Meeting bears up close

Grizzly bear encounterAnyone who has read here for any length of time knows that I have bear worries when I hike.  I even have dreams about them sometimes, but I’m not willing to give up hiking. 

Today, to celebrate my birthday, Christopher Robin arranged a surprise: he took me to the zoo for a “Grizzly Bear Encounter.”   We went behind the scenes, into the back rooms, and even into the enclosure to learn more about grizzlies. 

The best part was feeding a grizzly bear through a grate, looking at his giant head and incredible paws and realizing they’re like dogs, kind of.  Savage dogs. Dogs that weigh 600 pounds, but definitely dog-like in aspect and attitudes.  They’re curious. They’re smart.  They’re not particularly friendly if they don’t feel like it and they will definitely kill you for food if they are hungry, but for some reason, looking into those giant faces made me GET it on some deep level.  

I also realized it is completely silly NOT to carry bear spray when I hike in the deep woods by myself.  The trainers told me that. And they never, ever go into the enclosures with the bears. That says something, don’t you think?

It’s equally silly to demonize wildlife and make it into something Disney-esque.  I can be at peace with bears if I know and understand what they are.  Can we have a cheer for CR for understanding that and giving me such a cool birthday present?  For a YouTube video, check this out:

11 thoughts on “Meeting bears up close

  1. Mel

    Very cool! Especially now I’ve read that bit about not going into the enclosure which is what I was originally picturing (and thinking NO WAY – having seen them in zoos).

    What does a grizzly bear smell like?

  2. Tapsi

    Happy birthday! It’s so difficult to overcome these fears, and I don’t think I’ll ever be having a croc/alligator ‘experience’, that’s for sure, which is why I really admire you for doing this. What were you feeding him? It looked like strawberries.

  3. Leigh Duncan

    Happy birthday, Barbara! Bear spray – YES! When the bear grabbed for the tongs at the end of the video and bent them, I thought maybe we should all chip in to buy you a CASE of bear spray. But maybe that was part of CR’s present?

  4. Kristen

    Happy birthday!

    What a neat surprise and present. Glad you enjoyed your day with CR.

  5. Mel, you know, they didn’t really like anything, now that you mention it. It was a damp day, too, so you’d think that would show up. My biggest surprise was how big they were, and these guys were only 4 years old, so about half their full size. Can’t imagine meeting one in person in the woods. Gulp.

    Tapsi, yes, it was strawberries. There was chow, too, and CR and I filled some paper boxes with food to leave in the enclosure, a mix of peanut butter, rice, cheeries, garlic salt (!) and various other things. They’re true omnivores.

    Leah, wasn’t that wild? I was astonished at how he flattened the tongs, like they were butter. Eeek.

    Thanks, Kristen!

  6. No grizzlies in Colorado, by the way. Only black bears.

  7. Peggy

    Happy Birthday Barbara!

    I don’t blame you, whenever we go hiking in the wilds – Bears are definitely something I’m always worried about. What a great present!

  8. Big thumbs up to CR for allowing you to confront your fear and acknowledge it for something real and realistic and giving you the chance to accept that that fear is a natural part of staying safe. The man *gets* you. Big time.

  9. Wow, three cheers for Christopher Robin! What an amazing gift!

    And ditto on everything you said about bears. We had two bear cubs for pets for a few short weeks when I was young (living in L.A., no less) and they were SO not tame. Cute, but decidedly not cuddly.

  10. Yvonne Erwin

    Happy Birthday, Barb! May this year be the best yet!! My heart goes with you.

  11. Thank you, everybody.

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