Teton Totem’s Very Good Day and Humble Bumble Bear’s Very Bad One

Grizzly bear standing in a field

— by Susan Eirich, PhD —

We had a high wind the other day – so high that a 65’ cottonwood cracked and then crashed directly in front of the bear enclosures. The bears dashed for their dens and were not to be seen. There was the dead silence of bear shock. After a while Teton Totem crept forward to investigate this change in his environment, a dawning gleam in his eyes. It had been cold, damp, dismal the past few days and here right in front of him was a gold mine – leaves! Masses of leaves! Bedding! He reached out and gathered them to him, bunch after bunch, gathered  them into his den and packed himself an early bed. He wasn’t really ready to hibernate for another month or two, but a bear can’t be too prepared. And despite his massive pre-hibernation bulk (more nicely phrased as insulation), he could always use a bit more padding and warmth.

Where Teton saw a windfall (literally),a very different story was unfolding right next to him. Humble Bumble Bear was in terror, jumping up and down in a corner as he does when he is stressed. Twelve hours later he was still in terror,hiding in the farthest reaches of his enclosure, immobile, hoping not to be seen. The world had reached out and attacked him again – just as he always suspected it could. A sweet and scared bear, he is generally frightened by life. He approaches everything  tentatively to take the time to check out anything new. The world is dangerous! And just proven so. By the next morning he was still traumatized but slowly getting back to normal. But – see – it happened! And it could happen again! Life is very uncertain……

Humble Bumble finds a joyful moment in the garden at Earthfire | Photo by Earthfire

A grizzly bear is not a “grizzly bear.” Each grizzly is an individual. When people ask how many bears we have I rarely say “five.” I say Teton Totem, Bramble, Ramble, Humble Bumble and Huckleberry, and picture each of them in my mind. And when you haven’t had the opportunity to meet a bear, let alone several for comparison of course you have in mind “bear.” A bear is a bear. Not so! Each one is a being with its own emotions; way of being in the world.  It cannot be said enough.

18 September 2017

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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