Blessed Be the Words that Bind…

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“I fill a gap in your life;

I owe that to your brother.”

 

These words were spoken to me just a few days ago by a biologist/naturalist who has been a mentor and is now becoming a dear friend…

 

I can’t get the sentence out of my head. I am seventy – five years old, and once, a very long time ago, I had a little brother with whom I shared a mutual love of the natural world. I must have introduced him to frogs and birds because I was his older sister by three years, but I have no memory to fit any particular scene. It was as if we had always loved every living creature, spider and firefly, skunk, moon, frog, tree, and deer together. When he died I lost myself, and wandered through the underworld for many years.

 

Nature* saved me.

 

After hiding out in my house for eleven years because I couldn’t bear the anguish of witnessing the natural beauty of the changing seasons, bird song, the cacophony of spring peepers, the sound of the sea – my grief for the loss of my brother ran that deep – One day, Grace intervened. And I emerged like a butterfly who splits her chrysalis, and begins to dry her wings in the morning sun in readiness for eventual flight.

 

From then on I became Nature’s fiercest advocate dedicating my life to being emotionally present for every wondrous/terrifying event Nature presented me with. This resulted in my becoming a dedicated nature writer, teacher, Jungian analyst, and finally an ethologist accruing various degrees in the process.

 

I could never bring my brother back but I could live our legacy. As my relationships with animals both wild and tame (I always had dogs) deepened I became fascinated by interspecies communication because it became increasingly evident that reciprocity was part of every interaction I had with animals. I never discussed this idea with anyone for fear of ridicule but it was part of my secret everyday world…

 

Then I fell in love with wild Black bears, and eventually moved to the mountains of western Maine to be near them. To my great joy these wild animals appeared on my property which was small – I had twenty acres – mountain springs bubbled up in the woods, two sphagnum bogs provided cool moist refuges, and a brook ringed the property on three sides. Two feeder brooks cascaded down the mountain in the spring and early summer and a large marsh was full of spring grasses. The mixed deciduous and conifer forest had been cut before I bought the property and I promised the trees and the land that this forest would not be tampered with as long as I lived there…

 

Today, 35 years later walking through this undisturbed woodland still brings me the deepest peace.

 

I knew nothing about Black bears but when one followed me up the hill one spring evening I intuitively understood that a new phase of my life was beginning.

 

At first I was frightened as well as fascinated by our encounters, but gradually the bears taught me I had nothing to fear. One would appear on my doorstep waiting patiently for a snack; another decided I needed to wait until he had finished combing the ground for bird – seed before allowing me to go to the post office. Mothers nursed cubs outside my bedroom window after dusk. All came and went as they pleased, carving intricate paths around my house to avoid one another during mating season. I let the bears teach me how to behave around them. They enjoyed sitting or lying down close to me but were rarely interested in personal contact. One bear in particular loved to watch me garden. He would hide behind a screen of twigs and when I was finished planting he would dig up my seeds!

 

When my dog was dying another bear came and slept on my back porch. My bed hugged that wall and I could have literally touched him; we were that close. When I wept the bear would put his nose to the window to peer in at me, a gesture that comforted me like no other. Clearly deep compassion and curiosity and were an intricate part of some of these Black bears’ lives, I knew from personal experience, but oh so rarely could I find evidence of these behaviors in scientific literature, so I kept my observations/feelings to myself for years.

 

So often I longed for someone I could have discussed these subjects with….

 

Recognizing after a bit that I was studying Black bears in more than a casual way, I began an academic search that resulted in the discovery of this biologist and the eventual friendship that is now developing on a personal as well as it once did on an academic level. Although we have only met briefly, there is a sense of deep familiarity between us that I initially found astonishing, shocking, baffling, bewildering, mind-bending. I wonder if I will ever become accustomed to it.

 

We have a lifetime of common interests. We both began our lives as budding naturalists… His appreciation for Nature led him to become a scientist and a professional photographer. I once thought I too would study biology but a thirteen year’s old encounter with dead frogs (who were my friends) in biology class led to a trauma I never recovered from. Yet, this experience also set me free to study Nature in a way that was meaningful to me although I was never “successful” in the professional sense.

 

I am severely directionally dyslexic and cannot manipulate the simplest mechanical device and yet my amateur love of photography also captures something of the spirit of Nature with the simplest of images.

 

His lifetime dedication and brilliant cutting edge research in spite of almost impossible odds continues to be a model for me even as I continue my own research and advocate for all bears.

 

He is consistent in his actions, and consistency is a quality that I must have in relationship because I have abandonment issues. I was an unwanted child.

 

Because of his visionary lifetime persistence he continues to set a powerful example that I am compelled to follow.

 

His and my love for all bears (but in particular black bears) eclipses everything else, and once I witnessed the intimacy of this relationship between him and his bears in the flesh, I knew I had found “home” in some indefinable way.

 

I love his bears like my own.

 

His words come back to haunt me:

 

“I fill a gap in your life;

I owe that to your brother.”

 

To have this personal gap bridged is the greatest gift this man could give me.

 

Huge bear hugs would help too!

 

 

 

 

*I always capitalize Nature to highlight how important S/he is ( transgender) and how impoverished human understanding perceives her as something to be manipulated, contained, controlled and worst of all, dismissed as irrelevant.

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Ant Hill

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Photo is one that speaks to me of doorways into other ways of being. This young bear (70 LBS) who was shot this fall was a dear friend of mine – and when I look into his face I see my own…

 

Yesterday I gave a poetry reading at a local library beginning and ending with thoughts about how Climate Change is affecting all living beings. I am a naturalist who holds the radical belief that all living things are sentient. I also argue that we must not equate animal intelligence with that of humans.

 

Almost every poem I read was about my intimate relationship with some aspect of the natural world, for example, the changing seasons, my friendship with sagebrush lizards, steadfast trees, Sandhill cranes, beloved Black bears. Intimacy and inter –relationship are part of every experience I have with nature and by sharing these poems I hoped might draw others in to new ways of perceiving the earth and her creatures.

 

The whole point of my focusing on non – human species was to raise awareness that these animals and plants desperately need our help. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about how critical it is to bring animals, plants, trees, mushrooms into the picture in this age of the Anthropocene, that is, the period in which we live where a few men with power rule. Today, it is not an exaggeration to say that humans control every aspect of our fragile planet.

 

I repeat: Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough or perhaps almost no one was capable of listening? Maybe both. As soon as I concluded my reading one woman did actually bring up an incident involving a very difficult child who became attached to a lizard, so she at least, was on the track I hoped I had laid….

 

The Director, another insightful woman wrote to me afterwards that she thought that people were simply overwhelmed by what it means to be living Climate Change and they don’t know how to respond to what’s happening in their own lives, let alone to the non human world. This remark also struck a chord of truth, especially since almost instantly the conversation disintegrated into personal irritations and turned political, at which point the Librarian mercifully ended the afternoon gathering.

 

Initially I left the library feeling that I had failed in my mission to make a meaningful connection between the relationship between humans and animals experiencing, what for me, has become the usual despair over not being heard.

 

However, later, after listening to feedback and reflecting on the experience I realized that we have to start somewhere if we want to begin this Climate Change conversation. Maybe one way we could begin to do this would be to meet weekly with one person leading the conversation like I tried to do, by connecting people to animals. For that one meeting the focus would need to stay with the relationship between humans and non – human species. Another meeting could revolve around ways to garden that support our pollinators and wildlife. A third could discuss the merits of traveling in groups rather than each person taking his own car. Etc. This way we could include and address everyone’s concerns.

 

Today I am feeling more hopeful, and perhaps I may have learned something important about working as part of community. I have already emailed the Librarian about my idea and haven’t had a response but I think I am on to something!

 

And I will continue to raise the same questions:

 

How do we continue to ignore the fact that we are in the midst of a catastrophic decline of insects on dry land and krill in our oceans. If these losses don’t seem serious, consider that humans are at the top of this food chain and without these creatures the rest of all life including humans will eventually succumb to death.

 

Consider toads and frogs who are the most threatened species on the planet; think about how they must breathe both water and air and they have been disappearing since the 70’s when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring predicting an ominous outcome if we continued to use pesticides indiscriminately. Like Rachel, frogs and toads have been showing us that the lack of potable water and air pollution threaten each oxygen breathing creature on the earth.

 

Increasing cycles of extreme drought leave us with trees that are literally starving for water, and although we cannot hear the gurgling noise they make in their trunks because our ears are not sensitive to high frequency sounds they too are trying to alert us to the catastrophe on our doorstep. Trees are the lungs of the earth, but to breathe out precious oxygen they too must have water. Why is it that the youngest species on the planet barely 200,000 thousand years old can continue to ignore the cries of species that have been around for 450 million years?

 

I continue to ask these questions and write these truths not because I believe that the culture is paying attention but because writing is a last grasp (gasp) I have on saving my own life. I have recently been diagnosed with emphysema.

 

We are killing ourselves with our technology and our hubris. Realistically, it is too late to save the dying animals; too many species are functionally extinct. But perhaps if folks can begin to gather in small community conclaves we can begin to imagine a new way of being that will help us all to live more sanely, cultivating genuine humility and perhaps hope in the process as we turn to the natural world to look for the sustainable answers that Nature has been demonstrating for millennia…

 

I close this narrative with another supremely ironic/toxic personal experience. I have been away for the summer and on my return I discovered that someone – probably my neighbor who owns this house and property – had left a can of RAID in the house. I was in a fury because I have been adamant about not using toxic chemicals here. I have animals and a bird who cannot tolerate these deadly substances. Three days ago my dog was bitten by ants and had a life threatening reaction. If she is bitten again my vet says she could die.

 

We have been living with these ants ever since we moved in here a year and a half ago without any difficulties, co existing in peace. After the dog was bitten I went searching for answers. I discovered that my neighbor had destroyed a nearby ant – hill while removing debris although he refused to admit it. Naturally, he enraged the ants who had lost their home and who are now biting everyone who comes to the door (including me) and who can blame them? When I attempted address this issue with this stupid man after the reading (which he attended), he remarked that all I had to do was to put some ant killing capsules into the ground around the remains of the ant hill and the ants would be gone.

 

Oh my god – no one is listening.

A Place Below the Cattails

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As a woman with Passamaquoddy roots when I first came to Abiquiu I was invited to participate in the seasonal celebrations that occurred in each of the six pueblos that were located along the Chama/ Rio Grande River. These gracious invitations made me feel blessed, grateful, included, and at “home.”

 

My own people’s lives and traditions were destroyed by colonial peoples centuries ago.

 

Yesterday, I was invited to attend a river blessing on what I call Red Willow River a tributary of the Rio Grande by folks of Spanish and Indigenous descent who live here in Abiquiu on the mesa. These people, although local, are of mixed descent and do not follow the seasons and cycles of the year as the surrounding Pueblos do. There is a heavy overlay of Spanish colonialism along with a restrictive (to me) Catholicism that sets this village apart from the pueblos.

 

Still, I was looking forward to this local celebration.

 

It was supposed to be led by Tewa Women United from the neighboring pueblos. It was a beautiful day, and of course we were all on “Indian Time” which means practically that ceremonies start when the time was right.

 

However, this blessing of the river didn’t come together at all. People milled around aimlessly. Some left. The children some of whom were dressed in regalia played for a while and eventually got hungry. Some complained they had to get back to school for a game.

 

Because this celebration was supposed to honor the waters and the river, I had brought one of my Zuni bears to be blessed.

 

I approached one of the head honchos of Abiquiu village to ask if I could include my little bear in the blessing, and was told curtly that it was my job to watch.

 

Stunned and deeply distressed, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I am a ritual artist who has been celebrating the eight spokes of the year (akin to the Indigenous way) for almost 40 years. I removed my little bear from my neck and walked down to the river.

 

Kneeling by her waters, I submerged my small bear three times praying that the wild bears that were being slaughtered throughout this country of unspeakable violence would be spared suffering as they were killed…

 

My tears of grief spilled into the slowly meandering gray sage green river. On my return to the group I heard the drum…

 

It was at that moment I saw the gift. Retrieving it instantly I recognized it as an eagle’s breast feather.

 

Someone had heard this prayer.

 

Maurice, from Abiquiu village was leading the children and some of the other Genizaros (self defined name the mixed blood population of Abiquiu) in some circle dances after which he invited the public to join in.

 

Maurice is a dancer that is filled with the Spirit. His feet never touch the ground. Every time I witness his dancing I am struck anew with wonder. I loved watching the children with their colorful ribbons flowing in the wind. The dancing ended abruptly after a few minutes and the people went home.

 

Although the focus of the gathering had been aborted, it was fun talking with friends under the shelter of the cottonwoods.

 

As a woman who thrives on rivers, brooks, warm summer rains, and abundant moisture I felt satisfied that I had come to do what was in my heart and to honor the gift of water that brings me life.

Black Bear Attack – The Bare Facts

Here is the tragic story without embellishments:

A black bear killed a Minnesota woman on a secluded island in Canadian waters.

When the woman heard the dogs barking at dusk she went outdoors after them and never returned.

Both dogs returned to the cabin; one of them was injured.

There were no witnesses.

When officers were called to the scene they discovered a yearling (1-2 years) standing over the woman’s body. Another bear and a yearling were nearby.

The yearling was shot.

What happened?

Of course we can never know.

What we do know is that one bear in a million kills a human and that one is 32,000 times more likely to be murdered by a person.

We also know that Black bears evolved as prey animals and are fear – driven animals, who when cornered, may attack.

Black bears are particularly frightened of dogs for good reason.

Hounds are trained to hunt Black bears before hunting season begins. A number of hounding dogs track a bear to exhaustion at which point the hounds tree the animal until it is shot by the hunter.

This tragic incident happened in the evening when bears are foraging for food. Apparently, this was a family of three – a mother and two yearlings? If the dogs terrorized or attacked one of the bears, a bear might retaliate. My guess is that the poor woman was killed as she attempted to defend her dogs.

As a dog lover I would have made a different choice. I live in bear country and I don’t allow my dogs to roam free around dawn or dusk because I know that bears are very much afraid of dogs, and that dogs will chase a bear.

My heart goes out to the family.

Black bear attacks are very rare, but do occur. Rarely if ever is the context of the event included. In this case understanding the context in which this story occurred is critical. The dogs were running free in bear country. The woman followed her dogs outdoors because they were barking, curious, or fearing for their safety. Her dogs obviously frightened the bear(s) with their barking and perhaps an attack setting the stage for a tragic outcome.

Unfortunately the truth behind this story will disappear into sensationalism. I have already read a couple of articles that portray the bear that was shot and others nearby bears as “acting aggressively.” No one mentions the fact that when a Black bear appears to behave aggressively it has been terribly frightened.

Some state wildlife agencies and poor journalism will use this incident to further agendas by frightening the public even more and getting media attention by perpetuating the “killer bear” story.

Postscript:

Dr Lynn Rogers bear biologist had this to say about bear attacks involving dogs:

“A “disproportionate number” of attacks by bears on human are related to dogs, Lynn Rogers, research scientist for the Wildlife Research Institute and founder of the North American Bear Center, told ABC News.”

My hope is that those of us (like me) who are dog owners will begin to take some responsibility for allowing our dogs to roam at large especially in bear country when we know that dogs will chase bears and could get hurt.

 

TB and I Strike Back

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How could you?

 

Yesterday I spent the morning writing about the unethical behavior of some hunters who have ringed the property with bait at the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely Minnesota with the approval of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

 

This morning I learned that this egregious behavior has already resulted in the death of at least one yearling near the WRI property line. Dr. Lynn Rogers of WRI has spent his entire professional career as a bear biologist studying and advocating for Black bears, while attempting to educate the public about the true nature of these animals. Lynn has incited the rage of hunters and the Minnesota state wildlife agency (DNR) in the process (Currently, his scientific study centers on the effects of diversionary feeding for black bears and people). Black bear hunting is big business and if the truth got out people might be much more reluctant to shoot these shy peace – loving animals.

 

The majority of all black bears that are killed range between 1 -3 years of age. Why anyone would shoot a yearling is beyond my comprehension. Yearlings range from 30 to 100lbs. It’s not as if a bear this size can be displayed as a ‘great’ trophy. Young bears are the most vulnerable prey because they are so inexperienced. Many have not yet learned to fear humans.

 

Emotionally depleted by dishonorable individual and bureaucratic behavior and the knowledge that so many more young bears will be slaughtered during the three – month hunt I take refuge in the memory of happier days spent with one of the young bears on this property by telling his story.

 

TB, short for “Tree Bear,” is a yearling who visited my house all summer. He and his sister, Rosie Marie were left to fend for themselves last May by their mother, when it was time for her to mate (a normal occurrence). At present, although healthy looking, TB does not weigh more than 70 LBS (his little sister is very slight weighing no more than 40 LBS).

 

I believe that all bears are initially wary of humans but have to be taught by people to fear them and TB and his sister are no exception. It took me about 10 days to befriend TB; his natural curiosity and intelligence won out. Soon TB was wandering around the yard while I was outdoors hanging up laundry and leaving muddy paw – prints on my front door. We co-existed here in peace.

 

Some days when company arrived TB would peer around his surrogate white pine tree to see who it was that I was talking to. Like all bears TB loves to play and uses whatever objects he can find to amuse himself. One of his favorites is an old can that he rolls down the hill and then chases into the thick brush. I also provided him with a couple of beach balls that he punctured instantly. TB also loves to lie on his back and twirl sticks around, which brings me to an incident that still makes me laugh.

 

One evening TB was digging grubs out of an old log on the pine needle strewn ground when a large adult bear appeared. TB like all yearlings was afraid of the adult male and scurried up his white pine tree settling in its protective branches, while peering down at the intruder. When the big bear settled down to devour more grubs, TB began to huff and blow at him from what seemed to me to be a precarious perch. He had moved so far out on a pine branch that he was directly overhead the large bear who blatantly ignored TB’s outraged protests!

 

In a few minutes TB decided to break off a few nearby branches, and to my amazement he then began to hurl them one by one down on his nemesis! TB’s aim was terrible and again and again he missed his quarry if that was his intent. Meanwhile the complacent big bear kept combing the ground nonchalantly as if the sticks that were raining down around him were invisible.

 

And then something amazing happened. TB broke off a huge branch and after he secured it in his teeth he dropped it directly down hitting big bear squarely on the head! Ouch, I was sure I heard the thud. At that point the 300 lb adult bear leapt up and disappeared into the forest in a flash! The whole scene was hilarious. I laughed so hard that tears ran down my face.

 

TB took this turn of affairs into his stride and immediately began to descend from his tree. When he reached the ground he sniffed the place where the adult bear had raked the ground, and after finding nothing of interest TB casually meandered off into the woods.

 

This behavior, aside from being amusing, suggests that Black bears may use tools; during my research I observed other bears, using for example, a pail to stand on to reach a hummingbird feeder. Black bears may be one of the most intelligent animals of all. Their brain in relationship to body size is the largest of all mammals.

 

Unfortunately intelligence needs to be coupled with experience, a quality that TB doesn’t yet possess. Even if he did, this knowledge is hardly a guarantee that any Black bear will be safe from human predation because this is the time of year a bear is most vulnerable. All bears need to ingest up to 20,000 calories a day to survive hibernation. Hunters bait bears with unhealthy foods drawing the hungry animals in to be shot.

 

Sadly, TB and his little sister have been absent for two days and I fear that they may have been shot. Every year it seems to get harder for me to accept that hunting season means that so many young bears will be killed before they have had a chance to live out their natural lives.

 

To comfort myself I remember that Lynn is also experiencing the same fear of loss that I am, and knowing this helps me to feel that I am not so alone.

 

The bears thank Lynn for his tireless advocacy and I do too. Someday perhaps the tide will turn for these animals, but until then when it comes to hunting season all we can do is to hope that many bears will be spared.

Black Bear Requiem and Hope for the Future

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Photo credit Lynn Rogers

 

Before I begin this article I want to acknowledge that I am perhaps too biased against bear hunting. I also know as a black bear researcher and bear lover that I am too emotionally attached to these animals to feel any other way.

 

This year’s three plus month bear hunt begins earlier than ever with “youth day” kicking off the season which began August 24 when children in Maine were encouraged to shoot their first bear. The promise of a first kill inculcates in the next generation the rightness of continuing the “tradition” of hunting in a world where many non – human animals are threatened or facing extinction. Sport and trophy hunting, a million dollar enterprise brings in huge amounts of money to the state wildlife agency – the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife (MDF&W) and other special interest groups like the NRA. Privately owned “bear farms” flourish where one can’t help but kill a bear because all animals are held captive for the slaughter. For some there is the addictive “high” and the sense of “power” that comes with the kill and a snarling bearskin or head to hang on the wall. For others there is meat for the table.

 

Many bears, especially yearlings will be shot (most bears killed are between 1 -3 years old). Mothers have spent the summer teaching their cubs how to forage sometimes traveling 50 miles or more to areas rich in wild foods during this phase of hyperphagia, that is, the brief time during which all bears must eat enough to almost double their weight in order to survive the coming winter hibernation. Cubs are often treed by the mother before she comes to a bait site. Many cubs will die of slow starvation if the mother is shot.

 

Bear feeding frenzy peaks in August and September when the bears need as much as 20,000 calories a day to put on necessary fat. This is the time of year all bears are most vulnerable. Hunters take advantage of the bear’s desperate need for food by placing large unhealthy amounts of sugary food at bait sites as they ready their dogs for the hunt, and prepare their steel snare traps… They have plenty of time because in Maine the hunt will not end until November 30th.

 

This year having spent time in a community that lives peaceably with so many wild bears in Ely Minnesota I am, if possible, having a more difficult time than before attempting to accept a hunting tradition that refuses to acknowledge that it is possible to live with these gentle intelligent animals instead of slaughtering them. I am haunted by the question: how many cubs in Maine will be left to die after their mothers are shot this fall? How many adolescents? The yearly statistics from the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife Agency indicate that almost as many female bears are shot as males. How many of those females are mothers?

 

I reject the two usual arguments for killing bears: One that hunting is a “tradition” that must be honored, regardless. The second is that bears have to be “managed” or they will take over the state.

 

Hunting was once necessary for survival. This is not the case today. Most hunting occurs because folks like to kill animals for sport – any animal – and bears in particular because they are almost universally feared.

 

When we examine why these intelligent shy animals appear so threatening we discover that there is no scientific basis behind human fear. Only one Black bear in a million kills someone; one is 32,000 times more likely to be murdered by a human.

 

However, individuals do fear bears and our state wildlife agency encourages people to foster that attitude so that folks will buy hunting licenses, shoot bears and bring in revenue. Hunting is economically based. The state agencies also warn the public not to befriend bears because they will become “nuisance animals,” and it is true that bears will visit backyards when hungry. Removing attractants like birdseed and garbage during the spring and summer reduces the number of visiting bears to almost zero. “A fed bear is a dead bear” is a hunter who baits bears to kill them.

 

The second argument is based on the belief that only humans know how to regulate bear populations. Again and again biologists have learned that animals have an ability to regulate their own numbers according to the availability of food resources. Left to their own devices, Black bears would eventually do the same. However, this would take time.

 

Unfortunately it is also true that in Northern Maine the natural foods that bears love – especially the fall beechnut crop which is cyclic to begin with – is disappearing because trees are being harvested too young to produce an abundance of beechnuts. In addition bear territories are disappearing because more and more people are moving to Maine. Black bears are appearing in people’s yards because there is not enough natural food to sustain them.

 

There is one biologist whose studies indicate that there may be a partial solution to this problem. Dr. Lynn Rogers is a bear biologist who has researched Black bears for more than 50 years. During his long and outstanding career he worked as a state biologist for the Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota using both classic wildlife methodology (which involves sedating and collaring bears and mapping their movements by plane and by placing pins on a map) and later, developing his own “trust based” research methods. The latter allowed him to learn about Black bear behavior – what bears eat, their social structure, vocalizations, the problems they face in the forest, knowledge that cannot be acquired without actually observing individual bears in their natural habitat over an extensive period of time. No state agencies including the MDNR authorize actual bear behavior studies as far as I know.

 

At one point Dr. Rogers became deeply concerned because so many “nuisance” bears were being shot in a nearby campground near his research center. He began an eight year study for the Forest Service to answer the question of whether diversionary feeding, that is placing wild foods in the forest on a regular basis, would keep bears out of trouble. The results were astonishing. With supplementary feeding bear complaints in the area campground were reduced 88 percent.

 

During that same period Lynn began walking with bears into the forest. Not all bears would tolerate his presence but some did; these bears learned to ignore him after he had given them some treats (nuts). Within one year of following them Lynn said he learned more about Black bear behavior than he had during his entire career.

 

In 1996 after Lynn retired from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources he became one of the residents of Eagle’s Nest Township where people had been hand – feeding bears since 1961. Lynn began a study that focuses on diversionary feeding ‘habituated’ Black bears in this area. He learned that the bears visited the residents who fed the bears and they left those folks that didn’t want a bear to visit their homes alone.

 

In almost 60 years of hand feeding bears there has never been a black bear attack. With supplementary food stations set up in the forest Lynn also discovered that as long as the natural foods were abundant these habituated bears rarely visited these stations because they also preferred the diversity of foods found in the forest. However, during years of natural food shortage these feeding stations helped keep the bears healthy and reduced bear complaints 80 percent.

 

The conclusions are inescapable: It is possible to co -exist peacefully with bears if people choose to so. Equally important is the fact that diversionary or supplementary feeding works to keep bears out of people’s yards especially in times of food scarcity. A fed bear is a healthy bear.

 

In Maine, supplementary feeding might help reduce bear complaints especially in Northern Maine if we chose to implement it, but if this method was adopted by the MDF&W less revenue would come into the state and hunters would have less reason to kill bears, and that is not what hunters, special interest groups like the NRA, and the Maine State Fish and Wildlife agency want.

 

Although I am biased, I am not suggesting that hunting bears in Maine be totally eliminated. It may well be that some hunting has occur to deal with the current bear starvation scenario in Northern Maine. But is it really necessary to hunt bears throughout the rest of the state? For those of us who know and love these iconic wild animals this is an important question.

 

My hope is that Dr. Lynn Roger’s groundbreaking trust based research along with his tireless efforts to educate people about the true nature of bears may one day infiltrate the minds of the general public changing current attitudes towards these animals once and for all.

 

Let’s hope this shift will occur before the Black bear becomes endangered in Maine, one of the few states in which a healthy population still exists.

Mid -Summer Musings: Lady in Waiting

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(a fragment of author’s woodland path network… note the thin ribbon path in the center – the bears make these impossibly narrow path by walking in their own footsteps)

 

Yesterday at the Mid-Summer Turning I took a woodland walk in warm summer rain and then spent a quiet day at home. I visited with a few tadpoles and green frogs that inhabit my vernal pool, sat on the bridge and listened to the flow of water over stone at the waterfall, a place so dear to my heart. I also spent quiet time reflecting…

 

For too long I have been a woman in waiting… waiting for diagnoses for myself and my dog, waiting for direction – I need to make a decision about where I am supposed to live – waiting for intuitive nudges, waiting for calls from loved ones that don’t come, waiting for this dark cloud to lift, praying for the power of the spirit and body of the earth to fill this empty vessel that has become who I am.

 

Negative feelings overwhelm me. The political has become too personal. That I am in spiritual crisis is a given.

 

Too much waiting. Too much time spent in a collective future that appears too dark, too hopeless, too frightening, a future that seems to mirror my own life struggle. I do not sleep at night. I fight to inhabit my body because fear keeps me walking on air, obliterating my ability to experience somatized peace in any form.

 

Yesterday’s meander through my woodland paths (following in the footsteps of the bears), sitting by the water, clearing brush, smelling the sweet scent of pine, taking deep pleasure in the fact that enough rain has fallen to keep grasses, ferns and mosses deep green soothed me. I noted that acorns and beechnuts abound for the bears, graceful chokecherry sprays, grapevines, apples and crabapple branches are heavy with fruit. I really listened to the poignant songs of chickadees and mourning doves feeling deep pleasure. All these simple acts and occurrences earthed me…. I experienced deep summer as a gift.

 

I was grateful to be grateful.

 

I also re-membered… Embodying Nature as a “Lady in Waiting” I could give thanks for the first seed-pods, the abundance of fruits, herbs and flowers, the gifts of the harvest to come. I spent the day in the present and experienced deep abiding peace.

 

Grace.

 

A troubling conversation ended the day catapulting me back into the dismal future, resurrecting despair, negative thinking, hopelessness – once again I found myself living in a place I can no longer afford to inhabit for my own sanity…

 

Disturbed sleep did not obliterate the dream I had.

 

I am with Hope my little Chihuahua who is also my long dead dog Rinkie (who has since her death always acted as a Voice from the Beyond.) I watch Hope as she runs down towards an underground chamber or tunnel dug into the earth below ground level. I call out to her but she is disappearing into the tunnel and I am awash in fear…

 

Death is stalking me.

 

I don’t want to remember the dream but when I re –read my mid summer ritual this morning I see the words I have written: I am praying for the power of the spirit and body of the earth to fill this empty vessel I have become.

 

Perhaps my dogs are the guides I need.