Good Times - UPDATE July 14, 2017

The first Black Bear Field Course of 2017 was great.  The people had a great time, want to spread the truth about black bears, and want to come back next year and learn more.  One participant is a writer with 3 magazines asking her for stories about her experience.  Gerry on Grandfather MountainGerry on Grandfather MountainAnother is a speaker who wants to spread the word in England using our materials.  Another is a world-traveling photographer whose present specialty is education, and she wants to collaborate.  Her picture of Pete scent-marking a tree shows that he stands 6 feet 4 inches.  Pete is the 12-year-old son of June who was our top research bear.  You know the story of her death.  A curious thing about Pete is that he doesn’t like to be touched.  As a result, he never wore a radio-collar.  I had to touch him a little bit to find the old broadhead arrow scar in his shoulder to positively identify him.  He’s mellowed out a bit in maturity.  A year ago, I didn’t recognize him at first and, going by his mellow reactions to me, ended up touching him a lot.  I was glad I was slow in recognizing him.  He must be a terror among the males during mating season.  He has so many fresh wounds now as the mating season winds down.

Pete - photo by Bear Course ParticipantPete - photo by Bear Course ParticipantA lady who was a help back in an earlier (1992) time of trouble came to the Bear Center today.  She brings back good memories of how she made a difference in Gerry’s life and the lives of her cubs.  That story begins in 1989 in the early days of walking with bears.  When the No. 2 official in the US Forest Service (where I worked) learned of my research, he joined me in the field for a day.  He saw that I was not creating a liability for the USFS and that I was collecting data that was a major help to forest management.  He endorsed my work and gave it a boost.  He had the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources close my study area to bear hunting.  That enabled me to work with many volunteers to gather more data.  The problem came in 1992 when the bears showed the value of white pines to forest ecology and wildlife, especially mother black bears with cubs.  That conflicted with the USFS plan to eliminate 86% of the remaining white pines and replace them with white spruce and red pines that give a bigger bang for the buck.  I had written an article about the values of white pines to wildlife and showed it to the two top USFS officials.  Thirty-three days later, they began efforts to fire me.  That didn’t end up happening, though.  Instead the two top officials ended up being relieved of duty, partly for whistleblower harassment, and the final result was that the USFS and DNR accepted my recommendations for white pine management.  Along the way, though, the DNR (which had joined the effort to fire me) mandated that I capture Gerry and her 3 cubs and take them to a game farm.  The lady mentioned above did some investigating.  She learned that the game farm the DNR specified planned to sell Gerry’s cubs and place Gerry in a corn crib with two males.  Gerry would have her toes cut off as had been done to the males and would produce cubs for sale for the rest of her life.  I was not about to permit any of that.  I made a call to my friend Hugh Morton who owned Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina.  Hugh had run for governor and was one of the most highly respected men in North Carolina.  I asked if he could have the Commissioner of North Carolina’s wildlife agency call the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and have the word trickle down that I had to take Gerry and her cubs to Grandfather Mountain or be fired for insubordination.  The word trickled down, and I did what I was told.  The next spring, Grandfather Mountain released the cubs into the wild.  Grandfather Mountain has taken excellent care of Gerry ever since.  I have wonderful memories of my reunions with her over the years.  Gerry’s caretakers recently removed an abscessed tooth from her now at the age of 28.  The background of Gerry coming to Minnesota to be part of my study was that she was orphaned in Michigan and raised for a couple months in captivity.  When no zoo or rehab organization would take her, the Minnesota DNR asked that I cooperate with the Michigan DNR and make her part of my research, which I did.  Gerry will have her own chapter in the book I will begin writing in October.

 Visits to the Bear Center are a joy for me.  Not only has the Bear Center turned out to be far beyond my dreams, thanks to many; I run into people there who I’ve lost touch with over the years, and we enjoy catching up and reminiscing about old times.  Other people tell me how they became interested when Hope was born and have been learning ever since.  That whole story of how Lily, Hope, and the bears brought so many of us together is a miracle of sorts.

 Thank you for all you do.

 Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center