Ted, GiveMN, History, and Cub Names - UPDATE November 16, 2017

As Ted drifts closer to calling it a year, he still has periods of being alert to his surroundings. If a person approached him, he would still give his mellow, high-pitched grunts of welcome. He never loses his love. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIiXc9vm0qoGerry, a favorite by Bill LeaGerri, a favorite by Bill Lea

As we post this at 8:58pm, the GiveMN thermometer says that 456 of you have donated $24,826.77 to put us in 7th place on the leaderboard. Thank you.

History and Cub Names

Walking with bears and recording their lives with field computers and (sometimes) video let us document their lives in more breadth and detail than was previously possible.

One thing my employer loved was that the study of bears showed the importance of clear-cuts, which were controversial for the USFS nationwide. Clear-cuts and other forest openings let the sun shine in on berry bushes and ant colonies, making both much more productive. Walking with the bears showed us how important “ant brood” (larvae and pupae) were to bears in late spring and early summer before berries ripened. When we had tried to learn food habits by examining scats, highly digestible items like ant brood were often missed. The few adult ants the bears incidentally ingested underestimated the amount of ant brood eaten. Watching bears let us see directly what they ate, and a lot of it came from clear-cuts and other openings. We watched bears sniff out ant colonies in logs, under rocks, under moss, and in other locations the sun had warmed. Metabolic rates of cold-blooded animals depends upon temperature.

Gerry by Bill LeaGerri by Bill LeaHowever, the bears also showed us the importance of other habitats. Mothers with cubs passed up thousands of other trees to make over 90% of their beds at the bases of white pines. These trees have strong furrowed bark that young cubs can run up, they have strong branches that can hold whole families, and the needles provide shade at a time when deciduous trees have no leaves and cubs could overheat in the sun. Mothers concentrated their feeding within 200 meters of these refuge trees where their cubs were safe. Bald eagles made 81 percent of their nests in them, as did 77 percent of ospreys. Many other wildlife species prefer living, dead, or fallen white pines for certain aspects of their lives (Rogers, L. L., and Edward L. Lindquist. 1992. Supercanopy white pine and wildlife. Pages 39-43 in Robert A. Stine and Melvin J. Baughman (eds.) White Pine Symposium Proceedings NR-BU-6044. Rogers, L. L. 1991. Are white pines too valuable to cut? The Minnesota Volunteer: Department of Natural Resources. Sept-Oct. 1991:8-21. [click on the highlighted titles to see the articles).

This data conflicted with financial goals of forest management and turned the tide of agency support of my study.

Meanwhile, little Gerri had become an adult, had established a territory, and (in January 1992) gave birth to 3 cubs. Thirty-three days after the two top officials in the USFS learned of my white pine data and writings, USFS Chief Dale Leonard took steps on February 18, 1992 to end my study and put Gerri and her cubs in captivity. That decision was not popular in Minnesota. Gerry on Grandfather MountainGerri on Grandfather MountainMany Minnesotans had followed Gerri’s life through my monthly updates on Minnesota Public Radio. Gerri had won the hearts of many, including high officials in the DNR and the Governor’s office. When a high DNR official learned what certain DNR officials were planning for Gerri and her cubs, he let me know. They would be given to a game farm that had done the DNR a favor. Local friends went to the game farm to learn what would happen to Gerri and her cubs there. Gerri’s cubs would be sold, Gerri’s toes would be cut off to remove her claws, and Gerri would live out her life in a corn crib with two males whose toes had also been cut off. Gerri would produce cubs for sale each year.

Gerri needed help. Time was short. I didn’t know what to do. I believe it was Governor Arne Carlson’s office that saved the day. One of his staff members had been communicating anonymously with me about Gerri through a mutual friend. I believe it was him who asked famous Judge Miles Lord to step in. Miles called me and said he wanted to fly up, meet with me, and file a temporary injunction against the DNR. I could hardly believe I was talking with Judge Miles Lord who I had long admired. His obituary tells the kind of man he was and why he would help Gerri. It is interesting that Miles was a close friend of another man—Senator Hubert Humphrey—who had helped me as was mentioned a couple days ago in the November 13 update. Aptly known as the people’s judge, Miles’ injunction bought me time to save Gerri. The very honorable Judge Miles Welton Lord died in 2016 at the age of 97.



Gerry with cubGerri with cubWith the injunction in place, I called my friend Hugh Morton, one of the most highly respected men in North Carolina. He owned Grandfather Mountain which is part of an International Biosphere Reserve. We shared a love for nature and bears. We talked about Gerri. If Gerri and her cubs had to go in captivity, we knew they would be best off in one of Hugh’s big, forested enclosures. When the cubs reached 16-17 months of age—the typical age of family break-up for black bears—Hugh could easily release them into the wild. Hugh had released other bear cubs at that age. He was against selling cubs because too often they end up in canned hunts—being shot for a price in enclosures. Hugh had run for governor. He knew many people. I asked if he could call his North Carolina DNR commissioner and have him, in turn, ask Minnesota’s DNR commissioner to order me to bring Gerri and her cubs to Grandfather Mountain. The word eventually trickled down through the chain of command; and on June 3, 1992, my wife Donna and I began driving Gerri and her cubs to Grandfather Mountain. Hugh and his staff gave them great care. They released Gerri’s yearlings the next spring. Gerri still lives at Grandfather Mountain today at the age of 28 (in 2017). She recognized me in my visits over the years. Stories of those reunions are dear to my heart. The picture of Gerri walking on a rock outcrop in her enclosure is from one of those visits. The picture of her face and of her standing up in her enclosure were taken by top wildlife photographer Bill Lea of North Carolina. Hugh died in 2006. He loved bears. We had loyally helped each other over the years. There was one thing that could get him to leave his beloved mountain—bears. The only trip I ever heard of him taking was to film a TV program of my study bears. I wish I could call him right now. See more about Hugh at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Morton_(photographer).

Braveheart’s 3 males will carry the names Miles, Hugh, and Hubert.

There has long been talk of a Hollywood movie of Gerri’s life. An early script was a finalist in the Sundance competition. Such talk has expanded in recent years with the many events of record under Commissioner Landwehr.

Thank you for all you do.

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