“Wake up, Tumbles!” Mom called, gently nudging my shoulder with her broad, soft foot pad. “It’s time to get up. Have you forgotten that we’re going fishing today? Boomer has been up since dawn and is eager to go.”
“Fishing!” Suddenly my eyes flew wide. No sooner had I stretched and rolled out of our warm den and onto my feet than Boomer leap-frogged onto my shoulders, playfully biting the thick ruff at the back of my neck. With a twist, I soon had Boomer in a tight hug. Or he had me.
As each of us was trying to get the upper paw, Mom scolded “There will be enough time to play when we reach the river. We can’t waste time now. The days are growing colder and soon it will be time to hibernate. We must fatten up so we can sleep all winter when there is no more food to eat.”
Boomer, Mom, and I usually don’t leave our territory in the forest, but the tender, juicy plants we enjoy in the spring are tough now and we can’t eat them. The berries that we learned to pluck off the bushes with our mouths one by one are now shriveled and dry. But there is plenty of salmon in the river for every bear, so that’s where Mom is taking us today. Mom always reminds us to stay away from strange, large bears but, with so much salmon, we don’t need to be afraid of them. How excited Boomer and I are that we’ll finally have friends to play with.
“I’m going to teach you how to fish,” Mom said. “Your father was a famous fisher-bear, able to grab a fish in his claws in one out of seven tries. Perhaps he’ll be at the river, too. You’ve heard so much about your father, but never yet met him. He travels so much.”
Mom led the way, moving quietly downwind and occasionally standing up on her hind legs to peer farther ahead and sniff the air. With her keen sense of smell, Mom can warn us of dangers and help us find the fruit, nuts, plants, and insect larvae that we like so much. Boomer and I toddled along behind, sometimes stopping to enjoy the tiny morsels that emerged from insect-ridden logs or nuts that had fallen to the forest floor. Boomer and I were bounding off after a squirrel, when we heard Mom softly grunt.
“What is it, Mom?” I asked, as we reached the place where Mom was standing. Peering ahead, I realized that we were about to leave the shadowy forest behind and enter a bright place, different from anything we had ever seen before. Below us lay flat green blankets of grass surrounded by trees unlike the trees of our forest. On these blankets of grass were what looked like huge dens.
Mom explained, “This is where humans live. You must be very quiet. If you see humans, ignore them and walk away from them, but if you think they will hurt you, make a loud huffing sound. Lunge toward them and slap the ground. They will be afraid that you will attack them and will leave you alone. If you still sense danger, run away fast, like a squirrel. Humans can’t run as quickly as we can.”
Mom continued: “This place was still a forest when I was a cub. Now the humans live here and it is harder to reach the river. This place is more dangerous than our forest, but there are very special treats here to eat. I came here last year on my way to the river and tasted the most delicious fruit hanging from trees.
Mom turned from us and padded quietly down the hillside to the human place with Boomer and I close at her heels. Our stomachs rumbled in anticipation of tasting the delicious fruit that we could now smell. Before long, Boomer and I realized that the aroma was not coming from the trees, but from one of those big shadowy dens. Enticed by the promise of good food, Mom bravely led us through an opening into the den. Food was everywhere! How wonderful! Following Mom’s example, Boomer and I began to scoop it with our paws, savouring every delicious mouthful. Mom did not exaggerate when she told us how tasty the food was in this human place.
Suddenly a loud, high pitched scream broke the silence, startling us. “A human!” Mom cried. The human yelled at us and waved his arms. Mom bravely exploded with a loud blowing sound. Her teeth clacked. “Run!” she cried. With hearts pounding, we turned and bounded back out through the entrance, stumbling over each other in our hasty retreat. With Mom in the lead, we sped across the green carpet and back up the hill, not stopping until we finally reached the safety of our shady forest.
“Oh, Mom!” Boomer cried as we sat down to catch our breath. “That human was so noisy! I was scared! I never want to go there again!”
Mom replied in a quiet voice, “We go wherever we can find food. Humans are building their dens where we used to find food and that can be a problem for us. But we must try to live peacefully with them. Your grandmother often told me about a human named John Muir, who had great respect for bears. He once said, ‘Bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink the same waters. A bear’s days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are over-domed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours and was poured from the same fountain…’ There are many other humans like this who treat bears with respect and want us to be able to live our natural lives.”
Following Mom’s lead, Boomer and I slowly got up and turned toward home, reflecting on what we had learned today. We awoke this morning thinking we were going to learn to fish, but instead we learned something much greater: As bears belong to this Earth, so do humans.