Well, maybe they are up...Photo by Earthfire

— By Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —

This may not seem like a big deal unless you have bears residing on your property. Then, you’ll spend the winter worrying about them—how CAN they live without food and water? They can’t be alive! I’ve had 23 years of winter worry for our older bears, and although they come out of hibernation alive each year, you can never worry too much. Well, maybe you can—but it doesn’t feel like a choice, despite comforting myself with the fact that we’ve all been okay for nearly a quarter of a century. It truly is a miracle.

In any case, all five made it, coming out with varying degrees of energy and not always looking their most intelligent. We ordered boxes of dark lettuce to help them start their digestive systems. Teton ate his leaf by leaf, tops only. If you leave the white part, he won’t touch it, so those go to Humble, who eats that part first. Ramble ate a whole head in two bites and demanded more.

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.

Teton Totem Steals Humble’s Toy

— By Dawn Harrison —

As the bears wake up, it is a monumental task to get their dens cleaned out. It involves a lot of moving and shuffling from one area to another. In the shuffling, Humble Bumble Bear left his toy behind: an old tire on a sturdy hemp rope which he slept with in his den all winter. While Teton’s den was being cleaned, he was moved to Humble’s enclosure and Humble was moved to the recreation area. Totem took the opportunity to search his neighbor’s house, so to say, and that’s when he found the toy. Once in his possession, there was no relieving him of said toy. As he was let back into his own area, he officially stole the tire toy and now won’t let it out of his sight. Poor Humble Bumble got back to his den and couldn’t find his favorite toy.

What does this all mean? It means that Humble Bumble will get the brand new toy that would have been Teton’s, and Teton Totem (the thief that he is) will have to play with the old toy. And Humble will have the fun of breaking in a new toy, which he definitely enjoys. So all’s well that ends well.

Beef Stew Accepted by Bears

I made some beef stew over the weekend, absolutely sure that it was what I wanted to eat. It was full of great veggies like carrots, celery root, onions, turnips, and peas. I added all my favorite stew seasonings: oregano, thyme, bay leaf, garlic, and even a touch of paprika. And of course, some grass fed, humanely raised, local beef. It was delicious. But as wonderful as it was, I ended up not eating much for another day or two. When I realized that I was very unlikely to finish the stew, I made the decision to give the bears a nice snack. They had been awake for about a week, so their bellies were ready for something other than greens.

I was intrigued by the initial response, because it was the same for every single one of them. They licked at the stew and looked at me as if to say, “What are these flavors?” Then after about five seconds of palate testing, every one of them lay down (except Ramble, who just got down on his front end with his butt up in the air doing a little bit of a wiggle) and proceeded to lap up every last morsel. Bramble’s tongue reached as far as it could to make sure he got every single pea.

When I told a coworker about my stew acceptance, she gave me a bit of a sad look and told me that she would have happily accepted my stew as well. My response was that I selfishly wanted to see the bears enjoy it.

But the consolation prize was knowing that although Teton won’t eat raw carrots, he is very happy to partake of them when they are cooked in beef broth.

Dawn Harrison is the Office and Ranch Manager at Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. With a diverse background ranging from accounting and customer service to animal caretaking, her true passion is to help enrich the lives of animals, one being at a time.

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