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Bear Update: status of berry crop



He glides with purpose striding smoothly from one edge of the ski trail to the other. His pace is faster than usual - less food more travel. His long neck, like a reversed rudder, angles through the metre-high foliage, eyes alert to colour. With no obvious effort he quickly nibbles a few berries, floppy lips and a protruding tongue finishing one stem while instantly rebounding to an adjacent stem for more. Nothing there. Keep going... keep looking.

He pushes away from the patch and plows through a cluster of regenerating mountain hemlock conifers. Letting the tips brush his underside, he signs his presence for the day.

A rotten log halts his gait. Two flicks from his left forepaw and enough wood is removed for a nasal-investigation.... No ants. Keep going... keep looking.

One more step and again nose to the ground halting him in mid-stride. His right forepaw flips to one side a flat rock the size of a large cooler. A long tongue cleans away the cream-coloured carpet of carpenter ant larva, a protein bonus.

Three more steps and he's back into another berry patch. Seventeen glacous first ripening oval-leaf blueberries are consumed in one mouthful. No chewing; just swallows them whole... no time. Angling his six-foot long, 350 lb. body uphill he quickly surveys another four stems. Full, but not ripe.

He suddenly changes direction and orients downward along an open timbered ridge picking off scattered berries of various colours. Another half kilometre down and ripe berries become more plentiful... but not without consequence.

He hesitates. Thrusting nose forward he recognizes a troubling scent... female. But not just any female - older, wiser, grumpier female. Not someone he can push around so easily.

Maybe one more patch... two more steps are met with a series of panicked huffs from a young bear climbing 30-metres down-slope, followed by the rearing of a dark brown head about half the size of his. The smaller head disappears then charges up-slope four metres, jaws huffing and popping. Another time maybe... not now. Keep going... keep looking. The large male, named Skinner, abruptly changes course, away from mother and cub.

The large beautiful brown pelage mother bear, named Daisy, stands alert in her berry patch watching the male bear twice her size, veer off. Only seconds later she resumes feeding. She swings her head back in the direction of the treed cub. Five minutes later she is joined by her seven-month-old cub. Both continue their frenzied feeding to fatten for hibernation.

Skinner looks back at the sounds of the cub's descent, the desire for reproduction not totally gone. Winter and berries take over. Keep going... keep looking.

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