A Bit of Bear Trivia...

Lewis described his first sighting of a grizzly bear in his journals in the early 1800s. The Lewis and Clark expedition made a reasonably accurate description of this mightiest of bears, and a specimen they brought back from their epic journey allowed George Ord in 1815 to give this species its scientific name, Ursus arctos horribilis Ord. But others have disagreed that it is a "turrible looking animal." When President Theodore Roosevelt and his hunting buddies once came upon an orphaned black bear cub, the President insisted on watching the playful antics for some time, and then adopted the bear, rescuing it from certain death. When the story leaked out, a toy maker got official White House permission to make a stuffed bear version with button eyes, and named it "Teddy," after the nickname of our 26th President.

"Teddy" Roosevelt is not the only one who enjoys this powerful predator. Each year tens of thousands of people flock to Denali National Park, McNeil River and Yellowstone hoping to get the chance to see the impressive bruins in their natural environments and with their primitive yet powerful ways of survival.

Bears are remarkable animals, and our human relationship with them extends back deep into our most ancient past. Archeological finds in Europe have found Neanderthals paying some sort of religious respect to the "beast that walks like man" as far back as 40,000 years ago. And our more modern ancestors, Cro Magnons, drew stunning color pictures of this fearsome predator on their cave walls, and practiced a form of bear trapping in the ancient caves of Europe both called home.

The bear is a most versatile creature. It can be found on every continent except Australia and Africa. A true omnivore, the bear's diet consists in just about anything, from roots, garbage and berries, to salmon and large animals such as moose. In Alaska, we have three distinct varieties of bears: the Brown (also called the "Grizzly"), the smaller black bear, and the largest land carnivore in the world, the Polar Bear, which can reach a weight of 1,500 pounds.

Most Americans know the most famous bear of all, Smokey. A family drive into any wooded area and it's hard to miss his animated smile, hat and warning to be careful about fire. But many don't know that Smokey was real. He was found as a frightened and singed cub up a tree after a forest fire in New Mexico. Adopted and cared for, he spent his years as one of the most visited animals in the National Zoo in Washington D.C., dying only a few years ago at an advanced age.

But another famous bear, one most people have never heard about, was a two-year old female black bear. On March 21, 1962, she was taken aboard a B-58 bomber out of Edwards Air Force Base in California, flown up to 35,000 feet at a supersonic speed of 850 miles per hour, and ejected from the bomber in a specially made capsule. She landed safely, and became the first living creature to survive a parachute jump from a plane flying faster than sound.

A Brown Bear Joke

Ollie and Newton had been hiking all day with heavy packs across the wide open tundra. It was towards the end of the day when they saw a very large brown bear standing up on its hind feet about 300 meters away.

Knowing the ways of bears they both froze, daring not to move for fear of giving away their position. Both sensed the direction of the wind and realized their scent was carried directly towards the curious bruin. And at that moment they could see, even from such a great distance, the bear's nose tweak, sniffing those molecules that shouted "dinner."

Newton became worried, more so when the bear launched on all fours in their direction. As he reached for his rifle he watched as Ollie calmly sat down on the tundra, took off his pack, opened it and brought out a pair of brand new running shoes. As the bear rapidly approached, Ollie calmly put the shoes on.

"What are you doing," Newton yelled. "Don't you know you can't outrun a bear on attack!"

Ollie looked up just as he was finishing lacing his shoes. "Yea, I know. But you see, I don't have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you."

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