It isn’t news to those who are personally acquainted with our sanctuary brown bear, Ramble, that he is a bold and rowdy personality. He has been described as demanding, rambunctious, moody and toddler-like—all of which are true. His brazenness is apparent when he wants something, whether that be a meal, attention, or—as we experienced recently—a trip to his garden.
Ramble had been notably moody for the past week or so, something we attributed to intense hunger that is typical of a bear in hyperphagia. He had taken to beating on the walls of his enclosure during the early hours of the morning, informing us, not so politely, that he was ready for breakfast and pool time. A fair request of course, but a very loud one that could be heard from across the sanctuary. The shenanigans didn’t stop there, though they rarely do. He had taken immense pleasure in teasing caretakers by luring them in for fence greets and, rather than treating them to the pleasantries of his more sensitive side, he quickly stood on his hind legs and threw his front paws on the steel mesh of his enclosure. He is very, very large and is most certainly aware of that fact. It is startling to be caught off guard by his antics, but the joy and excitement that flashes in his eyes when he earns a satisfactory reaction is evident.
Later that week, after an afternoon filled with attitude and “beary” rude behavior, it was time to dish out evening meals and for the bears to return to their designated overnight enclosures. All necessary doors were pinned, caretakers were in their appropriate positions, and we had just finished staging the trail of marshmallows that led into Ramble’s enclosure. It was the normal routine, assuming that there is such a thing, yet the outcome would prove less predictable.
Ramble pushed the door to the pool yard open, holding his paw out to ensure it didn’t swing back from the impressive force it was thrown open with. He began to make his way down the line of marshmallows, slurping down each one enthusiastically. Once he had reached the entrance of his enclosure, he came to a halt, his interest in the marshmallow trail lost in favor of a far more tempting idea. I tried hopelessly, and with unimpressive aim, to toss more marshmallows inside the enclosure. If Ramble could laugh at me, I’m sure he would have. He needn’t have even turned his head, because the abrasive side eye spoke for itself; my marshmallows were a useless prop and dinner was not nearly enticing enough at that moment.
His blatant disinterest shifted to wicked delight as he concentrated his focus on the door to the enclosure before promptly slamming it shut. Despite our pleas, and a desperate bribe of grapes, he turned around and tramped down the alley to the entrance of the garden before plopping his bear behind on the ground. He knew what he wanted- we knew what he wanted- and there was no point in denying him.
After the correct measures were taken, we slid the door open and Ramble made quick work of his trip to the bear pond. He splashed in the cool water, chomped on his collection of branches and grazed on vegetation for a total of ten minutes before making his way back to the garden’s entrance. Not a long outing by any means, but it was the principle of the matter and he was accomplished regardless. He followed the fresh marshmallow trail to his enclosure, this time without issue or complaint, and began munching on his gourmet bear feast, complete with the extra bag of grapes that failed to bring him in the first time around. He was satisfied, finally, by a mischievous game well played.