Home Back Forward August 29, 1999: Life Moves On

The mound of debris and what we think are the few remains of Rosie. It looks freshly dug up because four of us were looking for large bones such as a skull. We did not find any.

One of our many recent meetings with Vladimir (on the left) and his hard working interpreter, Yuri.

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The time for Maureen to leave came up very quickly and although she was wanting to go because of all she has to do at home to get ready for her upcoming exhibition, she was troubled to leave as well. On one of her last hikes to say goodbye to the place she made an interesting discovery. She found a mound of debris with a lot of bear hair in it and some bones, all of which would match the description of Rosie. It was also in a place that the cubs often went the two previous years of their lives, less than one kilometer away and in sight of the cabin. We both found it strange that we had never walked there this season before this time, but then realized that neither did Chico or Biscuit. They seemed to be avoiding this place which had been one of their favorites. I guess this might indicate that they remembered all too well what had happened there last fall which was clearly when this pile was made. Grizzly bears often cover their kills by scraping up everything that they can gather in the line of ground duff, to cover and protect what they are eating if it is more than what they can consume as one meal. Our departure was in the middle of September last year so it happened between then and denning time in early November. From what I have seen, the predator is a fairly young male, about seven years old. I have watched him chase Chico and Biscuit twice and am hoping that they will grow a lot this fall and/or that he gets interested in girls soon, not that they will necessarily be interested in him as a partner! We took samples from which DNA should be identifiable if I can think of a way to get as good a sample from one of the other cubs. This would prove whether it is Rosie. I was thinking that I would collect a couple of mosquitoes that are full of blood from around Chico's eyes because she likes for me to brush them away from her face. The blood should be what it takes if I haven't left it too late. The little suckers of our vital fluids are getting a bit scarce. Another source might be shed hair because I hear someone has been successful with hair even if it doesn't have the root attached. I'm not about to try plucking our friends of their new, freshly grown winter plumage.

Both Maureen and I are sure that this is Rosie. What made it very sad was that it used to be one of the cubs favorite places and we can recall many good memories of her right there where Maureen found her.

We just had a visit from the vice director for Kronotsky Preserve, Vladimir Mosolov who, with his interpreter Yuri, spent the last few days here and then left for the City on the same helicopter which came for Maureen. (The City is what most people call Petropavlosk, it being the only city on the peninsula.) This leaves me on my own until about September 16th when Dr. Pahgetnov from Moscow comes for his visit. He is coming with the director for all protected areas of Russia. We are no longer too worried about what this visit could mean because there now seems to have been some clearing up of things that have been misunderstood about our project since its inception. We also have had misunderstandings which were pleasantly cleared up on this visit. We got off on the wrong foot when we came to do this study back in 1996 and only now are we getting things straightened around. It feels great for a change.

Maureen mentioned in her last entry a visiting bear who came by the cabin. What she didn't mention was the lesson I learned from that bear. We were getting a bit lax about making sure that the electric fence is always on. One gets to believing that all the bears are educated about it and its not too critical to have it on continually. There are reasons to want it off. For instance, there is often so much build up of static electricity in the cabin that if we hold a fluorescent bulb in our hand it will pulse light with each pulse of the fencer, with no wires connected to the bulb. We also get little shocks from our computer with each pulse. I think it is because the cabin is covered with tin. This day the fence was on. When the bear left the yard, heading for the lake and my plane, I followed out of sight to watch what he did. You can imagine my surprise when he came to the fence around the plane and boat, sniffed it but instead of jumping back he calmly walked right through it and started rubbing heavily on the boat and biting it. I let him finish that because he wasn't doing any harm, the boat being made of tough stuff. However when he got tired of that he stared for the tail of my airplane and I yelled at him to spoil his fun. He left the area in great haste. If I hadn't gone to watch I would have later discovered a not so pretty sight. When I looked for what the problem might be I discovered that I had forgotten to reconnect the wire the day before which I use to disconnect that satellite fence from the rest of the system when I open the gate to take the aircraft out. At this time of year there are many bears passing through the area who might have never been here before, especially young bears, which is what this bear was. (Last evening, during an hour-long flight I counted 131 bears, mostly on the berry tundra along the west coast.) I guess there has to be a certain level of luck involved to survive here without mishap, but one sure can increase the odds of survival if you pay attention to details. Now that Maureen has gone I will have to really be careful because she is always reminding me and reviewing with me what has to be done. However she is the one who hates being shocked by the computer the most. I can live with it most of the time.


© Lenticular Productions Ltd. 1999