Tuesday, June 20, 2006

If You Go Down To The Woods Today: How Bears Are Springing Some Big Surprises

Across North America and Europe, bears are emerging from their five to seven month long hibernations - and straight into the headlines. With their normal habitats increasingly short of the resources they need to survive in the wild, the giant creatures are turning to human communities to get the bear necessities of life - food, shelter and a little entertainment. The result is the recent spate of bearly believable stories flying around the media.
In Vancouver, Canada, for instance, newspapers have reported how a woman walked into her kitchen to discover a two-year-old bear doing an impersonation of Goldilocks. The bear had got into the house via a sliding door and was helping itself to some oatmeal in the kitchen. According to the BBC news report on the unusual housebreak , the young bear extracted the oatmeal from a ceramic container. Even more impressively, he ate the meal calmly then - watched by armed police who had been summoned by the home-owner - casually wandered back into the woods with his appetite sated.
Not all bears are after food - some just want a little fun. In New Jersey, a family looked out into their garden to discover a bear in their hammock. Unfazed, they managed to make a home video of the intruder. The video, available via a BBC link here reveals that bears - like humans - can get themselves in a terrible tangle trying to climb into the swinging beds.
Of course, entering human territory carries risks. An amazing AP photograph published in full here, shows what happened when a black bear was confronted by a tabby, domestic cat. Clearly some bears aren't as terrifying as others.
By far the most entertaining bear to have emerged from the woods this Summer, however, is the first brown bear to have been seen in Bavaria, southern Germany in a century. Bruno, as he has been christened by the local media, has become a cause celebre across the country, with websites devoted to tracking his movements and an ebay auction of some turf embedded with his footprints. Despite leaving a trail of dead sheep, chickens and rabbits in his wake, Bruno has managed to evade hunters from a zoo in Munich. He has also made the police look pretty stupid too. A few days ago a Bavarian spotted him sitting directly outside a police station. But by the time the hapless officers had realised he was there, Bruno had slipped away again. Now teams of bear-hunters from as far afield as Finalnd have been called in. Ordinary Germans hope Bruno remains on the loose. In fact they are rooting for the bear almost as strongly as they are for their national team in the World Cup currently being held there.

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