Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Stolen Cub

We’ve had our share of wildlife sightings on our travels this summer. The most recent was of a black bear we passed on one of our hikes in Northern Ontario. The bear was a good distance off the trail but the undergrowth was sparse and we were able to watch him for several minutes as he made his way through the scattered hardwoods. It was a rare treat, one my Dad would have appreciated. He never missed an opportunity to study the animals he encountered in the woods. Occasionally, he got to study them much closer than common sense might have allowed.

He was returning from a fishing trip somewhere around the time I was born when he noticed what appeared to be a large animal swimming across the lake in the distance ahead of him. Curious, he angled the boat for a closer look. As he approached he realized that it was a bear…a female with three small cubs swimming along behind her. Had they been on land he would have given them a very wide berth indeed. A mother bear with cubs is not to be trifled with. As it was, he could bring the boat right alongside with total impunity. She was helpless to do anything about it without solid ground under her feet.

Afterwards he could not really explain what he did next. He acted on impulse. Certainly, he didn’t think it through very well. In any case, he eased the boat up next to the last cub in the line and reached out to grab it by the scruff of the neck. With one heave he plucked it right out of the lake and into the boat at his feet before speeding away. Perhaps he imagined raising the cub himself. What better way to learn about bears? By the time he reached the shore at the far end of the lake he knew he’d have to fashion a leash of some kind or risk getting badly scratched. He was beginning to have second thoughts about the whole thing but it was too late to undo it all by then.

It caused quite an uproar when he came home from his fishing trip leading a bear cub on a rope. In the end they had to lock the poor thing in the garden shed as there was no other safe place to put it. No one slept that night. Who could have imagined the terrible racket that one small cub could make in an enclosed space? The noise had everyone on edge. By morning Dad was feeling pretty bad about the whole thing and thoroughly regretting his impulsive decision.

The cub only spent that one night in the shed. There was a man who ran a gas station out at the highway. He kept animals in his own makeshift zoo for the tourists to look at and he agreed to take the little bear and raise it. Dad would stop there from time to time to check in on the bear he pulled out of the water but I think if he had the chance to do it all over again he would have left that mother bear and her cubs to cross the lake in peace.

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