Teton and the Fan

A broken fan and extension cord outside a domestic bear's enclosure

It was hot. Very, very hot. Teton has a thick bear coat and even in the shade it was difficult to cool him off. It bothered us. What could we do? He had shade cloth sprinkled with water, and cool watered grass to lay on, but he was still uncomfortable. It occurred to me that a fan might help.

Teton Totem has always been a brilliant bear and it pays to deal with his intelligence with respect. However, he is also elderly now and we too often tend to disregard the acuity of the elderly. Still, with due respect for him being a grizzly bear, we took what we thought were due precautions when setting things up.

We took our powerful standing fan from the yurt—which is also hot, but bears before people—and set it up outside his enclosure, far away from his reach, and plugged it in.

He loved it.

He would sit in front of it and not budge.

He would lie in front of it, stretched out like an emperor awaiting his grapes.

He loved that fan.

Unfortunately it was a moving thing, and a moving thing that whirred. It apparently was an object of fascination. One morning, we came in to find he had been vigorously digging beneath the metal beam of the fence—the fence that separated him from the fascinating fan. He dug until he reached the extension cord and methodically pulled and pulled, laying the cord in a spaghetti pile until he could reach the fan. It was rather obvious that he had done a thorough bearly exploration of its mechanics. Pieces of it were everywhere.

Curiosity is a feature of all intelligent mammals and it is natural for them to explore their environment to better understand it. We have a webcam set up in our wildlife corridor which illustrates this. It has been thoroughly examined by a resident black bear. At least he hasn’t pulled it apart. Yet. (Watch our trailcam video here.) Anything new is an object for exploration, which makes perfect sense if understanding your environment is essential for survival. Curiosity in itself is satisfying and innate. We often forget that the full quote is “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.

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