frogs with the very big voices are chirping chirping chirping as the evenings falls. There is something so peaceful and soothing about their calls—and magical. We live in a high mountain desert and our land is mostly sagebrush. Where do they come from? They seem to just materialize for the brief time there is water.
We have been having April thunderstorms—not quite usual, but quite wonderful. Sheets of rain one minute, hail the next, then moments of glorious sun, blocked again by scudding clouds, then more rain, sun and rainbows. Oh, the smell of the Earth and sage after a rain; the birds going wild celebrating Life!
After a major late winter blizzard damaged the fencing in the Wolf Garden, we were unable to let the wolves out until it was fixed. It has been a battle getting all the material and construction help. But in the meantime, Jean managed a temporary fix, and out they went as soon as the snow melted enough to keep them from just walking directly out of the garden and into trouble. Freedom! Joy!
The Water is Coming
We need to brace ourselves—the water is coming. As the huge amount of snow from this winter’s snowfall begins to melt in the mountains, the intermittent streams begin to flow. We just saw the first fingers in South Leigh Creek as we crossed over the bridge on our land on the way to get the bears’ groceries. Soon we will have spring flooding, some of it natural, some of it the result of agriculture changing the original native hydrology of the valley. Nevertheless, the annual cycle is a life-giving one, the mountains serving as the reservoir for the entire valley. And water itself is a life-giving miracle, clear and cool, one we humans tend not to appreciate until it is scarce. In general, would that we could appreciate what we have before it is gone! Appreciation makes for a happy and healthy life—not to mention that we tend to preserve things better then.
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.