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The black bear Wright, William H. (William Henry), 1856-1934. 1910

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Array  The University of British Columbia Library
T.  WE RBI  The Black Bear
Author of "The Grizzly Bear"
The Story op Ben  3
The Black Bear:   Its Distribution and Habits   . 51
Classification of Bears  53
Description and Distribution  56
Characteristics and Habits  68
Food and Feeding    . 91
The Happy Hooligan  105  ILLUSTRATIONS
Ben and the Author Frontispiece
Making friends  16
The next day we cut a hole in the sack so that he could ride
with his head out  22
Ready for the start  30
Ben tries on his new chain and collar  36
A stop for a drink of water  44
Front foot of a black bear, front track of a black bear; front
foot of a grizzly bear, front track of a grizzly bear     .   . 62
Hind foot of a black bear, hind track of a black bear; hind
foot of a grizzly bear, hind track of a grizzly bear.   .   . 64
A mother and two cubs  74
Taking a sun bath  88
She began to swing her head from side to side  106
A black bear at home  114  THE STORY OF BEN  THE STORY OF BEN
My story of Ben starts on the 22d of June, 1890.
Ben's own story had begun some four or five months
earlier, in the den where his mother, who was a Black
Bear, had spent the winter; but although I came to
know Ben rather intimately later on, he never spoke
of his early childhood to me and I never asked him
about it.   So we'll take that part for granted.
Early in May of that year three of us, Martin Spencer,
Jack O'Brien, and myself, had set out from Spokane,
Washington, to hunt grizzlies and prospect for gold
in the rugged and, at that time, largely unexplored
Bitter Root Mountains, in Idaho. We had a small
pack train and a large stock of enthusiasm, and we
arrived at the foothills with both in good condition.
But although it was well past the middle of the month
when we reached the mountains, we soon found ourselves floundering in snow-drifts that increased in depth
as we climbed, and when, for several days on end, we
had cut our way with a two-handed saw through fallen
trees that barred our progress and had dug the saddle
and pack horses out of pot holes in the snow into which
a misstep or an act of deliberate stupidity had sent 4 The Black Bear
them rolling, both men and horses had become exhausted. And so, when a cold storm had added itself
to our other troubles, we had pitched camp in a little
opening facing the south and settled down to wait for
better days. And we had waited there three solid weeks.
Once, on the morning of the 19th of June, dawn had
shown us a clear sky, against which, fifty miles to the
east of us, we could see the main range of the jagged
Bitter Roots; and after eating a cheerful breakfast
we had hastily broken camp, packed our horses, and
started for the summit of the ridge along which we
proposed to travel. But here, roaring up out of the
next valley, we had met another great storm of icy wind
and swirling snow, and I had soon been forced to leave
my companions with the horses while I stumbled down
the mountain and hunted up another sheltered spot
where we could take refuge from the huge storm. And
so by noon we had once more found ourselves crowded
under a hemlock bark lean-to, thankfully facing a
blazing fire of logs and listening to the wind howling
overhead. And it was not until the afternoon of the
21st that the storm had passed. Then at last the sun
had come out hot and clear and had begun forcing the
great masses of snow that clung to the limbs of the
trees to loosen their grip so that the forest was filled
with the splash of their falling, while laden bushes
jerked their heads free from the weight that bore them
down and the horses stood steaming with the warm air. The Story of Ben 5
But the burnt child fears the fire, and we had determined to be dead sure of the weather conditions this
time before we went ahead; so we first climbed to the
top of the ridge to study the country through our
glasses and at the same time try to look a little bit into
the future in the matter of the weather. The storm, we
found, covered a tract of country about fifteen miles in
width and fifty to sixty miles in length, and where we
stood was about midway of the western end of its
range. Some two miles along the ridge on which we
were we could see a gap in the hills, and Spencer and I
started over to explore this, while Jack took his rifle
and a dog that he had brought along and started down
the mountain.
Spencer and I, after reconnoitring the gap, catching
a mess of small trout from a stream that flowed through
it, and following the track of a large grizzly for some
miles, reached camp after dark, and found that O'Brien
had returned some time before after having had a
more interesting adventure. It seemed that, when
some two miles from camp, he had heard, above the
constant splash of falling snow, the crying of some
animals, and as the sound seemed to be coming nearer
and nearer he had crouched down behind a large log
and, holding his dog in check, had waited and watched.
Shortly, out from among the trees, there appeared a
large Black Bear followed by three tiny cubs, the whole
family having evidently just left their winter quarters. 6 The Black Bear
It must have been an amusing procession, for the old
bear was ploughing her way through the soft and slushy
snow, making large holes into which the baby bears
would fall, and out of which, being so small, they were
scarcely able to flounder. They were quite unable,
therefore, to keep the pace set by their mother, and the
old bear would slouch along for a while and then sit
down and watch them as they struggled to catch up.
And all the time they kept up the whimpering, crying
sound that had attracted Jack's attention.
But I am afraid O'Brien was more interested in bear
meat than in bear habits, for as soon as these animals
drew near his hiding-place he let loose the dog, who
drove the mother up one tree and the cubs up another;
and having shot the old one and decided that it might
be possible to catch the youngsters alive next day,
he returned to camp.
The next morning, as soon as we had had breakfast,
we put pack saddles on a couple of ponies and, taking
some empty gunny-sacks along in which to put the
cubs if we caught them, started out to bring in the
meat and hide of the old bear. It had come on to
rain again during the night, and a cold drizzle was falling as we started out; and in that steep-sided and unbroken wilderness, half buried in the melting snows of a
mountain winter, the going was both slow and dangerous. However, we managed to reach the bottom
of the ravine where Jack had seen the bears without The Story of Ben 7
accident, and once near the place we tied the horses
and crept forward as silently as might be, thinking
to steal up on the cubs unheard and perhaps catch them
before they could reach and climb a tree. The carcass
of the dead bear lay about fifty feet from a huge fir tree,
and we soon saw the three cubs, huddled together,
and sitting on the body of their dead mother. But it
was evident that they were aware of our approach,
for they were on the alert and keeping a sharp lookout in our direction. So when we had worked up as
near as possible, and had reached the last cover between ourselves and them, we crouched behind a fallen
log and laid out a plan of campaign.
It was plain to be seen that we were not going to
catch the cubs off their guard, and it was equally evident that we would have to do some mighty quick
sprinting if we were going to beat them to the foot of
the big fir tree. So we agreed to move forward little
by little until the bears began to be alarmed, and then
to make a dash for the tree in hope of intercepting
them. But we had scarcely wormed our way over
the log and begun our sneaking approach, when all
three cubs rose on their hind legs for a clearer view of
their suspicious visitors, and a moment later they
bounded down from their bed in the dead mother's fur
and began-floundering through the snow and water
toward the fir tree.
The little fellows (the largest of them would not have 8
The Black Bear
weighed over five pounds) had looked to be half dead
with cold and misery, and the snow and slush was over
their heads; but for all that they reached the tree
ahead of us, and started up the rough trunk like so
many cats. I just managed to grab the hindmost of
them by one leg as she was scrambling out of reach,
and after a good deal of squalling, clawing, and biting,
the little woolly ball was landed in one of the gunny-
sacks, the mouth tied up, and the package deposited
on a log out of the way. Then we began figuring out
ways and means of catching the two cubs in the big
fir tree. The rough trunk of this old settler shot up
forty feet from the ground without a limb, and the
cubs looked down at us from the lowest branches,
pushing out their upper lips and uttering short
"whoofs," exactly as a grown bear would have done.
There seemed to be but one way to get them alive, and
this was to shin up the old tree and shake them down
as one would ripe plums. Spencer and Jack agreed to
catch them before they could again take to a tree, if I
would undertake the climbing and shaking: and after
some little talk I closed the bargain. The hardest
part of the task seemed to me to be the shinning of the
old tree. The rest looked easy, but that was before
I had tried it. Any one who has never had the pleasure
of dislodging a bear from the limb of a tree by shaking
is apt to think it an easy matter; but he will change
his mind after a little experience. The Story of Ben 9
The bark of the fir tree was rough and afforded good
finger holds, and it also scraped the skin off the inside
of my knee, but in due time I reached the lower limbs
and, seating myself on one of these, rested for a few
minutes. Then I began climbing up after the cubs,
who moved higher up at my approach. One of them,
after climbing some twenty feet, crawled out on a
branch and, as I came to him first, I gave the limb a
gentle shake expecting to see him roll off and go tumbling down through the boughs to the ground below.
As the cub did not drop at the first shake, I gave another
and harder one. As this did not dislodge him, I stood
on the branch and, grasping the limb over my head
with both hands jumped up and down with all my
might and, after several minutes of this exercise, saw
the youngster lose his desperate grip on the small
branches and go smashing down out of sight. And a
moment later a loud splash announced his arrival at
his destination. Even then, I learned afterward, he
got to his feet and had nearly reached another tree
before he was captured.
The racket that had been raised in dislodging the
one cub had so frightened the other that he had climbed
to the topmost branch of the tree*, and here I found him
with his head down, snorting and striking with his little
paws. If he had weighed fifty pounds he would have
been an ugly customer to handle, but as it was there
was no danger from liim.   But there was considerable 10
The Black Bear
difficulty, for he had climbed so high that I did not
dare trust my weight to the small branches, and, shake
as I might, I was unable to dislodge him. Finally I
climbed down to where the limbs were longer, cut one.
of them with my jack-knife, and, using it as a pole,
succeeded in poking the cub out of his perch. And
as he shot past me I called to the boys to look out and
listen for the splash of his arrival. But instead of the
expected sound I heard Martin call out that the cub
had caught on a lower limb and was climbing back up
the tree. This was aggravating, but I thought that
at least I had the upper hand of him this time and
started down to meet him.
He had taken refuge on one of the longest branches
of the old fir, and as he was too far out for me to reach
with my pole, I had recourse to my former tactics.
I stood up on the branch the cub was on, grasped a
higher one with both hands, and put all my strength
and weight into a succession of violent shakes. The bear
slipped inch by inch out toward the end of the limb;
first one paw and then the other lost its grip; at last
he hung down from the outermost fork by what looked
like one toe nail. But further than this he refused to
yield. Round and round he swung as long as the shaking lasted, which was untU I was completely out of wind
and compelled to stop for breath; and then back the
little beggar climbed, and by the time I had got ready
for another inning he was safe in the original position* The Story of Ben 11
This was repeated again and again until it became
evident that only complete exhaustion on the part of
one or other of the contestants would end the bout.
And I won by a hair. The plucky little fellow let go
and was landed squalling in the sack with the others,
while I rested up before undertaking my slower journey
to the ground. Then we skinned the old bear, cut
up the meat, packed the whole on the horses, fastened
the sack containing the cubs to one of the packs, and
returned to camp.
Just back of the bark shack which we had built
there was a steep bank, and into this, with pick and
shovel, we dug a hole. Over the top of the excavation we placed poles, and having covered these with
bark threw a foot or more of dirt on top, thus making
a nice little cave for the cubs. We then gathered pine
needles, dried and warmed them by the fire, and filled
up the den with them. From a tanned buckskin we
cut long thongs, fastened little buckskin collars around
our orphans' necks, and so tied them to a stake driven
into the ground in front of the cave. We each, naturally, laid claim to a cub. And as I was given first
choice as a reward for the climbing I had done to get
them, I chose the determined, spunky little chap that
had been the last one caught. He was the middle one
in size, but I made up my mind to treat him gently and
keep him, if possible, until he should be a large bear.
Jack took the first one caught, it being the smallest 12
The Black Bear
and a female. The other two were males. Spencer
named his bear George, Jack decided to bring his up
without any name, while I called my wee cublet Ben,
after "Ben Franklin," the pet grizzly of one of my
boyhood's heroes, old James Capen Adams, the tamer
and exhibitor of grizzly bears who, in the fifties and
sixties, became famous as Grizzly Adams.
But now that we had caught our cubs, housed them,
parcelled them out, and named them, we had to face
another problem. How were we going to feed them,
and, worse still, what were we going to feed them?
Old Grizzly Adams, when he caught his "Ben" as an
even tinier cub than mine, had induced a greyhound
that he had with him and that happened to have
puppies at the time to nurse the foundling. But
Jack's dog could not help us that way and we had to
make other arrangements.
We began by taking a frying-pan, a little flour and
water, some condensed milk and a pinch of sugar, and
stewing up a sort of pap. When this had cooled off
we each took a teaspoon and a squalling, kicking cub
and began experimenting. The cubs, small as they
were, had sharp claws, teeth like needles, and a violent
objection to being mollycoddled; and so, although we
each had on heavy buckskin gloves, and each held a
cub under one arm, its front paws with one hand and
a teaspoon with the other, the babies took most of their
first meal externally. The little rascals looked like pasty The Story of Ben 13
polar bears when the fight was over. But they acted
better the second try and soon learned to like their
new diet. And in a day or two they learned to feed
themselves out of a plate. And it was not very long
before our problem was, not to induce them to eat,
but to satisfy their unappeasable appetites.
Meanwhile, however, we had had other troubles.
At the conclusion of their first meal we had put them
into their den, placed sections of bark against the
opening, rolled a boulder in front of the improvised
door, and left them, as we thought, for the night. But
we were soon awakened by the cries of the lonesome
little fellows, and, as there seemed to be no prospect
of their quieting down, I finally got up, built a fire,
warmed some of the gruel, and gave them another feed.
I then warmed a couple of flat rocks, placed these under
the pine needles, and again tucked the babies into bed.
By daybreak I had to get up and give them an early
This was the first night, but it was no sample of what
followed. The interval between feeds became less
and less until the feeding quieted them only so long as
the feeding act lasted. Then, as soon as a cub was
put down, it set up a bawling that was unbearable.
One night we put them all in a sack and tied the
mouth. This kept them from bawling so long as they
could not get out of the sack, but they all fell to work
with tooth and nail, and their combined voices soon H
The Black Bear
announced that they had succeeded in freeing themselves and were pacing in front of their cave making
it impossible for us to sleep. I got up and put them
into another sack, and this sack inside another. Then
I put the bundle in the den and, with the shovel, buried
it more than a foot deep with dirt. Then I put rocks
over the top and front of their house. At first the
snuffing and snorting they made in working on the
sack was nearly as bad as the bawling, but we finally got
to sleep in spite of it; only, however, to be aroused
later on by familiar sounds that proclaimed that the
sacks had been clawed to bits, the cave dug open, and
that the trio were waiting to see what kind of game we
would next invent for their entertainment. This was
our last attempt to keep them quiet. After that we
fed them all they would eat and then let them howl.
During the day they would play contentedly in front
of the den for a part of the time. But when the two
male bears settled down to sleep the little vixen of a
female would howl and fret and finally take to clawing
and biting them, so that at last they would come out
and join in her walking and bawling. As soon as we
discovered this we separated them, making another
cave for the female, and after this we were not bothered
so much with the crying, and in a few days this ceased
We stayed at this camp more than two weeks,
waiting for the weather to settle; and though we did The Story of Ben 15
some fishing and a little hunting we were, for the most
part, held close by the steady rain and gave much time
to the training of our cubs. Each of us of course
adopted his own system of education. O'Brien, being
an Irishman, would hear of no half measures; talked of
"sparing the rod and spoiling the child," and was determined to be master in his own house. In this way
he soon developed a disposition in his little cub that I
have never seen equalled for viciousness in any animal
whatever. She would, at the mere sound of Jack's
voice, become a vindictive little devil; and she would
spit, and strike at, and fight him until she was completely exhausted. And when she finally died from
the effects of the constant whippings he gave her
in trying to break her spirit, she tried to bite him with
her last breath.
Ben and George occupied the original little cave in
the bank, and we spent many hours laughing at their
antics. At first they would scratch and bite if you
touched them, but we never whipped them nor corrected them in any way and they soon lost their fear
of us. We put on heavy leather gloves, handled them
gently but firmly, and—let them chew. They were so
small that they could do us no harm and after a few
days they grew gentle as kittens. It was not long before, when they were not tied up, they would come and
climb into our laps. They would lick our hands like
puppies and, when allowed to, would come into our i6
The Black Bear
tent and snuggle down beside us on our blankets.
During the whole five years that I kept Ben I never
once struck or whipped him and never allowed any one
to tease him, and a more gentle and playful animal I
never saw.
Just in front of their little den there was a large stump
with a long root that sloped away down the bank.
One day when Spencer was playing with the cubs, he
picked up one of them and placing it, doubled up like
a ball, on the old root, sent it rolling downward. To
our amazement the bear did not try to regain his feet
until he stopped rolling some fifteen feet away, and
Spencer was so tickled with the act that he brought
him back and once more sent him tumbling down the
incline. The result was the same as before. The bear
kept whirling until he landed at the end of the root.
The other cub was now brought out and we found that
he would do the same thing. We sent them down,
first backward, then forward, and either way the little
fellows seemed to enjoy the sport as much as we; and
it was not long before they would climb up on the root
and, ducking their tiny heads, would go rolling down
the toboggan slide, and in the end we actually had to
tie them up to keep them from overdoing it.
Sometimes they would play like kittens. They
would roll over and over, biting and wrestling, and we
would laugh until our sides fairly ached. At other
times they seemed to feel cranky and out of sorts, and   The Story of Ben 17
then they would claw and fight each other. These
spells always occurred when they were tied to their
stake and were pacing the circle in front of their cave.
We continued to keep them fastened most of the time
by their buckskin leads to the stake driven near their
den, and they spent much of their time walking round
and round in circles. They never however, by any
chance, accompanied each other in the same direction,
but invariably travelled different ways; and for the
most part they rather ignored each other when they
met on these journeys, or stopped to play in all friendliness. Perhaps they would pass without noticing each
other a dozen times, when suddenly, as they met again,
they would rise on their hind legs and look at each other
with an expression of complete surprise, as who should
say: "Where in all creation did you come from? Here
I have been travelling this circle for half an hour, and
never mistrusted there was another bear in this part
of the country." .And then, as though determined to
celebrate the lucky meeting, they would embrace and
tumble about for a few minutes and then separate and,
perhaps, pass each other a dozen times more with no
notice taken. And then the little comedy would be re-
But on days when their tempers were touchy these
meetings were apt to be less playful. Instead of surprise they would then exhibit resentment at finding
their imaginary solitude invaded;   and after a few i8
The Black Bear
spiteful slaps with their little paws, they would clinch
and bite and claw each other in earnest. Usually they
would break away from these clinches quite suddenly
and resume their tramp; only, however, to reopen
hostilities at an early date. Ben, although the smaller
of the two, always seemed to get the better of his brother in the boxing bouts and wrestling matches. He entered into each with an earnestness that seemed to put
the larger cub to flight; and yet in spite of the fact that
as they grew older their battles seemed to grow more
fierce, we thought nothing of the matter, but looked on
and laughed at the Lilliputian struggles. But one day
when we returned to camp we found George dead in
the little trail that circled the stake to which they were
tied, while Ben in his rounds stepped over the body
of his dead brother at each turn. George's face and
nose were chewed beyond identification and he had
been dead several hours.
Ben had now no companions except ourselves and
one of the dogs which I had brought along and whose
name was Jim; but in spite of this, or because of it, he
grew more friendly and playful each day. He would
coax Jim to come and romp with him and they would
chase each other about until the dog was tired out.
Ben seemed to be tireless and would never quit playing until chained up, or until the badgered dog turned
on him in earnest. Even then the bear used not to
give up hope immediately.  After the first really angry The Story of Ben 19
snap from Jim, Ben would stand off a few feet and look
apologetic. Then, if nothing more happened, he would
approach the dog with a kind of experimental briskness;
only, however, to turn a back somersault in his haste
to get out of the reach of Jim's teeth. A few minutes
later, after Jim had lain down and was apparently
asleep, Ben would steal up quietly and, very gently,
with just the tip of his paw, would touch his old playfellow to find out if he really meant that the romp was
off. And it was the deep growl that always greeted
this last appeal that seemed to settle the matter in
Ben's mind. He would then keep out of Jim's way
until the latter felt like having another play.
Ben was very quick to learn and we only had to show
him a few times to have him catch on to a new trick.
He continued to enjoy cartwheeling down the old root,
and one of the other things he took to with the most
zest was a sort of juggling act with a ball. TMs trick,
like the other, we discovered by accident, and then
worked up into a more elaborate performance. We
finally made him a large ball out of a length of rope,
sewed it up in a gunny-sack to keep it from unwinding,
and he would lie on his back and keep the thing spinning with his four feet by the hour.
Early in July the weather finally became settled.
The new snow had melted away, the old snow banks
were fast disappearing, the little open park on the side
of the mountain above our camp was green with young 20
The Black Bear
grass and literally carpeted with flowers. So one morning we rounded up the ponies, saddled and packed
them, put the cub into a grain sack, tied up the mouth,
placed it on top of one of the packs, tied each of its four
corners to one of the lash ropes that held the pack to
the horse, and started into the unexplored Clearwater
country in the heart of the Bitter Roots.
The horse selected for Ben's mount was a little tan-
colored beast who gave very little trouble on the trail,
and whom we called Buckskin. We never had to lead
him and he would always follow without watching.
He would, when he found good feed, loiter behind until
the pack train was nearly out of sight; but then, with
a loud neigh, he would come charging along, jumping
logs and dashing through thick bushes until the train
was again caught up with. The first day's travel was a
dangerous one for the bear on account of the many
low-hanging limbs. We were obliged to keep a constant watch lest one of these catch the sack and either
sweep it from the pack or crush Ben to death inside it.
But with care and good luck we got through safely and,
after seven hours of travel, reaching an open side hill
with plenty of feed for the horses and a clear cold spring,
we went into camp.
While we were unpacking the horses an old trapper
and prospector known as Old Jerry came along. He
was one of the first men -who made their way into that
wilderness, and for many years he and his cabin on the The Story of Ben 21
Lockasaw Fork of the Clearwater were among the
curiosities of the region. We had put Ben, still in his
sack, on the ground while we got things settled for the
night, and Old Jerry, seeing the sack moving, asked
what we had in it. When he heard that it was a
Black Bear cub he asked permission to turn it out and
have a look at it and we told him to go ahead. After
loosening the cord that closed the mouth, he took the
sack by the two lower corners and gave it a shake, and
out rolled Ben in his favorite toboganning posture of a
fluffy ball. The cub seemed to think this a variation
of the pine root game, and to the astonishment and
delight of Old Jerry continued turning somersaults
for ten or fifteen feet. Old Jerry is still alive, and to
this day I never meet him that he does not speak of
my performing cub.
The next day we again put Ben in the sack, but this
time we cut a hole in the side of it, so that he could ride
with his head out. For a while he was contented with
this style of riding, but after some days he got to working on the sack until he was able to crawl through the
hole. Then, as we found that he could keep his seat
very nicely and would even, when his pony passed
under a branch or leaning tree, dodge to one side of the
pack and hang there until the danger was past, we
adopted Ms amendment and from this time on never
again put him in the sack when on the march. Instead, we arranged to give him a good flat pack to ride 22
The Black Bear
on. We put a roll of blankets on each side of the horse,
close up to the horns of the pack saddle, and tied them
in place. Then the space between was filled with small
articles and a heavy canvas thrown over all and cinched
in place. And on top of this Ben would pass the day.
We tied his lead to the lash rope and he seemed perfectly content, and m fact appeared to enjoy the excitement of being jolted and shaken along through the
timber and brush. It kept him on the jump to dodge
the limbs and switches that were always threatening to
unseat him, but in all of his four months' riding through
the mountains, I never saw him taken unawares. Nor
was he ever thrown by a bucking horse. Sometimes
he would get down from his seat on top of the pack and
sit on the pony's neck, holding by one paw to the front
of the pack. Sometimes he would lie curled up as
though asleep. But he was never caught off his
guard, and his horse Buckskin seemed not to care how
much he climbed about on its back.
Ben soon came to know Ms own horse, and after
Buckskin was packed of a morning would run to
the pony's side and bawl to be lifted to Ms place on the
pack. .And once there he spent several minutes each
morning inspecting the canvas and the ropes of Ms
pack. Several times during the summer we were
obliged to transfer Ben to another mount, but we had
to be mighty careful in our arrangements, as we learned
to our cost the firat time we tried the experiment. The next day we cut a hole in the sack so that he could ride
with his head out  The Story of Ben 23
This was on a day when we had a difficult mountain to
descend, and we thought we would lighten Buckskin's
load by putting Ben on another horse that was carrying less weight. We got him settled on Baldy, as we
called the other cayuse, without any trouble, and
started out in the usual order; but just as we were on a
particularly steep part of the hill, working our way
down through a track of burned but still standing
timber where the dry dirt and ashes were several
inches deep and the dust and heat almost unbearable,
there was a sudden commotion in the rear. We turned
to. see what was happening, and out of a cloud of dust
and ashes Baldy bore frantically down upon us. His
back was arched and with Ms head down between
his forelegs he was giving one of the most perfect exhibitions of the old-school style of bucking that any
one ever saw.
Now it is useless to try to catch a bucking horse
on a steep mountain side. The only tMng to be done
was to get out of the road and wait until the frightened
ammal either lost its footing and rolled to the foot of
the declivity or reached the bottom right side up and
stopped of its own accord. So we jumped to one side.
But, just as Ben and Ms maddened steed enveloped
in a cloud of ash dust swept past the balance of the
now frightened horses, the pack hit against a dead tree
whose root had nearly rotted away and the result completed the confusion.   For the force of the shock first 24
The Black Bear
dislodged a large section of loosely hanging bark wMch
came down with much noise, striking the head pack-
horse squarely across the back; and this was almost
instantly followed by the falling of the old tree itself,
wMch came down with a crash of breaking limbs and
dead branches, and sent up a cloud of dust that completely hid Ben and Ms cavorting mount as they tore
down the mountain. This was too much for the leading pony, who already stood shivering with excitement,
and turmng sharp to the right he shot off around the
side of the mountain.
The other horses were quickly tied up, and wMle
Spencer hurried after the runaway leader I took down
through the burned timber after Baldy. Had the
latter known how hard it had been to shake that same
little bear from the limb of the old tree, he never would
have spent so much energy in trying to buck him off
the top of the pack. Ben had not looked in the least
troubled as he was hurried past us, but had apparently felt himself complete master of the situation.
He had, however, almost instantly disappeared from
view, and soon even the sound of the bounding pony
and the breaking of the dead branches as the pack
hit them was no longer to be heard. The only tMngs
that marked their course were the deep imprints of the
pony's feet and the dust cloud that was settling down
among the dead and blackened timber. Hurrying
along tMs easily followed trail I at last reached the The Story of Ben 25
bottom of the gorge and found the tracks still leading
up the opposite slope. But the horse had soon tired
of the strenuous work of the steep ascent, and after
a couple of hundred yards he had come to a standstill
in a tMck clump of trees and underbrush that had
escaped the fire. Ben was still sitting in his place as
unconcerned as though nothing had happened, but was
liberally covered with ashes and did not seem to be in
the best of humors. The pack did not appear to have
slipped any and so I undid the lead rope and started
back toward where the pack train had been left.
But when only a few yards on the way the pony
suddenly bolted ahead, nearly knocking me down as
he tried to get past. I brought Mm to a halt with a
few sharp yanks on the rope, and then kept a careful
eye to the rear to find out what it was that was startling him. I did not suspect Ben because none of the
horses had ever shown the least fear of him, had always
allowed Mm to run about them as they did the dogs,
and no one of them had ever even kicked at him.
Nevertheless I had noticed that the.cub seemed grumpy
when we put him on Baldy, and remembered that at
first he had bawled and tried to get down. So I kept
my eye on him. And the first thing I knew I saw him
push out Ms upper lip, as all bears do when mad and
out of humor, reach out stealthily one of Ms hind legs,
and with a sharp stroke drive his catlike claws into
Baldy's rump.   So here was the cause of all the trouble. 26
The Black Bear
Ben, objecting to the change of programme, had been
taking it out on the horse. I at once tied Mm up so
short that he could not reach the horse from the pack,
and, although he was in a huff all that day, we had no
further trouble with Mm. Only twice after tMs,
however, did we mount Mm on any other horse but his
own Buckskin.
Each day's travel now brought us nearer to the main
range, and one day we climbed the last ridge and
camped on the border of one of the beautiful summit
meadows where grow the camas, the shooting-star,
the dog-tooth violet, the spring beauty, and other
plants that the grizzlies love. The snow, by now,
had disappeared, except the immense banks lying in
the deep ravines on the north side of the upper peaks;
the marshes were literally cut up by the tracks of deer,
elk, and moose; wMle fresMy dug holes and the enormous tracks of grizzlies told us plainly that we had
reached the happy hunting ground. And now I began
to learn from Ben much about the wonderful instincts
of ammals. Ben had never, before we captured him,
had a mouthful of any food except Ms mother's milk.
Not only had the family just left the winter den in
wMch the little cubs had been born, but the earth at
that time, and for long after, had been covered deep
with snow. So that there was notMng for even a
grown bear to eat except some of the scant grasses that
our horses found along the little open places on the The Story of Ben 27
sides of the hills, or the juices and soft slimy substances
to be found beneath the bark of the mountain spruce
trees in the spring and early summer.
But now, while camped near this mountain meadow,
Ben would pull at Ms leash and even bawl to get loose,
and I soon took to letting him go and to following him
about to learn what it was that he wished to do. I
was amazed to find that he knew every root and plant
that the oldest bears knew of and fed upon in that
particular range of mountains. He would work around
by the hour, paying not the least attention to my
presence; eat a bit of grass here, dig for a root there,
and never once make a mistake. When he got something that I did not recogmze, I would take it away
from Mm and examine it to see what it was, and in
this way I learned many kinds of roots that the bears
feed on in their wild state. I have seen Ben dig a foot
down into the ground and unearth a bulb that had not
yet started to send out its shoot. Later, when the time
came for the sarvis berries and huckleberries to ripen,
he would go about pulling down bushes, searching for
berries. And not once in the whole summer did I ever
see him pull down a bush that was not a berry bush.
This was the more remarkable because he would occasionally examine berry bushes on which there happened to be no berries at the time.
At our next camp we killed a small moose for meat,
and the hide was used during the remainder of the trip 28
The Black Bear
as a cover for one of the packs. After a few days in the
sun it dried as hard as a board and of course took the
shape of the pack over which it had been used. And
this skin box now became Ben's home when in camp.
It was placed on the ground, Ben's picket pin driven
near it, and he soon learned to raise up one edge and
crawl inside. It was funny, when he had done some
miscMef in camp and we stamped our feet and took
after him, to see him fly to the protection of his skin
teepee, and raise the edge with one paw so quickly that
there was no apparent pause in his flight. Then, safe
inside, we would hear him strike the ground with his
forefoot and utter angry "whoofs," daring us to come
any nearer. After a few minutes the edge of the hide
would be lifted a few inches and a little gray nose
would peep out to see if the coast was clear. If no
notice was taken of him he would come back into camp,
only to get into trouble again and be once more shooed
back to cover.
Ben took great pride in this home of Ms and was an
exemplary housekeeper, for no insect was ever permitted to dwell in the coarse hair. At first, when the
Mde was green, the flies would crowd into the hair
and "blow," or.deposit their eggs. These Ben never
allowed to hatch. As soon as he was off his pony he
would get to work on Ms house, and with much smffing
and clawing, would dig out and eat every egg to be
found.   And not one ever escaped Ms keen little nose. The Story of Ben 29
Many times in the mght we would hear Mm smffing
and snuffing away, searcMng out the fly-blows.
He grew to be more of a pet each day and he still
juggled Ms ball of rope. Indeed, he got to be a great
expert at tMs trick. He knew Ms own frying-pan from
the others, and would set up a hungry bawl as soon
as it was brought out. His food in camp was still flour
and water, a little sugar, and condensed milk. This
we fed him for more than a month, after which we cut
out the milk and gave him just flour and water with a
pinch of sugar. He did not care about meat and would
eat his frying-pan food, or bread, in preference to deer
or moose meat. Sometimes, when we killed a grizzly,
we would bring in some of the meat and cook it for the
dogs. This was the only meat that Ben would touch
and very little of that. But although he occasionally
consented to dine on bear meat, he showed unmistakable signs of temper whenever a new bear-skin was
added to our growing pile of pelts. On these occasions,
even before the hide was brought to camp, we would
find him on our return in a towering rage. No amount
of coaxing would induce him to take a romp. Not
even for Ms only four-footed friend, Jim, would he come
out of Ms huff. He would retreat beneath his moose-
skin house, and we could hear him strike the ground,
champ his jaws, and utter his blowing "whoofs." I
was never able to make out whether he resented or was
made fearful by the killing of his kind, or whether it 30
The Black Bear
Was the smell of the grizzlies, of wMch the Black Bear
is more or less afraid, that affected Mm. He still remembered Ms mother, and on every occasion when he
could get to our pile of bear hides he would dig out her
skin—the only Black Bear skin in the lot—sniff it all
over, and lie on it until dragged away. Indeed he
seemed to mourn so much over it, even whimpering
and howling every time the wind was in the right direction for Mm to smell it, that we finally had to keep
tMs hide away from camp.
One day a little later on, as we were working our way
toward the Montana side of the mountains, we arrived
after a hard day's work at the bank of a large stream
flowing into the middle fork of the Clearwater River.
As the stream to be forded was a swift and dangerous
one, and as we had as high a mountain to climb on
the other side as the one we had come down, we decided to go into camp and wait till mormng to find a
practicable ford. In tMs deep canyon there was no feed
for the horses, and not even enough level ground on
which to set up our tent. So the horses were tied up to
the trees, supper was cooked and eaten, Ben's "coop,"
as we called Ms skin house, was placed under a tree,
and then each of us rolled up in Ms blankets and was
soon lulled to sleep by the roar of the water over the
boulders that lined the river's bed.
We were up and ready for the start before it
was fairly light in the deep canyon, and, on account of   The Story of Ben 31
the dangerous work ahead of us, both in fording the
river and in climbing the opposite mountain, we determined to put Ben on a pony that could be led. We
were careful, however, to tie him up short enough to
prevent any repetition of Ms former antics. I then
mounted my riding horse, a good sure-footed one, and,
with the lead rope of Ben's horse in my hand, started
for the other shore. The first two-thirds of the ford
was not bad, but the last portion was deep and swift, the
footing bad, and the going dangerous. However, by
heading my horse diagonally down-stream, and thus
going with the current, we succeeded in making the
opposite bank in safety and waited for Spencer and
Jack to follow. They got along equally well until
near the bank on which I stood, when Spencer's horse
slipped on one of the smooth rocks and pitched his
rider over his head into the swirling water. With a
pole which I had cut in case it should be needed I managed to pull the water-soaked fellow out of the current,
however, and when we had seen once more to the security of the packs we started on the steep climb ahead of
us. There was not so much as an old game trail to
mark our way, and the hill was so steep that we could
only make headway by what are known as "switchbacks." Our one desire now was to get up to where
we could find grass for the horses, and a place level
enough to pitch a tent and to unpack and give the
pomes a few days in which to rest up. 3^
The Black Bear
The horse on which Ben had been mounted for the
day was called Riley, and, as I have already said, we
had selected Mm for his steady-going qualities and his
reliability in leading. But just as we reached a particularly steep place about half-way up the mountain,
Riley suddenly stopped and threw Ms weight back on
the lead rope, which was lapped around the horn of my
riding saddle, in such a way that the rope parted, the
horse lost his balance, and falling backward landed, all
four feet in the air, in a hole that had been left by an
upturned root. We at once tied up the rest of the
horses to prevent them from straying, and, cutting
the cinch rope to Riley's pack, rolled him over and got
him to his feet again. We then led him to as level a
spot as we could find and once more cinched on the
saddle, and, while Spencer brought the various articles
that made up the pack, I repacked the horse. All tMs
time nobody had thought of Ben. In the excitement
of rescuing the fallen horse he had been completely
forgotten, and when Spencer lifted the pack cover,
which was the last article of the reversed pack, he called
out in consternation, "Here's Ben, smashed as flat as a
shingle." When we rushed to examine him we found
that he still breathed, but that was about all; and after
I got the horse packed I wrapped him in my coat,
placed him in a sack, and hanging this to the horn of
my riding saddle, proceeded up the hill.
In the course of a couple of hours we reached an-
ni The Story of Ben 33
other of those ideal camping spots, a summit marsh,
and here we unpacked the horses, turned them loose,
set up our tent, and then looked Ben over to see if any
bones were broken. His breathing seemed a little
stronger, so I put him in the sun at the foot of a large
tree and in a few minutes he staggered to his feet. We
always carried a canful of sour dough to make bread
with, and Ben was extravagantly fond of this repulsive
mixture which he considered a dainty. I now offered
him a spoonful of it, and as soon as the smell reached
his nostrils he spruced up and began to lap it from the
spoon; and from that time on his recovery was rapid.
The next day he was as playful as ever and seemed
none the worse for his close call.
Spencer had a great way, when we were about camp
and Ben was not looking, of suddenly scuffling his feet
on the ground and going "Whoof-whoof!" to frighten
the cub. This would either send Ben flying up a tree
or start him in a mad rush for his moose-skin house
before he realized what the noise was. But one evening
after this trick had been sprung on the cub several
times, we came into camp well after dark, tired, hungry,
and not thinking of Ben; and as Spencer passed a
large tree there was a sudden and loud scuffling on
the ground at his very heels and a couple of genuine
"whoof-whoofs" that no one who had ever heard a
bear could mistake. Spencer made a wild leap to one
side and was well started on a second before he thought 34
The Black Bear
of Ben and realized that his pupil had learned a new
trick and had incidentally evened things up with his
The acuteness of Ben's senses was almost beyond
belief. Nothing ever succeeded in approacMng our
camp without his knowing it; and this not only before
we could hear a sound ourselves, but before we could
have expected even his sharp ears or sensitive nostrils
to detect anything. He would stand on his hind feet
and listen, or get behind a tree and peer out with one
eye, and at such times notMng would distract his
attention from the approaching object. Moreover
whenever he had one of these spells of suspicion some-
tMng invariably appeared. It might prove to be a
moose or a deer or an elk, but something would always
finally walk out into view. He was far and away the
best look-out that I ever saw. We used to amuse
ourselves by trying to surprise Mm on our return to
camp; but, come in as quietly as we might, and up
the wind at that, we would always find him standing
beMnd a tree, peering around its trunk with just one
eye exposed, ready to climb in case the danger proved
sufficient to warrant it. One day after we had crossed
the divide of the Bitter Root range into Montana,
where we had gone to replenish our food supply before
starting on our return trip, we camped in a canyon
through which flowed an excellent trout stream. We
were still miles from any settlement and had no idea The Story of Ben       f 35
that there was another human being in the same
county. I was lying in the shade of a large tree with
Ben, as his habit was, lying beside me with his head on
my breast, to all appearance fast asleep. Suddenly he
i roused, stood up on his hind legs, and looked up the
canyon. I also looked but, seeing nothing, pulled the
bear down beside me again. For a while he was quiet,
but soon stood up again and gazed uneasily up the
creek. As nothing appeared I again made him lie
down; but there was plainly something on his mind,
and at last, after nearly half an hour of these tactics, he
jumped to his feet, pushed out his upper lip, and began
the blowing sound that he always made when something did not suit him. And there, more than two
hundred yards away and wading in the middle of the
creek, was a man, fishing. In some way Ben had been
aware of his approach long before he had rounded the
turn that brought him into sight of our camp.
We remained in Montana long enough to visit the
town of Missoula, lay in a supply .of provisions, sMp our
bear-skins, buy a small dog-chain and collar for Ben,
who was getting too large for his buck-skin thong, and
rest the horses. Then, O'Brien having determined to
try his fortune in the mining camps, Spencer and I
turned our faces to the West and started back over the
same three hundred miles of trackless mountains.
It was well into September when, after many hap-
pemngs but no serious  misadventures,   we  arrived 36
The Black Bear
at a small town on a branch of the Northern Pacific
Railway one hundred and twenty-five miles from
Spokane; and here we decided to sMp not only our
new store of furs, but our camp outfit as well. From
here on our way lay through open farm lands, and we
could find bed and board with the ranchers as we
Ben was still the same jolly fellow, but now grown
so large that by standing on Ms Mnd feet he could catch
Ms claws in the hair cinch of the saddle and relieve us
of the trouble of lifting him to the back of Ms mount.
He and Jim remained the best of friends. Spencer continued to teach the cub new tricks. Ben could now juggle not only the ball, but any other object that was not
too heavy for Ms strength, and he spent many hours
at the pastime. While we were packing the baggage
Ben attracted the attention of the entire population.
The cMldren, being told that he was gentle, brought
Mm ripe plums and candies and he was constantly
stuffed as full as he could hold, and not unnaturally
took a great fancy to the kids. They were always
ready to play with Mm, moreover, and Ms entire time
at tMs place was divided between eating and wrestling
with the youngsters. And when we left Ben received
an ovation from the whole community.
Ben and Buckskin caused no end of sensations in
passing through the country. We often came across
loose horses feeding along the Mghway, and these   The Story of Ben 37
nearly always wished to make our acquaintance.
They would follow Spencer and myself for a while, and
then turn back to see if the pony loitering in the rear
was not more friendly. And Buck on these occasions
would hurry ahead, more than anxious to meet them.
But they never waited for an introduction. With
loud snorts and tails in the air they either shot away
across the open fields or tore madly past us up the
turnpike, while Buckskin stood looking after them
in puzzled disappointment.
One day, just as we were rounding a turn in the road,
we met a farmer and his wife driving a two-horse buggy.
Buckskin had just come loping up and was only a few
yards behind us, and the sight of a bear riding a horse
so pleased the farmer that he paid little attention to
his horses, who almost went crazy with fright. Buck
looked at the dancing team in amazement, and Ben was
as much interested as any one. But the woman, in the
very beginning, took sides with the farm team, and sat
with terrified eyes clutching her husband's arm and
yelling for him to be careful. Finally her fright and
cries got on his nerves, and he stopped laughing long
enough to shout "Will you shut up?" in a voice
that effectually broke up the meeting.
One night we asked for lodging at a farm run by an
old lady. As I knocked at the door of the house and
proffered our request she at once gave her consent, and
directed us to the rear of the stablet where we would 38
The Black Bear
find hay for our horses and where we could spread our
blankets for the night. Next mormng we paid our bill,
and as we left the yard the old lady, who was at the
door to see us off, called out to know if all five of those
horses were ours. I told her that they were and
asked what she meant, and she said that she had only
charged us for feed for three. She had, she explained,
been so taken up with looking at that fool bear riding
a horse that two of the horses had escaped her notice.
At last we reached Spokane and Ben's horseback
riding came to an end. He had covered more than a
thousand miles of mountain and valley and ridden for
nearly four months. I fitted up a woodshed for him
with a door opemng into a small court, where an old
partly rotted log was put to remind Mm of the forest.
He soon became a great favorite, and as no one was
allowed to tease Mm he continued to be friendly and
TMs shed in wMch Ben lived had the earth for a floor,
and adjoining it there was a carriage-house with a floor
some ten or twelve inches above the ground. One day
soon after Ben was placed in the shed I came home and
found a large pile of fresh earth and a hole leading down
under the carriage-house. I could hear Ben digging and
puffing at the bottom of it, and when I called he came
out, his silky black coat covered with dirt. I had
never seen Mm dig before, unless it was for a root,
or the time I had buried Mm alive to hush Ms crying in The Story of Ben 39
the little cave in the Bitter Roots; and it was several
days before I understood what he was about. Then
it came to me that he was building himself a winter
home. I have learned since that bears in captivity
by no means always show a desire to hibernate; but
Ben had the instinct thoroughly developed. And
instinct it was, pure and simple, for he had never seen
a bear's den except the one that he left as a tiny cub on
the day that his mother was killed. He evidently
regarded the work as a most serious and important
undertaking, and I watched his labors with much interest. He devoted several hours each day to shaping
his cave and at times would break suddenly away in
the very middle of a romp and hurry to his digging. If
I caught him by his short tail and dragged him out of
the hole, he would rush back to his work as soon as released. I even enlarged the entrance so that I could
crawl in and watch him work, and on one or two occasions I undertook to help him. But, while he would
not resent this, my work did not seem to please him, as
he moved the dirt which I had dug and resettled it to
suit himself. He piled loose earth up under the floor
of the carriage-house and pushed and jammed it tight
up against the boards until there was not a crack or
space left through which a draught could reach him.
The hole itself he made about four feet in diameter
and about three feet deep; and when this part of the
work was finished he turned his attention to furmshing 40
The Black Bear
his home. He found some cast-off clotMng in the alley
near his shed and dragged it into his den under the
carriage-house. After arranging tMs first instalment
he hurried out to look for more, and for several evenings the furmsMng of the sleeping apartment occupied
the major part of his time. Once he came back dragging a fine cashmere shawl that he pulled off a clothesline where one of the neighbors had hung it to air!
Not until the floor of his den was several inches deep in
rags did he give up foraging and once more return to
his usual habits.
And then, one morning, when I went to the shed for
kindling, there was no Ben to greet me. The ground
was buried several inches deep in snow and quite a
drift had sifted through the crack under the door;
and I saw by following Ben's chain that it led down
under the carriage-house, and knew that he was now
enjoying the comforts that he had made ready a month
before. As long as the severe weather lasted Ben remained in Ms cave. But there was nothing either
mysterious or curious about his condition. Sometimes,
in the coldest weather, I would call him out and he
never failed to come. It usually took three calls to
bring Mm however. At my first cry of "Ben!" there
would be no sound; then, at a louder "Ben!" there
would be a shaking of the chain, then quiet again;
but at the tMrd peremptory call there would be a
few puffs and snorts and out he would come, fairly The Story of Ben
steaming from the warmth of his house. I often tried
to get him to eat at such times, but he would only
smell of the food; then he would stand up on Ms hind
feet with his forepaws against my shoulders, lap my
face and hands with his tongue, and crawl back to Ms
nest. Several times I crept down into his den to find
out how he slept. He was curled up much as a dog
would be and seemed simply to be having a good nap.
The amount of heat that his body gave out was astonishing. I have thrust my hand under him as he
slept and it actually felt hot. The steam, too, that
came up through the cracks of the floor of the carriage-
house not only covered the carriage with frost but
coated the whole inside of the room.
For more than a year, or until he got so large and
rough that he broke the rockers from several chairs
that he upset in his mad gallops around the rooms, he
was allowed the privilege of the house. He used to
stand up and touch the keys of the piano gently, then
draw back and listen as long as the vibration lasted.
He was fond, too, of being dragged about on his back
by a rope that he held fast in his teeth. He never tired
of this sport and would get his rope and pester you
until you gave him a drag to get rid of him. He had
several playthings with which he would amuse Mmself
for hours, and one of these was a block of wood that had
replaced the rope ball that he had been used to juggle
on his trip through the Bitter Roots.   Another was 42
The Black Bear
ten or twelve feet of old garden hose. TMs he would
seize in Ms teeth by the middle and shake it as a dog
would shake a snake until the ends fairly snapped.
Once, when he had hold of the hose, I put my mouth
to one end and called through it. He was all attention
at once and when I called again he took the opposite
end in his paws, seated Mmself squarely on the ground,
and held one eye to the opemng to see where the sound
came from. This sitting down to tMngs was characteristic of Mm. He would never do anything that he
could sit down to until he had deliberately settled Mmself in that comfortable position. A mirror was a great
puzzle to Mm and he never fully solved the riddle of
where the other bear kept Mmself. He would stand
in front and look at Ms reflection, then try to touch it
with Ms paw. Finding the glass in the road, he would
tip the mirror forward and look beMnd it; then start
in and walk several times around it, trying to catch up
with the illusive bear.
But Ben's desire to catch the looking-glass bear was
as notMng to Ms determination to catch the kitchen
cat. TMs was his supreme ambition, and, although
he never realized it, there was one occasion on wMch
he came witMn sight of success. When he was a
small cub and admitted familiarly to the house he had
often chased the cat around the kitchen until everytMng
had been upset except the stove; or until the cat,
watcMng her chance, had escaped to the woodshed to The Story of Ben 43
go into hiding for an hour to get her nerves quieted
down. But his final banishment from the house had
established a forced truce between them. He was
not allowed in her territory, and she took care not to
trespass on his. One day, however, when Ben was
nearly two years old, he was, for some reason or other,
allowed to come into the kitchen for a few moments.
And as he entered the room he spied the cat. Instantly Ms forgotten dreams returned; and when
pussy, her tail fluffed up to four times its rightful size,
took refuge in the kitchen pantry, Ben very deliberately
crossed the kitchen and blocked the pantry door. For
a few seconds the two glared at each other and then,
with a spit and a yowl, the cat made a mad dash around
the pantry shelves and, amid the din of falling stew
pans, vaulted clear over the bear's head and crouched
by the wood box behind the stove. Now Ben, when a
small cub, had been used to going under that stove,
and he saw no reason for not taking the same old
route. His head went under all right, but for an
instant the massive shoulders stuck. Then the powerful hind feet were gathered under him, there was a
ripping of linoleum as the sharp nails tore through
it, the hind legs straightened out, and the stove
went over with a mighty crash. A dozen feet of
stove pipe came tumbling down, the room was filled
with smoke, and from underneath the wreck a frightened cat leaped through the door closely followed by 44
The Black Bear
a disappointed bear.    This was Ben's last visit inside
the house.
As he grew older and larger, he remained as kindly
and good-natured as ever. He would still tumble
about with Jim, although the dog could now stand
very little of tMs kind of play; for Ben did not know
how strong and rough he was. When, in playing with
the boys in back lots, he got warmed up, he would
go flying over to a barrel kept full of water for the
horses and, climbing upon the rim, would let Ms
hinder parts down into the cool water, turn round up
to his chin for a few minutes, and then climb out and
take after one of the spectators. When he caught up
with any one he would never touch them, but would
at once turn and expect them to chase Mm. Then,
when about to be caught, he would go snorting up a
telegraph pole. I frequently took him walMng in the
town, but always on a chain to keep him from chasing
everybody. On these occasions if he heard any unfamiliar noise he would clutch the chain close up to Ms
collar and sit down. After listening awhile, if he decided that it was safe to proceed, he would drop the
chain and our walk would continue. But if the sound
didn't please Mm he would start for his woodshed on
the jump, and after he got to weigh a hundred pounds
or more I invariably went with Mm—if I hung onto
the chain.
He still juggled Ms block, but now he had a new one   The Story of Ben 45
that was more suited to his size and strength, a piece
of log a foot or more in diameter and sixteen to eighteen
inches in length. This stick he kept for a couple of
years and juggled so much that his claws wore hollows
in the ends of it.
When Ben was four years old business compelled me
to move to the town of Missoula, Montana. I could
not bear to part with my pet, so shipped him by express to the town he had visited on horseback as a
tiny cub. Now, however, the express company charged
me for transportation on three hundred and thirty-two
pounds of bear meat. It was fall when we moved to
Missoula, and Ben was given a small room in one end of
a woodshed and, as he had no cave to sleep in, I had
the room filled with shavings. Ben's arrival was quite
an event and roused much interest among the younger
element of the town; which at first was shown by about
forty boys attacking him with sticks and anything that
they could hurl at him or punch him with. I showed
them, however, how gentle and playful he was; got some
of the boys to wrestle with him; told them that if they
continued this rough treatment to wMch Ben was not
used I would be compelled to lock him up; and, having had some experience with boys as well as with bears,
forbore to tell them what I proposed to do to those
who did not listen to me. This explanation and Ben's
evident readiness to make friends quite changed the
general attitude toward him, but there were a few 46
The Black Bear
who refused to see things from my point of view. There
was a man in Missoula at that time, Urlin by name,
who was, or thought he was, the whole show. He was a
sort of incipient "boss"; was at the head of the city
council, and took it upon himself to see that things in
general were run according to his ideas. He had two
red-headed sons who aspired to occupy a similar position among the boys, and these had been the ringleaders
of the mob that had attacked Ben, and were among
the few who either could not or would not abandon the
tactics of teasing and persecution. So, as there was
no lock on Ben's shed, but only a wooden button, and
as it was already late in the fall, I nailed tMs fast and
left the bear in his bed of shavings. That same afternoon, happemng to look out of the window of the shop
in which I was working, I saw people hurrying down
the street and went to the door to find out what the
excitement was about. Two blocks away, in front of
my house, a mob was gathering, and I hurried home
to find most of the women of the neighborhood wringing their hands and calling down all kinds of curses on
my head.
At first I could make neither head nor tail of the
clamor, but finally gathered that that bloodtMrsty,
savage, and unspeakable bear of mine had killed a boy;
and upon asking to see the victim was told that the remains had been taken to a neighbor's house and a
doctor summoned.   TMs was scarcely pleasant news The Story of Ben 47
and not calculated to make me popular in my new
home; but, knowing that whatever had happened Ben
had not taken the offensive without ample cause, I unchained Mm and put him into the cellar of my house,
well out of harm's way, before looking further into the
matter. Then I went over to the temporary morgue
and found the corpse (needless to say it was one of the
Urlin boys) sitting up on the kitchen floor holding a
sort of an impromptu reception and, with the exception of Ben, the least excited of any one concerned. I
could not help admiring the youngster's pluck, for he
was an awful sight. From his feet to his knees his legs
were lacerated and his clothing torn into shreds; and
the top of Ms head—redder by far than ever nature
had intended—was a bloody horror. As soon as I
laid eyes on Mm I guessed what had happened.
It developed that the two Urlin boys had broken
open the door of the shed and gone in to wrestle with
the bear. Ben was willing, as he always was, and a
lively match was soon on; whereupon, seeing that the
bear did not harm the two already in the room, another
of the boys joined the scuffle. Then one of them got
on the bear's back. This was a new one on Ben, but
he took kindly to the idea and was soon galloping
around the little room with his rider. Then another
boy climbed on and Ben carried the two of them at the
same mad pace. Then the third boy got aboard and
round they all went, much to the delight of themselves 48
The Black Bear
and their cheering audience in the doorway. But even
Ben's muscles of steel had their limit of endurance,
and after a few circles of the room with the three riders
he suddenly stopped and rolled over on Ms back. And
now an amazing tMng happened. Of the three boys,
suddenly tumbled helter-skelter from their seats, one
happened to fall upon the upturned paws of the bear;
and Ben, who for years had juggled rope balls, cord
sticks, and mimature logs, instantly undertook to
give an exMbition with his new implement. Gathering
the badly frightened boy into position, the bear set Mm
wMrling. His clotMng from Ms shoe tops to Ms knees
was soon ripped to sMeds and Ms legs torn and bleeding; his scalp was lacerated by the sharp claws until
the blood flew in showers; Ms cries rose to shrieks and
sank again to moans; but the bear, unmoved, kept up
the perfect rhythm of his strokes. Finally the terrified
lookers-on in the doorway, realizing that sometMng
had to be done if their leader was not to be twirled to
death before their eyes, tore a rail from the fence and
with a few pokes in Ben's side induced Mm to drop the
boy, who was then dragged out apparently more dead
than alive.
Dr. Buckley, of the Northern Pacific Railway Hospital, carried young Urlin to Ms office, shaved Ms
head, took seventy-six stitches in Ms scalp, and put
rolls of surgical plaster on Ms sMns. So square and
true had Ben juggled him that not a scratch was found The Story of Ben
on Ms face or on any part of his body between the top
of Ms head and Ms knees. He eventually came out of
the hospital no worse for Ms ordeal, but I doubt if he
ever again undertook to ride a bear.
For a wMle there was much curiosity in town as to
what old man Urlin would do in the matter, and many
prophecies and warmngs reached me. But for some
days I heard nothing from Mm. Then he called on
me and asked, very politely, if I had killed the bear.
When I told him that Ben was well and would in all
natural probability live for twenty years or so, the old
fellow threw diplomacy to the winds and fumed and
threatened like a madman. But he calmed down in
the end; especially after he was informed by his lawyers
that, as Ms boys had forcibly broken into my shed, it
was he himself that could be called to legal account.
And so the matter was dropped.
But Ben was now grown so large that none but
myself cared to wait on Mm; and when, the next
spring, I found that I was going to be away in the
mountains all summer, I began looking about for
some way of getting him a good home. Nothing in the
world would have induced me to have him killed, and
I did not like to turn Mm loose in the Mils for some
trapper to catch or poison. Moreover I doubted his
ability, after so sheltered a life, to shift for himself in
the wilderness. But this was a problem in wMch the
"don't's" were more easily discovered than the "do's." 50
The Black Bear
Weeks slipped by, I was leaving in a short time, no
solution had offered, and I was at my wits' end. -And
then a travelling circus came to town. I sought out
the manager, told Mm Ben's story, obtained his promise
of kind treatment and good care for my pet and, with
genuine heartache, presented the fine ammal to Mm.
That was sixteen years ago and I have never heard of
Ben since. I often wonder if he's still alive and if
he'd know me. But of the last I have not a single
Scientific naturalists, like other learned gentlemen
in large spectacles, have a way (or it sometimes seems
as though they had) of using very big words about
very small matters. For instance, what they might
describe as "an aquatic larva of Rana catesbiana or
other BatracMan," we would call a tadpole. And so
on tMough the list. But we are obliged to assume that
they have excellent reasons for their choice of language,
and there is no getting around the fact that if we wish
to profit by their wisdom we have to learn at least the
simple rules of their speech.
We ought, for example, to understand that when a
new ammal, or a new variety of an old one, is discovered, or rather when it is officially described and
listed by a naturalist, it is given a special Latin name
wMch, added to the Latin name of the family to wMch
it belongs, thenceforth serves to identify it among all
students of natural history. Moreover, as a compliment to the man who thus stood god-parent for it in the
scientific world, his name is added, in parentheses, to
these Latin designations. Thus the Rocky Mountain
grizzly bear is known to technical fame as Ursus hor-
53 54
The Black Bear
ribilis (Ord), wMch, being interpreted, means that
tMs much-misrepresented member of the bear tribe
was first described officially by George Ord and was
named by Mm "The Terrible."
There have been many attempts to classify the
North American bears; and from time to time, as new
facts come to light, or new students advance new
theories as to the relationsMps of the different species,
these lists are altered. But before proceeding to give
my own observations upon the actual habits and
characteristics of the common Black Bear, the Ursus
americanits (Pallas) of the text-books, I reproduce
(without recourse) a list of what appear to be the most
generally recogmzed varieties of bears inhabiting the
North American continent.
The Polar Bear.    Ursus maritimus (Desm.).   Polar
regions generally.
The Kadiak Bear. Ursus mtcMendorffi (Merriam).
Kadiak Island, .Alaska. The largest of all living
The Yakutat Bear. Ursus dalli (Merriam). Yakutat
Bay and seaward slopes of the St. Elias range.
The Admiralty Bear. Ursus eulophus (Merriam).
Admiralty Islands, Alaska.
The Pemnsula Bear. Ursus merriami (Allen). Portage Bay, Alaska Peninsula. Classification of Bears
The Rocky Mountain Grizzly. Ursus horribilis (Ord).
Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Alaska.
The Sonora Grizzly. Ursus horribilis horrioms (Baird).
South-western New Mexico.
The Barren Ground Grizzly. Ursus richardsoni
(Mayne Reid). Great Slave Lake regions and
Barren Grounds.
The American Black Bear.   Ursus americanus (Pallas).
Scornborger's Black Bear. Ursus americanus scorn-
borgeri (Bangs).   Labrador.
Queen Charlotte Islands Black Bear. Ursus americanus carhttce (Osgood).
Desert Black Bear. Ursus americanus eremicus (Merriam).   Coahuila, Mexico.
Florida Black Bear.    Ursus floridanus (Merriam).
Louisiana Black Bear.    Ursus luteolus (Griffith).
North-western Black Bear. Ursus altifrontalis (Elliot).
Clallam County, WasMngton.
.Alberta Black Bear.    Ursm hylodromus (Elliot).
The Fighting Bear. Ursus machetes (Elliot). CM-
huahua, Mexico.
Emmons's Glacier Bear.    Ursu^s emmonsi (Dall).   Mt.
St. Elias region, Alaska.
The Inland WMte Bear.    Ursus kermodii (Hornaday).
South-western British Columbia. DESCRIPTION AND DISTRIBUTION
The American Black Bear, or, as our friends with
the big spectacles have named Mm, Ursus americanus
(Pallas), has by very long odds the widest distribution
of any North American bear.
The polar bear stays well inside the Arctic Circle.
The big brown Alaskan bears are only found in certain
localities on or near the north-west coast of the continent. The grizzlies inhabit, or inhabited, the mountain
regions of the extreme west from Mexico to Alaska.
But the Black Bear is found in the central and northern
parts of the Umted States and in the central and southern parts of Canada from the Atlantic coast to the shore
of the Pacific Ocean; and his half brothers, or first
cousins, or whatever they are, in Florida, Louisiana,
Texas, and Old Mexico, are so much like Mm that it
takes a specialist and sometimes a post-mortem examination to tell them apart.
I have watched and studied these ammals in the
open for nearly tMrty years, and have played eavesdropper and Peeping Tom times out of number when
they were unconscious of my presence; and yet I have
had dealings with Black Bears in Texas and Old Mexico
56 Description and Distribution 57
whom I would never for a moment have suspected
of differing in blood or descent from their northern
relatives. However, as we may see from the list already given, the Black Bears of Florida, Louisiana,
Mexico, and certain restricted districts in the North,
have been technically recogmzed as entitled to separate
classification. And it is just as well to state clearly
that in these pages all statements (unless otherwise
indicated) refer to the common American Black Bear,
and the term Black Bear, when unqualified, refers
always to Ursus americanus (Pallas).
It is also just as well to call attention in the beginmng
to a mistaken idea that is a very old one and is very
generally entertained about these ammals. I refer to
the belief that there is a difference of species between
the black and the brown or cinnamon-colored individuals of the tribe. This notion is so wide-spread that
one often hears it stated that there are three varieties
of bears in the Umted States: the Black Bear, the
Cinnamon Bear, and the Grizzly. But this is a most
misleading statement. There are many cinnamon-
colored bears, but there is no such species as the Cinnamon Bear. Some Black Bears are brown, and so are
some grizzlies. Some Black Bears are cinnamon-color,
and so are some grizzlies. But the difference between
the Black Bears that are black and the Black Bears
that are cinnamon-color is the difference between
blondes and brunettes; wMle the difference between a 58
The Black Bear
brown-colored grizzly and a brown-colored Black Bear
is like the difference between a brown cocker spamel
and a brown setter—one of breed.
The Black Bear has a head broader between the ears
in proportion to its length and a muzzle much shorter
and sharper than the grizzly. TMs muzzle is also
almost invariably of a grayish or buff color. The animal shows a rather noticeable hump over the small of
its back, just in front of the hind legs, and these legs
are less straight than those of the grizzly and more
sloping at the haunches. Its ears are larger. Its eyes
are small and pig-like. Its claws are short, much
curved, very stocky at the base, and taper rapidly to a
sharp point. They are far less formidable as weapons
and far less serviceable as digging implements than
the long, slightly curved, blunt claws of the grizzly;
but they are perfectly adapted to the uses to which
their owner puts them. And the cMef of these uses is
The Black Bear climbs, literally, like a squirrel; and
from cubhood to old age spends a considerable portion of his time in trees. He can climb as soon as he
can walk and Ms mother takes clever advantage of the
fact. She sends her cubs up a tree whenever she wants
them off her hands for a time—uses trees, indeed, very
much as human mothers who have no one to watch
their children wMle they work use day nurseries.
The first tMng a Black Bear mother does when any Description and Distribution 59
danger threatens is to send her cubs up a tree. She
will then frequently try to induce the enemy to follow
her and, when she has eluded him, will return for the
cubs. In parts of the country where there are grizzlies,
or where there are wolves, she will generally thus dispose of her cMldren before herself going off to feed on
berries or other provender. In all my experience I
have never known cubs, when thus ordered into retirement by their mother, to come down from the selected
tree until she called them. They will climb to the extreme top; run out to the ends of all the branches in
turn, chase each other up and down the trunk, and
finally curl up in some convenient fork and go to sleep.
But though it may be hours before the old bear comes
back for them nothing will induce them to set foot on
the ground until she comes.
. Later in life the Black Bear continues to regard trees
as its natural refuge from all dangers. They will invariably "tree" when pursued by dogs, chased by a
man on horseback, or otherwise threatened. And a
few years ago I witnessed an amusing incident which
shows that these are not the only circumstances under
which a Black Bear tMnks to find safety in its favorite
refuge. I was engaged at the time in trying to get
some flash-light photographs of grizzlies, and one afternoon, soon after I had gotten my apparatus set up
and was waiting for darkness and the appearance of my
expected sitters, a violent thunderstorm came up.   I 6o
The Black Bear
had just covered my camera and flash-pan with bark
peeled from a couple of small saplings and taken shelter
myself under a thick, umbrella-like tree, when I saw a
small Black Bear coming through the woods and headed
straight for my hiding place. At every flash of lightning he paused and made a dash for the nearest tree,
but by the time he got there the flash would be over
and he would start on again. Finally, there came a
blinding streak of jagged fire, accompanied by a splitting crash, and the small bear made one jump into the
tree that happened to be nearest him, went hand over
hand to the extreme top, rolled himself into a little ball
with his nose between his paws, and never moved until
the storm had gone by.
But the Black Bear also resorts to trees of his own
accord, using them as a loafing place and even as a
sleeping apartment. I have seen one lying prone on
his back on a big limb, all four feet in the air, as utterly
comfortable and care-free as a fat man in a hammock.
In regions where the grizzly and the Black Bear are
both found, the Black Bear spends much of his leisure
among the branches and often has special trees that he
uses as sleeping quarters. Some of these, from constant use, become as deeply scarred and worn as an old
wooden sidewalk in a lumbering town; and I have
seen them that appeared to have been used for years.
One sometimes hears it claimed that a Black Bear
can only climb a tree around wMch he can conveniently Description and Distribution 6r
clasp Ms front legs, man-fashion. They can climb,
and that with almost equal ease, any tree that will
hold their weight; from a sapling so small that there
is just room for them to sink one set of hind claws above
the other in a straight line, to an old giant so big that
they can only cling to its face, squirrel-fashion, and behind the trunk of which (also squirrel-fashion) they
can hide, circling as you walk around it.
Another curious fact about the Black Bear's sharp
claws is that these invariably match their owner's hide
in color. A black animal always has black claws.
A brown one has brown claws. A cinnamon-colored
one has cinnamon-colored claws. This is not true of
the grizzly. And since, as we will see later, the color of
an individual bear often changes with the weathering
of its coat, one can approximate the normal, or new-
coat, color of the animal from the color of its claws.
In order to show more clearly than mere words could
do the character of the Black Bear's claws and their
differences from those of the grizzly, I have photographed a front and hind foot of each animal and also
the corresponding tracks made on the ground, and these
photographs are here reproduced for comparison and
reference. The difference in the fore paws will be
seen at a glance; the long, blunt, four-and-a-half
to six-inch claws of the grizzly serving to distinguish
them unmistakably from the short, sharp, one to one-
and-a-half-inch claws of the Black Bear.   The hind 62
The Black Bear
paws are more nearly alike; but one notices at once
how markedly both differ from the front paws and how
nearly they approximate to feet. TMs is true of all
As, in the West, these two bears are often found in
the same localities, and as one of the first tMngs an
observer of them should learn is to distinguish between
their tracks, I shall point out some of the more salient
differences between the two.
On the fore paw of the Black Bear the pad is noticeably rounded in front and somewhat hollowed out behind and is, in a general way, rather kidney-shaped.
It does not show the dent that is so plainly seen on the
outside of the grizzly's front paw, and the front edge of
it is much narrower. .Also, when the track is perfect,
the distance between the impress of the toes and the
impress of the tips of the claws is much less.
On the hind paw of the Black Bear the front of the
pad is also more rounded than that of the grizzly and
the heel is blunt instead of pointed. Another difference
in shape is shown by the fact that a straight line drawn
through the middle toe and along the axis of the foot
will, in the Black Bear's track, exactly Mt the heel, wMle
in the grizzly's track it will fall well to the outside of
the heel. The Black Bear's Mnd paw is also more deeply
dented at the instep than that of the grizzly.
The feet of the Black Bear are stockier than those of
the grizzly and more powerfully muscled—probably as   Description and Distribution 63
a result of the ammal's climbing habits. On the other
hand their fore legs do not show the wonderful muscular development that is one of the marked characteristics of Ursus horribilis.
The Black Bear received its name informally, as it
were, from the early settlers of New England, where the
overwhelming majority of the species happened to be
black and where, by dint of saying, "I saw a black
bear in the woods this afternoon," people came to refer
to the animal as the Black Bear. Later on the name
was sanctioned by scientific baptism and the ammal
became officially known as the American Black Bear.
The designation, however, as we have seen, is by no
means umversally descriptive. In the East, and in
the Middle West, an occasional brown specimen is met
with. But when the Rocky Mountain region is reached
there is a bewildering variation in the coloring of the
species. The majority of the breed are still black, but
at least a quarter and perhaps a third of the specimens
met with show a different coloration. Of these probably the seal-browns are the most numerous; but I have
seen Black Bears of every conceivable shade, from a
light cream color, through the yellow browns, to a jet
and glossy black never seen in the East. One ammal
that I watched for some weeks in the mountains of
Wyoming was of a curious olive yellow from tip to tail.
In north-western Montana and north-eastern Idaho one
used to see many mouse-colored, or steel-blue-colored, 64
The Black Bear
Black Bears; and around Flat Head Lake, in Montana, I have seen a number of albinos. Curiously
enough, albino deer used to be found in tMs same
locality. One sometimes hears it declared that the
"true" Black Bear has a wMte horseshoe on'its breast.
This is simply a distortion of the fact that many Black
Bears, especially black ones, have a "wMte vest,"
varying from a few wMte hairs to a spot six inches
square. Now and then one sees a star, or a sMeld,
or some other oddly shaped mark, and sometimes
instead of being wMte these are cream color or a dirty
Like the grizzly, the individual Black Bear may vary
in color according to the season, the age of its coat, and
the weathering that tMs has undergone. An animal
that is a glossy black in the fall may, by the early summer of the following year, be a rusty black; or one that
is a rich brown when it first emerges from its winter
sleep, may be a faded yellow brown when it has shed
its fur and only its hair remains in the beginning of the
next summer. But, as far as my observation goes,
these changes of color are wholly the result of sun
bleach, weathering, and wear and tear.
All fur-bearing ammals have both fur and hair—
the long guard-hair completely covering and protecting the fine fur underneath. TMs is of course true of
the Black Bear, and it is interesting to note how both
hair and fur are changed each year, yet without ever   Description and Distribution 65
leaving the ammal uncovered. About a month after
the bear comes out of its winter den the fur begins to
drop out, first on the legs and belly, and then on the
other parts of the body. During tMs time the ammal
takes great satisfaction in scratcMng itself on stumps
and bushes—straddling them on its walks and returning again and again to repeat the operation. From
then on the old coat gradually falls out—fur and hair,
and at one stage the falling coat hangs in shreds and
gives the bear a most wretched and moth-eaten appearance. Meanwhile the new hair is coming in, but
not as yet the new fur, so that by early summer the
bear has a new suit of clothes, but no underwear. As
fall approaches the new fur begins to grow. And by
the time the ammal is ready to den up for the winter he
has a full new coat. This continues to grow during
hibernation and a bear's coat is at its best when the
animal first reappears in the spring.
The full-grown Black Bear is, of course, very much
smaller than the full-grown grizzly, but it is rather
difficult to give any close figures for what might be
called a normal specimen. The largest Black Bear that
I ever actually weighed, myself, tipped the scales at
four hundred and sixty-two pounds. There had been
much discussion about tMs bear, and guesses, before
weighing, ranged from three hundred to seven hundred
pounds. This gives a good idea of the danger of putting
ihuch faith in the estimates of people who have merely 66
The Black Bear
seen an animal in the open, and have no actual data for
comparison and upon wMch to base their opimon. I
have, first and last, weighed a good many Black Bears,
and should say that, when full grown, they range in
weight from say two hundred and fifty to say five hundred pounds. In some instances they probably go
over that. As a rule the largest specimens I have seen
appeared to be in the prime of life and in the best of
condition, but I have seen those that gave every evidence of being old and almost decrepit that would not
have weighed over two hundred and fifty pounds.
Ben, when I caught Mm, was about three months
old, and would have weighed about five or six pounds.
When he was a year old he weighed about fifty pounds.
The last time I actually put him on the scales he
weighed three hundred and tMrty-two pounds, and I believe that four months later, when I gave him away,
he would have gone better than four hundred. TMs
three hundred and thirty-two pounds was actual live
What may be the life span of the Black Bear in their
free state it is hard, to say. They do not arrive at full
maturity or growth until their sixth or seventh year,
and they probably live well beyond the twenty-five
year mark. Mr. William R. Lodge and Ms father of
Cuyahoga Falls, OMo, have a pair of Black Bears that
they have had for twenty-two years, that were six
months old when they got them, and that are still Description and Distribution 67
healthy and vigorous. There is no reason to suppose
that a free ammal would not live at least as long as one
confined under unnatural conditions.
In the case of the grizzly I have known and watched
for years an individual bear in his home mountains
that must have been more than twenty years old and
that was still in full vigor the last time I saw Mm. But
I have never happened to keep similar track of any
individual Black Bear in the open. I have, however,
never seen any Black Bear that looked as old as some
grizzlies I have seen.
It is a curious fact that in twenty-seven years of
coming and going in the joint territory of the grizzly and
the Black Bear I have never once come upon the bones
or the carcass of a grizzly that had died a natural death.
I have, on the other hand, in dens and elsewhere, seen
many Black Bear carcasses and skeletons. Once, in
the Selkirks, in British Columbia, for instance, we backtracked a Black Bear to the winter den that it had
just left, and in tMs den we found the skeleton of another Black Bear. The one that had wintered there
had raked the bones away and had made its bed alongside of them. CHARACTERISTICS AND HABITS
In tMs chapter I purpose to bring together in some
sort of order the characteristic habits of the Black Bear
as I have personally observed them during many years
of life in the open. Of course it .is never possible to
watch a single wild ammal from the time it is born until
it grows up, lives its natural life out, and dies; nor
even to follow one tMough the activities of an ordinary
year of its life. And even if one could do tMs, one
would have to be very careful not to generalize too
broadly from the actions of a single individual. But
by the time one has seen thousands of Black Bear, let
us say, in many parts of their range, in all stages of
growth, at all seasons of the year, in undisturbed enjoyment of their liberty, and free to follow their own
instincts of work and play, one is able, by putting
two and two together, to piece out a pretty accurate
knowledge of the species.
One gets, also, a good working understanding of what
traits are characteristic of all the normal specimens of
the race, of what habits are dependent upon local conditions and vary as these alter, and of what actions are
attributable to the personal dispositions of individual
68 Characteristics and Habits
animals. For all ammals are like men in tMs, that in
minor matters their habits vary with the conditions
under which they live, and that in still less noticeable
ways the bearing of different individuals under similar
circumstances is determined by their personal characters.
What follows in the present chapter, then, is a
summing up of the general habits and race characteristics of the Black Bear; and all statements that are
not qualified are, in my experience, observable of these
animals wherever found.
Of course we all know that the Black Bear is an
Mbernating ammal. That is to say that in most,
if not in all, parts of its widely distributed range, it
passes a portion of the year asleep and without food or
drink, in a den or some sort of make-shift shelter. We
shall have much to say later on about tMs strange
habit, and about some of the queer notions people
have about it, but we only mention it here because,
since little bears are born during the time their mother
is in winter quarters, it is necessary to establish
winter quarters for them to be born in.
Black Bear cubs, then, are born in the winter den of
the mother some time from the latter half of January
to the middle of March, according to the latitude and
also according to the altitude of the den. The further
north a bear happens to live, and the Mgher up in the
hills it happens to live, the later the spring sets in and 70
The Black Bear
so the later the animal comes out of its retirement.
And the cubs are born from six weeks to two months
before the mother comes out.
The little Black Bears, when first born, are absurdly
small and pitifully helpless. Their eyes, like those of
puppies and kittens, are shut and do not open for some
time. They have no teeth and are almost naked,
and although the mother may weigh as much as four
hundred pounds or more, the whole litter of cubs does
not weigh over a couple of pounds, and single cubs
vary from eight to eighteen ounces in weight, according to the number in the litter. A Black Bear will
have all the way from one to four cubs at a time, and
four is not at all uncommon. I have never seen but
two grizzlies with four cubs, but I have seen a great
many Black Bears with that many. Three, however,
seems to be the common number throughout the Rocky
Mountain region. Of course meeting a Black Bear in
the woods with only one cub, even in the early spring,
does not dcfiMtely prove that she only gave birth to
one; because the others might have died or have been
killed. But the records of Black Bears in captivity
show that single cubs are not unknown.
The young cubs at first are delicate and for a week
or two the mother never leaves them, but curls around
them and keeps them warm and broods them. They
seem, however, to have excellent lungs, for one can
hear them wMmper if one has located a bear's Mding Characteristics and Habits
place and approaches it after the cubs are born, an experience that I have had more than once in the mountains. The Messrs. Lodge, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio,
have supplied their bears with artificial hibernating
dens dug in the side of a Mil where their bear pit is
situated. These are supplied with ventilating shafts,
and the owners, for a number of years, have been able
to determine the exact date of the birth of a litter,
by listening for the querulous voices of the cubs.
These gentlemen, by the way, have endeavored in all
possible regards to approximate natural conditions in
furmsMng accommodations for their captive ammals;
with the result that they have been among the few
successful raisers of Black Bears. I will have occasion to refer more than once to the records which these
gentlemen have kept during their twenty years' experience.
For some time, then, after the cubs are born, the
family continues shut up in the winter den; but, unlike
the grizzly, they frequently, toward the end, leave
their shelter before they are ready to abandon it for
good. I have seen cases where a Black Bear mother
and cubs came out in deep snow, and after wandering
about for several miles went back again for a full two
weeks before coming out for good. In some cases the
mother will come out on these preliminary excursions
before the young are able to walk. But they do not
either habitually or finally abandon the den until they 72
The Black Bear
can get down to the bottoms where the snow is gone
and the vegetation has started sprouting. TMs, by
the way, if you happen to live in the neighborhood,
is an excellent time to keep a sharp watch on your
young pigs.
At this stage the cubs weigh about five or six pounds
and,, although it is some months before they begin to
forage at all for themselves, their development is now
much more rapid. I have frequently watched old
Black Bears with cubs in the early summer, but have
never seen the young ones show any apparent interest
in what the mother was eating, and hence I believe
that in their natural state they are six or seven months
old before they begin the process of being weaned.
But although about the time the berries are ripe the
cubs take to foraging pretty generally on their own
account, they continue to nurse right tMough the
summer and until they either den up with the mother
in the fall or, as I tMnk is more usual, until they are
turned adrift by her before she herself dens up alone.
In fact I have seen them, late in the year, and when
they were of a size that should have made them
ashamed of such dependence, pestering their mother
as she walked, and getting occasional cuffs for their
Ben showed no concern whatever over grown-up
bear dishes until the berry season came around, when
he suddenly developed an appetite for outside board, Characteristics and Habits
and not only seemed to want all the various tMngs the
hills provided, but would howl lustily if he did not get
The Black Bear, while not much of a traveller, wanders over a fairly wide range in search of various foods
in their season; yet, broadly speaking, is pretty apt to
live and die in the general neighborhood of its birth.
They wander both day and mght, although when they
are in a region where grizzlies are also to be found they
are careful to disappear about the time that the latter,
wMch are much more nocturnal in habit, may be expected to come out. When a Black Bear has young
cubs she will stay for a week or two at a time in one
place, and will scratch a nest or bed among the leaves
or in a tMcket and lie up there between feeds with
her youngsters.
There are few tMngs more interesting than to watch
a bear with her cubs when she tMnks herself alone.
They are the gayest and most playful little balls of
fur, and she will let them maul her and worry her and
pretend to fight her. But a Black Bear does not,
as the grizzly does, talk to her cubs all the time. A
grizzly will walk along through the woods with two or
three cubs carrying on what appears to be a connected
conversation. She grunts and whines and makes
noises at them that sound as though they were full of
advice and admomtion. They are doubtless merely
encouragement or assurances of her presence.   But 74
The Black Bea?
the Black Bear is silent except in cases of danger or
emergency. Then she, too,' ■ speaks'' to her youngsters,
and they never seem to be at a loss for her meamng.
At any rate they go up a tree at the word of command,
and come down again at the grunt that means, "All
right now, come on."
As the cubs grow larger and stronger the mother
wanders farther afield with them, and, from sacrificing
all her time and desires to their needs and safety, comes
gradually first to tolerate, and toward the end of the
season rather to resent, their persistent demands upon
her. One imagines that it is with a final indifference
and relief that she sends them off to sMft for themselves. For, like other ammals, a bear, while showing the most devoted and courageous love for her children while they are helpless, has a very short-lived
affection for them once they cease to need her protection. In one instance the Lodges tried the experiment of returmng some half-grown cubs to their
mother after a comparatively short separation, during
wMch she and her mate had been together in the main
pit. The two cubs had only been by themselves for a
few weeks, and before they were finally returned to
the pen with their mother they were kept for some
days separated from her by notMng more than an iron
grating. Yet as soon as they were put into the pit
with her she seized one of them and killed it, and was
starting up her exercise tree after the other wMch had
■I   Characteristics and Habits
taken refuge there when the owners interfered and
rescued the youngster. Here, as I see it, was a case of
artificial separation wMch, once the mother had accepted, placed her, as far as her own feelings went, in
exactly the same frame of mind toward her cubs as
though she had abandoned them in the natural course
of things and their company had afterward been forced
upon her.
Neither the Black Bear nor the grizzly is really a
sociable animal, but free Black Bears occasionally play
together, wMch grizzlies never seem to do. Under
ordinary circumstances, however, Black Bears have a
funny trick of pretending not to see each other when
they meet. If one of them comes into a marshy
meadow or a small open glade in the woods where one
or two others are already feeding, he will make the most
laughable pretence of not seeing them. He will stop
at the edge of the opemng and go through all the motions of examining the country, carefully looking, however, everywhere but in the direction of the other
bears; all of which is vastly amusing to one familiar
with the keenness of Ms senses and the alertness of his
attention, and the practical impossibility of getting
witMn seeing or hearing distance of him without
Ms knowing it. Meanwhile the bears already on the
ground play their part in the little comedy with all the
good will in the world. They have undoubtedly been
aware of the approach of the newcomer long before any 76
The Black Bear
human watcher of the scene could have suspected it.
But they give no outward sign of being aware of the
new arrival. If, however, the intruder had happened
to have been a grizzly they would undoubtedly have
taken to their heels or taken refuge in the nearest
tree with loud puffings and snortings some minutes
before he reached the scene. Yet these same bears,
once they have fed their fill, will frequently go to playing together as one never sees the grizzlies do. Two of
them will stand up and wrestle, roll each other over
and over, chase each other about, and generally have a
fine romp. As a rule, however, tMs sort of play takes
place between bears of different sizes, and the smaller
one sometimes gets well thrown about and mauled.
One of the most entertaining experiences that I ever
had in the woods was connected with just such an after-
dinner romp between two Black Bears. I was photographing grizzlies in the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming,
and had set up my camera and flash-light apparatus
near a likely looking trail. My flash-pan was placed
on top of a ten-foot pole stuck in the ground under a
small pine tree, and a fine wire was run from the switch
that operated the apparatus across the trail and tied
to a convement bush. I had completed my arrangements about half-past four in the afternoon and had
concealed myself in a mass of fallen timber some
seventy-five or eighty feet away prepared to wait for
dusk. Characteristics and Habits
Soon after I got settled I noticed two Black Bears in
a little clearing to my left and, for sometMng to do,
I set to watcMng them. For some time they fed quietly
here and there and then they took to playing. One of
them was quite a bit larger than the other, but the
smaller one was game and though he got considerably
the worst of the rough sport they kept the play up
for quite a while. Suddenly, however, in the very
midst of an excited wrestling match, the little fellow
drew away, stood up on Ms Mnd legs and listened for
a moment, and then went up a convenient tree, Ms
compamon following his example and taking refuge in
another one. I was much interested over tMs turn
of affairs and kept a close watch to see what was going
to happen next. But, after quite a little wait, the
bears seemed to make up their minds that it had been
a false alarm and, coming down from their respective
trees, they resumed their rough and tumble fun. Not
for long, however. It was only a minute or two before
they repeated their former maneuvres, and this time
they appeared to have no doubt as to the imminence
of danger. They had worked their way over to my
side of the clearing, and when they broke for shelter the
little bear took refuge in the small pine tree under
which my flash-pan stood, Ms compamon selecting a
larger tree a little further away. And sure enough,
almost as soon as they were well off the ground an old
grizzly came stalking digmfiedly out of the woods and 78
The Black Bear
down the trail upon wMch my camera was set. But
he had evidently noticed that sometMng questionable
was going on, and he walked over toward the tree
where the larger bear was sitting. The latter, conscious of his advantage of position, greeted the grizzly's
approach with a volley of puffs and snorts, and after
looking around Mm in a disdainful sort of way, the
grizzly sauntered over toward the smaller bear's tree,
where the same performance was gone through. Here,
however, the grizzly found something that aroused
Ms curiosity more keenly than a mere Black Bear, for
he discovered my pole and flash-pan. He stood up
on Ms Mnd legs and easily smffed the top of the pan
and then, discovering the wire, he followed it without
toucMng it away from the pine tree and across the
trail to where it was fastened. Then, Ms curiosity
getting the better of Mm, he raised one front paw
and pulled the bush toward Mm, whereupon the charge
of powder exploded with a huge puff of smoke, and as
I stood up in my retreat to get a better view of the
outcome I caught a glimpse with one eye of a big
grizzly turning a double back somersault, wMle with
the other I saw a small Black Bear take one desperate
leap from the branches of his pine tree and disappear
into the wood in huge leaps.
When the last act of tMs little comedy began I had
risen to my feet in order to get a clear view of what
took place, and when the smaller Black Bear had dis- Characteristics and Habits
appeared into the woods I saw that Ms larger compamon had become aware of my presence. I once
more concealed myself among the branches, but the
Black Bear in the tree kept an eye in my direction and
when, at the end of five minutes or so, the smaller bear
returned cautiously to the scene of his recent discomfiture and began to coax his friend to come down and
resume their play, it was amusing to watch the cross-
purposes at which they found themselves. For the
one up the tree who knew of my presence was afraid to
come down and yet unable to explain the circumstances
to the one on the ground, and he in Ms turn was utterly
unable to make head or tail of the other's actions. He
finally gave up the attempt to persuade him and wandered away into the woods, and at the end of half an
hour or so the other bear, evidently with serious misgivings, came carefully down the opposite side of his
tree and made off at the double quick.
The Black Bear's habits of hibernation are less rigid
and apparently less developed than the grizzly's.
To begin with, they are far less industrious in providing
themselves with a den, and less particular in having
it weatherproof and well concealed. The grizzly habitually seeks out some natural cave or shelter in the
rocks, high up in the mountains, often above snow line.
This he prepares for occupancy by raking into it whatever he can find in the way of leaves or dried grasses,
and sometimes stops up with earth and stones such 8o
The Black Bear
holes or openings as would expose the interior to the
weather. The Black Bear is far less particular. Any
old place that offers Mm some fair promise of protection and privacy seems good enough for him. He dens
up at much lower altitudes, goes into winter quarters
later and comes out much earlier. One of his favorite
devices is to dig a'hole under the butt end of a fallen
tree, rake a few leaves into the opemng, and then crawl
in himself. Sometimes, when the tree is a good-sized
one and the roots hold the butt of it a little clear of the
ground, he is saved the trouble of digging at all and
makes a sort of nest in the space beneath the trunk.
At other times he will dig a hole in the soft ground,
and, of course, occasionally uses caves or other natural
retreats if he happens to find them handy. Ben, it
will be recalled, dug under the floor of my barn when
it came to be Ms bedtime.
The time for denning up varies with the locality
and the weather, and throughout the North-west is
anywhere from November 1 to January 1. Unlike
the grizzly, however, the Black Bear will often come
out for a wMle if a warm spell follows his deiming up.
The Lodges note that their bears, once they are settled
in their winter caves, never seem to pay any further
attention to the weather. But while this is probably
the rule, I have seen Black Bears out in some numbers
late in December after there had been severe freezing
weather during which all bears had denned up. Characteristics and Habits
There is some difference of opinion as to their habits
further south, and some authorities claim that at the
extreme southern limit of their range the bears belonging to the Black Bear group do not hibernate at all.
I incline, however, from what I have seen—or rather
failed to see—to the opposite belief; for in parts of Old
Mexico where, in the spring, I have seen many bears, I
have again in the winter time failed to see either them
or their fresh tracks, and upon making inquiry of the
Indians have been told that they were asleep.
Moreover, Mr. Charles Sheldon, of New York, who
for fifteen years has made a close study of bears in their
natural state and has spent four years in Mexico studying bear and sheep, informs me that all the bears den up
almost as early in those mountains as they do further
north, and that he has never seen bears in Mexico come
out of winter quarters earlier than in the United States.
There has been much scientific discussion as to the
nature of tMs long sleep, and also much popular misconception in regard to its outward manifestations. I
do not aspire to a voice in the former, but can speak
from considerable experience in regard to the latter.
Many, perhaps most, people seem to think that a bear
that has denned up for the winter is in some mysterious,
and more or less complete state of coma; that its
breathing is all but suspended, and that it would be
difficult, even by violence, to rouse it. They are
very far from the troth.   Bears sleep, but are easily 82
The Black Bear
roused, quick to scent danger, and ready to abandon
their retreat and look up a new one if they tMnk it
Ben, at any time during the winter, would rouse if I
called him, and would even come to the mouth of Ms
lair for a moment to greet me. I could, moreover,
hear Mm breathing, and sometimes hear Mm move and
readjust himself to a more comfortable position. He
was a very lazy, stupid, sleepy bear; but never too
stupid or sleepy to answer my call.
One fall in WasMngton, near Colville in the Caiispell
Mountains, wMle after deer, I noticed a strange mass
of dead leaves, small sticks, pine needles, and other
forest refuse gathered under the tangled trunks of a
.windfall, where a number of trees had been blown down
crisscross. My curiosity was piqued by the queer-
looking affair and I climbed along one of the tree trunks
to see what it was. Suddenly, as I got almost over it,
the whole mass began to shake and quiver and out
came an old Black Bear and two cubs. TMs was the
only time that I ever actually knew of a Black Bear
and her cubs having denned up together. And I have
never seen more than a dozen cases where it seemed
probable that they had. Later on on tMs same trip
I saw seven other Black Bear sleeping places, all in
similar situations under tree trunks or tangled down-
Only a year ago, up at Priest Lake, in Idaho, some Characteristics and Habits
friends and myself came across the tracks of a cougar,
and, having gone back for dogs, we returned and put
them on its trail. We were in full chase along the side
of a mountain when one of the dogs attracted my attention by the way he acted. He turned aside, rushed
to a dead tree that lay along the ground, and began
excitedly sniffing at one end of it. I knew that the
cougar could not be there and went over to see what
was attracting the dog's attention, and saw instantly
that a Black Bear had been denned up under the log,
but, disturbed by the dog's approach, had broken out
and made off down the mountain in a foot and a half
of snow.
These are merely examples of many such experiences,
and I have more than once followed the trail of a bear
and seen where it had made itself a new retreat.
We know, since they lay up no store of provisions,
that the bear does not eat during its long retirement,
and although, in the north, it would be possible for it
to provide itself with water by eating the snow that
shuts it in, we know that bears hibernating in captivity
(a thing by the way that they do not often do) neither
eat nor drink.
One odd fact about the whole proceeding is that all
bears of the same class in the same locality go into winter quarters and emerge from them within a few days
of each other. In the Selkirk Mountains in British
Columbia, I have seen where six grizzlies had broken 84
The Black Bear
their way through several feet of snow out of six different caves on the side of a single mountain all in one
mght. In localities where both species are found, the
Black Bear come out from one to two months earlier
than the grizzlies, and in both species the males emerge
two weeks or more before the females with new cubs.
But all of each kind come out witMn a day or two of
each other.
I incline to the belief that in the majority of cases
the Black Bear, when in freedom, breeds every year.
Most authorities on bears who base their opimons upon
observations made on captive ammals, claim that both
the grizzly and the Black Bear breed annually. But a
long series of observations and the closest possible
attention given to tMs point has absolutely convinced
me that it is the very rare exception when a free female
grizzly breeds oftener than once in two years. I have
seen many hundreds of grizzly mothers with cubs in
the open, and fully as many of them were followed by
yearling cubs as by spring cubs. But although (the
Black Bear being much more numerous than the
grizzly) I have seen many more Black Bears with cubs
than grizzlies with cubs, I have never seen more than
a dozen Black Bear mothers followed by yearling cubs.
I have therefore been forced to conclude that it is
the habit of the Black Bear to wean its cubs and
abandon them before deiming up the first fall. In the
case of the grizzly the mother and the cubs den up Characteristics and Habits
together the fall following the latter's birth, and run
together during the following summer, and it is not
until late in the second season that the.mother turns
the cubs adrift to sMft for themselves. TMs family
of young grizzlies then usually den up together and
continue to run together the tMrd summer, at the close
of wMch the litter disbands and the individuals belonging to it take up their separate lives. I have also seen
a few litters of yearling Black Bears still runmng in
company without their mother; but as tMs is by no
means a common sight, I believe that ordinarily Black
Bear cubs den up separately after they leave their
mother at the close of their first summer.
Inasmuch, however, as I have seen a few Black Bear
mothers followed by yearling cubs, I assume that in
these cases the mother and cubs had denned up together in the same manner that the grizzlies habitually
do. And I once actually found an old Black Bear and
two cubs so settled for the winter. I have also tracked
an old grizzly and her cubs to where they had gone
into winter quarters together, and have seen where a
grizzly mother and her year-old family had emerged
from Mbernation in company the second spring. I
have also often seen where a litter of two-year-old
grizzly cubs had wintered together in one cave after
leaving their mother in their third fall, but I have
never seen any actual evidence of young Black Bears
wintering together in this manner. 86
The Black Bear
I believe that the explanation of tMs very striking
difference of habit between the Black and the grizzly
bears in the matter of breeding annually or bieimially,
is to be found in their different degrees of fierceness, and
in the resulting fact that the Black Bear cubs are not so
long in danger from the evil tempers and bloodthirsty
dispositions of the grown males of their kind.
A new-born cub of either species would be instantly
killed, and probably eaten, by any old male that got
the opportumty; and, unnatural as tMs seems to us, it
is true of many or most carnivorous, or partly carnivorous, ammals. It is true of rats, as most boys who
have bred wMte rats have had occasion to discover.
The memory of the habit, at least, survives in the
fierceness with wMch even a pet dog with puppies will
keep the father of them away from her basket. In all
zoological gardens it is necessary to separate the male
bears from the female at and after the birth of cubs,
and the habits of mother bears in the woods show that
their instincts warn them very effectually of the wisdom of this course.
But while the Black Bear mother shows no great
concern for the safety of her cubs after they have
reached the age of five or six months, the grizzly
mother continues, with good reason, to evade or resent
the approach of other members of her tribe till well
into the second year. I have on two different occasions known of a male grizzly's killing and eating a cub
■l Characteristics and Habits
that had been left fastened by a chain near a camp; and
in one instance I came upon a grizzly that had just
killed a female and had eaten her two cubs. She had
been caught in a steel trap set by a trapper, and her
two cubs were with her. The male, finding her in tMs
predicament, had doubtless attacked the cubs, and
when, hampered as she was by the trap and clog, she
had attempted to defend them, he had killed her too.
A female grizzly with young is one of the most dangerous ammals in the world. She will allow no other
bear of either sex to approach either her or them. And
this invariable attitude of her fully accounts, to my mind,
for her failure to breed wMle the young are still with
her. But the Black Bear mother is not only a comparatively inoffensive ammal at all times, but she seems
to have no such lasting distrust of other members of
her own species. I have often seen an old Black Bear
asleep in the branches of a tree with her five or six-
months-old cubs frisking around on the ground, when
she must have been well aware that there were Black
Bears of the opposite sex in the neighborhood. TMs
is not to be put down to indifference on her part. It
simply means that the necessity for watchfulness has
passed. It therefore becomes easily understandable
that the Black Bear mother can afford, without risk
to her half-grown cubs, to breed every year in the
open; while the grizzly does not, until her young are
fully able to take care of themselves unaided, dare to 88
The Black Bear
associate with their possible enemies—the cantankerous males of the tribe.
The records of the Lodges contain one or two interesting notes relating to these matters. The first time
that their original pair of Black Bears bred they did
not separate the mother and father, and the first intimation that they had of the birth of cubs was the
appearance of the father at the mouth of the den with
a dead cub in its mouth. After that they took care
to give the female separate quarters. Again, the only
two occasions during the last sixteen or eighteen years
on wMch this female has failed to breed have been in
years when her cubs were allowed to remain with her
tMoughout the summer, and when, as the owners
state, she was so taken up with them that she refused
to have anytMng to do with her mate.
TMs is exactly the attitude that my observations
have led me to assume as habitual on the part of the
free grizzly. And I imagine that the Black Bear
mother adopted it in tMs case because, in the narrow
quarters of a twenty-foot bear-pit,'she was afraid to
relax her vigilance, as she doubtless would have felt
justified in doing in her natural surroundings.
Another point of difference between the two species
that agrees with the earlier abandonment of its young
by the Black Bear is the fact that these appear to
breed at least a year earlier than the young of the
grizzly.   The latter, as we have seen, only separate   Characteristics and Habits
and den up individually at the end of their tMrd summer and breed the following year at the earliest; but
I have seen Black Bear mothers that could not have
weighed over a hundred pounds, and that made the
most amusing and appealing picture of youtWul
There is a widespread notion that bears are given
to travelling in company; that they are sociable am-
mals, and that bear families—father, mother, and
children—are not only to be met with in the woods,
but den up together for the winter. TMs is not true.
Only mothers and cubs or occasionally half-grown cubs
of one litter ever travel together. I have never seen
the slightest evidence that grown bears, male and
female, ever travel in couples, even in the mating
season; and I have never known a case where full-
grown animals of any bear species denned up together.
These statements apply no less to the Black Bear than
to the grizzly.
Another point on wMch there is much popular misconception and disbelief is the extreme smallness of
bear cubs at birth. TMs, at first glance, is not only
astomshing, but to many people seems almost incredible. "How is it possible," they ask, "and why is it
advantageous for an ammal as large as a bear to have
young so small? Why, the puppies of a forty-pound
dog are as large as the cubs of the four-hundred pound
bear!"   Yet the fact remains, and in the case of the 90
The Black Bear
grizzly, where the mother sometimes weighs twice as
much as the Black Bear mother, the cubs are, if any-
tMng, a trifle smaller at birth on the average. I have
never heard the matter explained, but it seems to me
that when we consider the yearly habits of the bear
they tend to suggest how this peculiar race-habit was
developed. A dog mother with three or four puppies,
weigMng six or eight ounces apiece at birth, will eat
three huge meals a day and grow thin as a rail nursing
her hungry youngsters. What, then, would become of
a bear mother who had to nurse three or four cubs for
six weeks or two months, With never a meal at all, if
the cubs were born weighing five or six pounds? It
looks very much as though Nature, with her usual
skill at making both ends meet, had so arranged matters in the bear family that, as these animals developed the hibernating habit, the size of the cubs was
reduced in proportion to the reduced ability of the
mother to nourish them. And that three or four eight-
ounce cubs do not make any undue demands on the
resources of a three-hundred or four-hundred-pound
mother is proved by the fact that both she and they
are normally in excellent condition when they first
come out in the spring. FOOD AND FEEDING
The Black Bear is described as omnivorous. Literally, that means that he eats everything; and this
comes pretty near to being literally ti*ue, for he has
democratic tastes, a magmficent appetite, and nothing
much to do between meals. TecMiically, however, the
term means that the Black Bear is both carnivorous
and herbivorous; that he eats flesh like a wolf, grass
like an ox, fish like an otter, carrion like a coyote,
bugs like a hen, and berries like a bird. In short he
eats pretty much everything he can get, and pretty
generally all he can get of it.
One would naturally imagine that so thorough-going
a feeder would emerge from his long and complete
winter fast ravenously hungry and ready to fall tooth
and claw upon a hearty breakfast. But this is not so.
Indeed, when we stop to think of it, we can see that
even a bear's cast-iron constitution and digestive apparatus would hardly stand such treatment. I have examined the stomach and intestines of a bear killed just
as it came out in the spring, and not only found them
utterly empty, but flattened with disuse. These organs
have, therefore, to be treated with consideration and
91 92
The Black Bear
coaxed back gradually to the performance of their accustomed functions. Shipwrecked sailors, rescued at
the point of starvation, have to be forced by their
friends to go slowly until their stomachs again get the
habit of digestion; and while bears have no friends to
do them a like service, they have practised long fasting
for so many generations that they have developed instincts that serve the purpose.
When they first come out of the winter's den they
wander around for a day or so showing little or no inclination for food. Then they make their way down to
where the snow is gone and the early vegetation has begun to sprout, and eat sparingly of the tender grass
shoots. But their appetites are not long in returning.
By the end of a week the old saying, "hungry as a
bear," is more than justified and they start in in earnest to make up for lost time. At tMs season they are
especially fond of the parsnip-like roots of the skunk
cabbage, and I have seen marshy bottom lands so dug
over by bears in search of this dainty that they had
almost the appearance of having been ploughed.
Here again the experience of the Lodges with their
captive bears exactly confirms my own observations
in the open. Mr. William R. Lodge writes me that,
"When they first come out they are not hungry, and
the first day or two only partake of a bite or two of
parsnip or similar food that we always provide and
that seems to be their most satisfactory diet after they
m Food and Feeding 93
acquire the habit of eating again." Later on these
Cuyahoga Falls ammals are given young dandelion
leaves, clover, scraps from the hotel tables, berries,
watermelons, sweet corn, and acorns. I have no doubt
that this diet, so carefully approximated to the natural
food of the ammal in its free state, has had much to do
with the success of the owners in inducing them to
Wild wMte clover is another favorite dish of the
Black Bear, and they eat the buds of the young maple
shrubs and other tender green stuff. They do not,
however, do nearly so much digging as the grizzly. I
have seen acres of stony ground literally spaded up by
the latter in search of the bulbs of the dog-tooth violet
and the spring beauty. But it is only here and there,
where a thin layer of earth covers a smooth hillside or
ledge of rock and supports a meagre crop of small roots,
that the Black Bear will scoop these up and eat them;
and apart from the easy work of turning over the soft
swamp earth for skunk-cabbage roots they are little
given to such systematic labor.
Here indeed one sees one of the most striking differences of habit and disposition between the Black Bear
and the grizzly. The grizzlies work for their food
like industrious men. The Black Bear will work hard
at any kind of mischief, but seems to hate to work
steadily for business purposes. The grizzly will dig
for hours and heap out cartloads of earth and rock to 94
The Black Bear
get at a nest of marmots or ground-squirrels. The
Black Bear may show an interest in a marmot burrow
and do a little half-hearted scratching near the entrance,
but never digs deep or long for them. As far as I have
ever seen, they kill nothing larger, in the way of
small game, than field-mice and such small fry. But
they are both quick and clever at catcMng these. They
will turn over stumps and roll logs aside and up-end
flat stones and catch an escaping mouse before it goes
a yard.
Frogs and toads are also favorite tidbits of theirs and
they spend much time looking for them. They will
walk along the edge of small streams and pin down a
jumping frog with their lightmng-quick paws; and I
have seen one, when a frog escaped it and jumped into
the creek, jump after it and land like a stone from a
catapult, splashing water for twenty feet.
Practically nothing in the insect line comes amiss to
them. They are everlastingly poking and pulling at
rotten logs, old stumps, loose stones, and decaying
trees, looking for caterpillars, squash-bugs, grubs, centipedes, and larvae. Their sense of smell is wonderfully
acute and one can hear them smffing and snuffing over
the punky mass of an old tree trunk they have ripped
open, searcMng with their noses for crawling goodies.
Like all bears they are extravagantly fond of ants,
and they are not only experts in finding them, but
know how to take advantage of the habits of the various
■I Food and Feeding 95
kinds in order to catch them. Their greatest feasts in
tMs line are obtained when they discover the huge low
hills of what, in the West, are called Vinegar Ants.
These are only moderate in size, but are extremely
vicious. They get their name from a strong odor,
resembling that of vinegar, that they exhale when
aroused. They build large hills, sometimes several
feet in diameter, made up for the most part of pine
needles, bits of wood, pellets of earth, and such like
stuff. They are red and black in color, have powerful jaws, and rush by the thousand to give battle to any
intruder that disturbs their home. It is this latter
trait that makes them an easy prey to the Black Bear.
When he discovers an ant-hill belonging to this species
he walks up to it, runs one of his fore-legs deep down
into the inside of it, gives a turn to his paw that effectually stirs things up below, and then stretches himself
out at ease to await results, with his front legs extended
to the base of the hill.
Out rush the ants by compames and regiments and
brigades; mad as hornets, brave as lions, smelling like
a spoiled vinegar mill, and looking for trouble. They
get it, almost immediately. They discover the bear's
furry paws and, struggling and tumbling in the hair
like angry and hurrying warriors in a jungle, they begin
to swarm over them. And as fast as they come the
bear licks them up. When the excitement dies down,
he gives the inside of the hill another poke.   TMs re- 96
The Black Bear
suits in another sortie of defenders, and when these
have stormed the hairy heights and been eaten for their
pains, he repeats the operation. I believe a bear
would eat a solid bushel of these insects at a sitting.
On the other hand, a bear will by no means despise a
single ant, and one of the best ways of making friends
with a young cub is to catch a stray ant and offer it to
Mm. He will lean forward, smff at your fingers, and
then grab the dainty as eagerly as though it weighed a
There is another variety of ants, larger than the so-
called Vinegar Ants, which are black and live, for the
most part, under flat rocks. These the bear will lap
up with his tongue after uncovering their retreat. And
there is still another variety of huge black ants that
nest about the roots of trees and spend their time exploring the bark and branches. I have seen them
sixty feet above ground busily pursuing their affairs.
Of these, too, the Black Bear is fond, and one sees Mm
snuffing and smelling around the cracks in old trees in
hopes of locating a colony of them. I have seen where
bears have scratched and gnawed at the edges of a
narrow opemng in the lower trunk of a decaying tree,
in a vain-endeavor to get into the open heart of it;
and again, where they had ripped off a rotting slab and
gained a feast. For in cold weather these ants gather
in sluggish masses and later even freeze solid—I have
seen what would make a quart of them so frozen—and Food and Feeding 97
seem to take no harm from the cold storage. By the
way, the bear is not alone in liking this peculiar diet.
I have seen French Canadian lumber jacks pick up
handfuls of these frozen black ants and eat them.
One of them once informed me that they tasted "just
the same like raspberries."
The Black Bear is also fond of bumble-bees, yellow-
jackets, wasps, and hornets. He is the bear that is,
when occasion offers, the honey-eater; but in the
Rockies and Western coast ranges there are few wild
honey-bees, and so his taste in that direction is seldom
indulged, but he makes up for this by hunting out and
eating such bees as he can find. He will dig up bumblebees and eat them and will lap yellow-jackets off his
fur exactly as he does ants. Of course the bear is
fully protected by Ms thick coat from any attack by
the bees, and if the latter sting his mouth or tongue
as he swallows them, he manages to disguise the fact
very thorougMy. I have never seen one shake his
head or otherwise advertise a mishap of this kind.
But all these bugs and bees and ants and mice are,
after all, but the luxuries and dessert of the Black
Bear's diet. He is, for the most part, a vegetarian,
does far more grazing than is ordinarily supposed, and
has his real season of plenty and stuffing when the
berry season arrives. He will travel miles to get to a
berry patch, and even when tamed and half domesticated will often try to escape to the open for this annual 98
The Black Bear
feast. A chain that has proved amply strong enough
to hold a Black Bear captive during the spring and
early summer is very likely to turn up broken when
the blueberries ripen. Their favorites everywhere are
blueberries and huckleberries, and the black and red
haws, called thorn-apples in New England. The sar-
vis berry is another of their staples. They will I'each
up one paw, draw down a laden berry bush, and grasping it between their forefeet will rake the fruit into
their open mouths. But the Black Bear is less particular in regard to berries than the grizzly. He will eat
pretty much anytMng in that line, even feeding on the
Oregon grape in the Rockies, a food disdained by the
In the East they also feed greedily on acorns and
beechnuts, and in the West they eat the seeds that drop
out of the pine cones. In the Mgher ranges of the Tetons
and Bitter Roots, and indeed tMoughout the Rockies
down into Mexico, there is a tree locally called the
Jack Pine that bears a curious cone two or tMee inches
across the butt and only two or tMee inches in depth
—as broad as it is long, in fact. These cones contain
very large and meaty seeds and the Black Bear is very
fond of them. The Indians also cook and eat the
young cones of the Jack Pine.
In addition to tMs the Black Bear has a great habit
of peeling the bark off of balsam and of Jack Pine
saplings, and of lapping the juices and gum from the Food and Feeding 99
wounds. They also scrape the gummy pulp from
the inside of the bark and eat it. The grizzly
never does these things. TMs pulp, however, is used
by some of the Indians, who make a kind of bread
out of it.
The Black Bear is fond of fish, but here again shows
himself less clever and less industrious than the grizzly,
who is an expert fisherman. On the Pacific slope of
the Rocky Mountains almost every stream has, or
used to have, its runs of salmon, these fish making
their way to the upper reaches of the smaller rivers for
the purpose of spawmng. There are several varieties
of these fish, and they enter the river and start on
their long, up-hill journeys at different seasons. But
one and all they are moved by a single desire—to get
as far up stream as it is possible to go; and are driven
forward by so strong an instinct that neither wounds,
nor weariness, nor exhaustion, nor the fear of death
itself, deters them from attempting (and sometimes
accomplishing) what seems like the impossible.
They come from undiscovered regions of the sea in
uncountable billions. In untold millions they enter
the mouths of the great rivers. They turn off into each
tributary stream by hundreds of thousands. They
fill the tributaries of these tributaries. And finally one
finds them, still in their hundreds, filling the pools
of the smaller rivers, leaping, floundering, all but
crawling  through   the   riffles  and  shallows  of  the 100
The Black Bear
smaller creeks, thousands of feet above the sea, and
still undaunted.
And few of the invading millions ever find their way
back to the ocean from wMch they came. From the
moment that they enter the mouths of the larger
rivers, every living creature, from man downward, begins to take toll of them. Those that pass the nets
and salmon wheels of the canning factories, that elude
the talons of the eagles and ospreys, that are missed
by the paws of the bears and the cougars, the teeth of
the otters and the mink, arrive at the head-waters of
their selected stream in a pitiable condition of wounds
and exhaustion. Their fins are notMng but bare
spines. Their sides are torn by rocks, they are tMn
from fasting, and when they have deposited and fertilized the eggs that they have come so far to find fit
hatcheries for, they are, for the most part, utterly unable to manage the long return journey. Then they
fall an easy prey to any ammal that finds them. And
many ammals gather to the feast. Here is the free-
lunch counter of the wilderness; during the salmon
runs everytMng in the mountains lives on fish: bears,
cougars, coyotes, wolverines, lynx; in Alaska the veiy
geese gorge themselves on salmon; and the Black Bear
gets his share of the loot.
The grizzly, as I have said, is an expert fishennan.
I have seen one toss out seventeen big salmon in less
than an hour, and after eating Ms fill bury the rest of Food and Feeding
Ms catch for future use. But the Black Bears only
fish on their own account occasionally and in very
shallow water. They will wander along the trails on
the banks of the small streams, and if salmon are struggling over the riffles, will jump in and catch one or two.
But they are too much lacking in patience to wait for
the fish as the grizzly does, and too improvident to do
more than supply the need of the moment when the
opportumty comes unwaited for. And they are quite
satisfied, for the most part, to take the leavings of
others or to feed on stranded or dead fish. They often
get crumbs from the table of the golden eagle, the bald
eagle, and the osprey; and sometimes, when one of
these birds catches a fish too heavy to fly away with,
a Black Bear will drive the fisherman away and eat
Ms catch for him.
But we began by saying that the Black Bear was in
part carnivorous, and so far, we have not justified the
claim by anytMng more fleshy than a field-mouse.
The truth is that the Black Bear much prefers to have
his meat "well hung," as some sportsmen express it.
That is to say, he really prefers carrion. Any kind of
a carcass makes a strong appeal to Mm, and I do not
believe that meat can be too putrid to suit Ms taste.
Ben, when he was out walking with me during the
time we lived in Missoula, would turn aside to smff
over any dead cat or hen that he came across—even
if nothing remained of it but dried skin and bones. 102
The Black Bear
And he would actually lie down and roll on the find,
and, if allowed, would then pick it up in Ms mouth
and carry it home for a nest egg.
But in spite of Ms preference for carrion, the Black
Bear soon learns to take advantage of easily procurable
live meat. They are remarkably adaptable ammals,
take kindly to civilization, and accommodate themselves readily to the conditions and opportumties that
follow in its wake. They very soon realize it if they are
free from interference, and will, with the slightest encouragement, begin to impose upon you. They will
live under your barn with the best will in the world.
And they'll learn to steal sheep. In some localities they
get to be a serious nuisance in this way. But their
favorite civilized dish is young pig. In some regions
the ranchmen in the spring turn their hogs out into
swamps to feed on the roots of the skunk cabbage; but
if Black Bears happen to be plentiful in the neighborhood they are very likely to get not only the skunk
cabbage but the pigs as well. There appears to be
sometMng about a shoat that appeals directly to the
Black Bear instinct. They learn to be sheep tMeves;
but they appear to be born pig tMeves. The summer
that I caught Ben, as we were returning to Spokane
across the Palouse farming country, we stopped at a
ranch over mght and left Ben tied under a small shed
while we unpacked and stabled our horses. It happened that there was an old sow with a litter of young Food and Feeding 103
pigs in a pen at the rear end of the shed, and that there
was a hole in the pen for the young ones to come and
go by. And when we came back to get Ben we found
Mm lying by tMs hole with one paw stuck through it,
waiting for a pig. And just as we arrived he actually
slapped one on the nose and almost caught it. .And
he was only a little larger than the pig himself.
Of course the diet of the Black Bear, like that of the
grizzly, and of most other wild ammals, depends largely
upon the locality in wMch they live. There are regions
where, of necessity, the bear are largely if not altogether vegetarians; and others where, at certain seasons, they live almost wholly upon fish or largely upon
carrion. It is never safe to generalize from localized
observations as to the food habits of any ammal, and
it is only very carefully and as the result of a broad
experience that one should venture to ascribe to any
species the traits that one has observed in individuals.
There is one feeding habit of the Black Bear, however,
that I believe to be universally typical. They never
make caches of food. The grizzlies will, as I have already said, bury the fish they cannot eat for future use.
They will also drag away and bury or Mde the carcass
of any ammal they have found and will return to feed
on it until it is all consumed; or they will carefully
cover it where it lies with earth and leaves and branches
to prevent other ammals from finding it in their absence.   The Black Bear does not look so far ahead.   He 104
The Black Bear
will carry away a few pounds of meat or bones in Ms
mouth, but beyond that appears to take no thought
for the morrow. When he has sated his appetite on a
carcass he will leave it where and as he found it. He
lives from hand to mouth and is the Happy Hooligan of
In tMs chapter I would like to give some notion of
the Black Bear at home. I do not mean "at home"
in the society sense of being dressed up "from four to
seven" to receive callers; but in the good old backwoods sense of being in your sMrt-sleeves with your
feet on the table. There is a good deal more difference
between the two attitudes than appeal's in a book on
If you meet a man at an afternoon reception you see
one side of Mm—the outside. If you are a member
of the local vigilance committee and call on Mm officially
in the course of business, you get a specialized insight
into another phase of Ms character. But as an old
hermit with a rat-tailed file for a tongue once said to
me in the hills, "You never really know a man till
you've watched Mm tMough the transom when he
tMnks Mmself alone."
It is pretty much the same with bears. We are all
familiar with them as seen at their public receptions
in the bear pits. We know their company manners.
Personally, I can never quite rid myself of the absurd
notion that when the guards put the crowds out at
105 io6
The Black Bear
five o'clock and close the Zoo gates for the night, the
bears must yawn, stretch their cramped muscles, shake
themselves with that lumbering, disjointed violence of
theirs, and exclaim in bear language, "Thank heaven,
that's over until to-morrow!"
For the rest most of our information about them
comes from self-appointed vigilantes who, rifle in
hand, knock unexpectedly at the doors of their summer
residences and do not even offer them the customaiy
five minutes in wMch to say their prayers. In their
reports, as in accounts of other executions, the cMef
emphasis is laid upon the attitude of the victim in the
face of death. "The condemned mounted the steps
of the scaffold with a firm tread." Or, if the ammal
happened to be gnawing a bone when discovered, "At
the conclusion of a hearty breakfast consisting of ham
and eggs and coffee, the sheriff came in and read the
death-warrant." Or, best of all, if the unhappy brute
ventured to show its teeth as the firing squad sighted
down the rifle barrel, we are informed that, "the
savage and bloodtMrsty monster died game."
TMs may be good journalism, but it is mighty poor
natural history. It gives us some insight into the
nature of the man beMnd the gun, but very little idea
of the real nature of the bear in front of it. We never
find out what the bear would have done if the trigger
had not been pulled. A man once stopped before a
plant in my garden and asked me what under the sMn-   The Happy Hooligan
ing sun it was. He had never, he said, seen anytMng
like it. As a matter of fact it happened to be a cabbage that had gone to seed; but the man, who had
always killed his cabbages as soon as their Mdes were
prime, did not even know they bore seed. And he
rather fancied himself as an amateur gardener, too.
It is much the same in the woods. If you kill your
bear just as soon as it begins to act natural, you may
get to be an authority on Mdes, but there will be a lot
of tMngs that you don't know.
We are not here discussing the etMcs of killing.
That is a question quite apart. Goodness knows that
there is little enough glory—since there is little or no
risk—in killing a Black Bear. To chase a timorous
and inoffensive ammal up a tree and then to stand
underneath and shoot it is no very great acMevement.
The sport is altogether in the mind of the sportsman.
It is a good deal like dressing up in a brown cotton
imitation of a fringed buckskin hunting sMrt and
stal.king the spring calf in the east pasture with an air-
gun. It's exciting—until you find out what it really
amounts to. But you have to manufacture your own
excitement. The point I wish to make is simply tMs:
that if you want to find out how an ammal lives, you
must watch it live and not watch it die. When you
start out to study the habits of a wild ammal the place
for your gun, if you have one, is in the rack at home.
For one tMng, if you undertake to watch a man io8
The Black Bear
through a transom with a gun in your hand and murder in your mind, the chances are a hundred to one
that he'll feel sometMng queer "in the air." The
thing has not been explained yet, but we can feel a
scowl behind our backs much more readily than a
smile. And in the woods the ammals soon distinguish
between a desire to kill and a desire to look on. I
have tried both and I know.
All ammals are quick to understand when we are
afraid of them; and many of them seem to enjoy
taking advantage of the fact. We can see this in
cows and in dogs and even in turkey gobblers. And
we would see it often in the woods, too, if we were not
so much given to either running or shooting before we
had time to see it. The Black Bear makes the most of
Ms ability to inspire terror. He trades on it. He
makes capital out of it. And he has come to be one of
the most accomplished bluffers on earth.
In the summer of 1908 I spent some weeks in the
mountains of the Yellowstone National Park getting a
series of flash-light pictures of grizzly bears, and early
in my stay I was joined by Mr. J. B. Kerfoot, of New
York, who, although he had had no experience with
bears, had done a good deal of amateur photography
and was anxious to help me with the work in hand.
The day after we reached camp we went out to look
over the ground where we proposed to work that mght,
and on our way back we ran across an old Black Bear The Happy Hooligan 109
with two cubs and determined to take her picture. As
soon as she saw us she ordered her cubs up a tree but,
by a quick movement, I managed to get to them in
time to intercept the second cub before it had a chance
to obey. It then rejoined its mother and I placed
myself between them and the treed cub and thus had
tMngs just as I wanted them, knowing that the old
bear would not go far away and leave her youngster
(who was bawling lustily from the branches) to its
possible fate.
But when I called Kerfoot, who had the camera,
to come forward and get some pictures, he was rather
shy about it. He explained that he had come out to
photograph bears, and that if this one had been by
herself, he would not have minded her; but that he
had always understood that an old bear with cubs was
about the most dangerous thing on four legs, and that
to interpose Mmself between her and her bawling offspring looked to him a good deal like suicide. I finally
persuaded Mm that there was no danger, however, and
he moved up to within fifty feet or so of the old bear.
But he had no more than taken a step or two when she
turned toward him with a cougMng snarl that made
Mm think his last hour had come. I could not help
laugMng at the old bluffer, for she had never so much
as shown me a tooth, but had rather assumed toward
me what you might call a "put upon" expression—
wMmng and walking nervously back and forth and no
The Black Bear
showing quite plainly that she thought herself badly
used by a superior force. But Kerf oot was hard to convince in regard to her bluffing qualities, and wMle we
were all manoeuvring for a suitable position the cub
came down from the tree, joined its mother and the
other cub, and all three made off into the woods.
We followed helter-skelter, and as the cubs could not
run very fast we finally succeeded in treeing one of them
again and resumed operations. TMs time I picked up
a club and by brandisMng it valiantly every time the
bear snarled at Kerfoot, managed to reassure him
sufficiently to coax Mm up witliin about tMrty feet of
her. He had a Graflex natural-Mstory camera that
took a 4 X 5 plate, but had sufficient bellows to accommodate a twenty-inch lens, thus giving a very large
image at a comparatively considerable cfistance from
the object. In these cameras an inclined mirror, that
flies out of the way at the moment of exposure, enables
one to see the full-sized picture on the ground glass,
and to focus on a moving subject up to the second of
pressing the button. And when Kerfoot had looked
at the picture at a distance of tMrty feet he said that
he thought he could get a fine head by going a bit
closer yet, and moved ten feet nearer. He had just
gotten tMngs to Ms liking and was standing with the
long camera held at the level of Ms eye and Ms head
bent over the focussing hood when the bear gave a
vicious snort, and executed the peculiar combination The Happy Hooligan in
of broken coughs and gnasMng teeth that is the trump
card in the Black Bear's game of bluff; and the photographer literally went straight up into the air. Of
course the whole effect was reproduced on the ground
glass within two inches of his eyes and he said afterward that he had thought his nose was scratched. But
the sight was too much for me. I threw away my
club, and throwing myself on the ground roared with
laughter, and as soon as he understood what had happened, Kerfoot put the camera down and joined me.
And when we had laughed ourselves almost into
tears we found the old bear sitting on her haunches
and looking at us as serious as an owl. That ended
her bluffing and we got several pictures of her, one of
wMch, taken just before we left her, is reproduced
here. By that time the poor old soul had so worried
herself over the other cub that she was literally drenched
in sweat, and she finally sat down and began to swing
her head dejectedly from side to side, uttering a sort of
moan at each swing, for all the world like a mourner
at a wake, wMle the cub that was with her sat back
and looked on. It was at this moment that the picture
was taken, and when we had secured it we were so
sorry for her that we packed up and left her alone.
This experience gave Mr. Kerfoot a pretty good
insight into the real meaning of Black Bear ferocity,
and later on we had many amusing experiences with
the beasts.   To show, however, that some people have The Black Bear
eyes but do not use them, I will give another little adventure that we had toward the end of our stay in the
mountain. We had with us as camp keeper a man who
has lived most of Ms Hfe in the Rockies, has hunted
bears all over that part of the country, and ought to
have been pretty well acquainted with the real nature
of them. I do not believe that with a gun in Ms hand
he would be afraid of anytMng that walks, but he had
evidently never investigated very closely into what
would happen to Mm when he had left Ms gun at home.
We had stopped over mght at a public camp at a place
called Tower Falls, and after supper in the evemng
Kerfoot and I, having seen a Black Bear at the edge
of a clearing, walked over to look at her. She was a
large ammal and lay on the ground near the foot of a
big pine tree, and a single cub sat on one of the low-
hanging branches above her head. We were talking
about our plans for the morrow and walked toward
the bear without thinking much about her one way or
the other. When we got within fifty feet or so of her
she backed up against the tree, and as we continued
to advance without noticing her especially, she first
stood up with her feet against the trunk and then
climbed up ten or fifteen feet from the ground, driving
her cub ahead of her. We walked up to the foot of the
tree and looked at her for a few minutes, and though
she stuck her upper lip out at us in the peculiar fasMon
of her kind, she made no other demonstration, and The Happy Hooligan 113
after we had stood there and talked for a little while,
we turned back toward camp.
About half-way back we met our man Frank coming
down to see the bear, and just behind him came a party
of eight or ten people who had stopped for the night
at the camp. We paid no attention to this crowd
until, hearing a noise behind us, we turned around and
found the whole lot runmng back up the hill very much
frightened, and as Frank was bringing up the rear we
asked Mm, rather jokingly, what was the matter.
"Gee," he answered, "I tell you, that's a fierce old
bear." And we have not fimshed teasing him about
it yet. That old bear certainly knew whom to bluff,
and I have no doubt that the majority of the schoolteachers in the crowd thought themselves lucky to have
escaped with their heads.
I do not mean to say that a Black Bear will not
fight if it is forced to. But, personally, I have never
seen one's patience tried to the breaking point. If you
chase one too closely it will take to a tree. If you
follow it up the trunk, it will retreat toward the top.
I imagine that if you kept on following it until it could
go no farther you would end up by getting a pretty bad
mauling, for it has sharp claws and tremendous muscles
to back them up with; but it is perfectly safe to say
that if you were at the top of the tree and it was halfway down, you would have a hard time getting at
close enough quarters with it to get hurt. The Black Bear
These conclusions, like all the others scattered
tMough the pages of this book, are founded upon
many observations made during many years, not
upon any single experience or upon the actions of any
one ammal; and I want to lay especial emphasis upon
the fact that when I give, as an illustration, the account
of any particular happemng, it is only cited as an example of the tMngs that, taken together, have gone to
the forming of my belief. For instance, in the summer
of 1906 I was camped Mgh up on the continental
divide in the mountains of Wyoming with two boys,
Tommy and Bill Richards. One day when we were
out in the Mils we saw a Black Bear go into a tMck
tangle of underbrush surrounding a big pine tree and
lying at the foot of a perpendicular cliff; and we determined for the fun of the thing to drive it out so as
to get a good look at it. I accordingly made my way
to the extreme right of the tMcket, Bill stationed
Mmself in front, and Tommy stayed where we were
when we first saw the bear. Then at a given signal we
all rushed in with loud yells. But instead of trying
to escape, the bear went up the pine tree and lodged
tMrty feet or so from the ground in a clump of foliage.
One of the boys had a camera and now ^wanted to get
the bear's picture, so I suggested that he could do tMs
by driving the bear further up the tree, and as Tommy
said he was not afraid of the ammal I cut Mm a long
pole and he climbed up to where he could reach up and   The Happy Hooligan 115
poke the bear with it. He punched it in the belly
and the bear was furious, slashed at the stick, gnashed
its teeth, and made a most terrifying fuss, but refused
to move. Tommy, however, kept on poking and in
a few .minutes the bear got over its anger, appeared to
grow interested in the game, and before they got
through, it was actually playing. Tommy took to
tickling its feet, and it would raise first one and then
the other and try to catch the pole with its teeth and
claws, all in a high good humor. Tommy finally dislodged Mm by climbing higher yet and fairly thresMng
the branches with Ms pole, and they got an excellent
photograph that they subsequently published in the
St. Nicholas magazine.
The Black Bear is very fond of water, and seldom
stays for any length of time where it cannot get its
daily bath. The grizzly also bathes, especially in hot
weather or to rid itself of vermin, but the Black Bear
loves water for its own sake. They have regular bathing holes and after taking a swim either stretch themselves out on a grassy bed near by, or climb up into
a convement tree, where the sun and wind soon dries
them off. We found one such bear's bath tub in a
beautifully situated glade among the mountains and
spent a good deal of time concealed in some nearby
shrubbery, hoping to get a picture of Ursus emerging
from the bath. During one of these waits a small
Black Bear sauntered up to the edge of the pool, looked n6
The Black Bear
carefully around as though to make sure he was alone,
and then slipped into the water and swam twice the
length of the plunge. Just as he was crawling out on to
the bank again, Kerfoot snapped his camera at him and,
frightened by the sound, the bear took to his heels and
climbed up a near-by tree. He settled himself about
forty feet from the ground in the sunlight, and having
apparently made up his mind that he had been scared
over nothing settled down for a comfortable snooze.
We now made up our minds that we would like a
second picture to complete our record of the performance, and walked over to the bottom of the tree where
the bear was ensconced, but, as is usually the case with
these black animals, we found that the position in which
he sat did not lend itself to a picture, so we sat down
under the tree determined to wait till he changed his
position. Nothing happened for fifteen or twenty
minutes, when, quite unexpectedly, the bear made
up his mind that he was not going to be held prisoner
any longer, and with a great puffing and snorting,
started stern first down the tree. Kerfoot, who by
this time had gotten over his initial ideas about Black
Bear, picked up a stick and hammered on the trunk to
scare him back again. But this was one of the bears
who, when he bluffed, bluffed to the limit, and, instead
of retreating, he redoubled his growls and snarls and
continued to come steadily down the tree. By this
time I was becoming interested and was making bets The Happy Hooligan 117
with myself as to which of the two bluffers (for I knew
that they were both bluffing) would eventually take
the trick. Kerfoot finally settled the matter by
actually Mtting the bear a whack over the rump with
his club, and the latter scurried back up the tree, twice
as fast as he had come down.
One of the most characteristic features of the Black
Bear's game of bluff is its utter failure to show any
concern when the bluff is called. A dog, for instance,
when he indulges in a bluff that fails to work, very
frequently shows plainly that he feels Mmself a fool.
He'll rush out with every evidence of intending to attack; growling, snarling, and coming headlong toward
you; and when (if you know dogs and are not impressed by his fine acting) he gets quite up to you
without frightening you, he will cringe, lick your boots,
sometimes roll over and put all four feet up—wMch is
the dog sign of complete discomfiture or complete surrender. Of course it is not possible for us to really
know how any animal's mind works. We are almost
certain to credit them with some of our own psychology
in trying to follow theirs. And so I do not mean to
imply that a dog under these circumstances "tMnks he
is a fool." But we know that he acts very much as we
would feel if we thought we had been shown up. The
nearest that we can come to interpreting Ms actions
is to say that they seem to mean, "I did not know that
it was yoUj or I never would have tried to frighten you." u8
The Black Bear
But a Black Bear does not, as the boys say, give a
continental whether Ms bluff works or not. If he
scares you, well and good. He's gained Ms point.
If he doesn't scare you, well and good again. NotMng
has been lost by the attempt. In mnety-mne cases out
of a hundred he'll sit and look at you exactly as though
notMng had happened, and the inference is, "Well,
I've made my suggestion. Now it's your move." It
was thorougMy typical of the ammal that the old bear
that so scared Kerfoot when he was focussing Ms
camera upon her should have simply sat down on her
haunches and stared open-eyed at us when we rolled
on the ground in laughter.
Nor is tMs kind of bluff and tMs attitude toward
failure to make good on the part of the Black Bear,
confined to intercourse with strangers. I have seen
one of them go tMough exactly similar actions with
another bear. One of the most amusing little incidents I ever watched—because it so laughably illustrated the happy-go-lucky, anytMng-to-keep-one's-
self-amused attitude of these beasts—will serve as an
example. I had been watcMng a Black Bear that was
feeding in ignorance of my presence, and after some
time it had sat down at the foot of a small pine tree on
a side hill and was leamng lazily against the trunk,
turning its head now and then as though watcMng for
sometMng to turn up. It was a pretty good-sized
bear—tMee hundred pounds or so perhaps—and when The Happy Hooligan 119
another animal of about its own size appeared some
distance along the side hill and, somewhat to my surprise, began to walk threatemngly toward it, I became
very much interested. The first bear, however, did
not seem to share my interest. He paid, or pretended
to pay, no attention whatever to the newcomer. And
the latter, very deliberate but very determined, came
straight toward him. When he arrived at the other
side of the small tree (it was not more than six inches
tMck) he half drew back on Ms haunches, half raised
his fore-quarters from the ground, lifted one paw as
if to strike, and uttered the coughing snarl ending in a
rapid champing of the jaws that is the Black Bear's
ultimate expression of wrath. I thought that I was
going to have a reserved seat at a prize fight. But my
original bear continued to lean against his tree and look
about lazily as though waiting for something interesting to turn up. He did not seem to so much as suspect
that there was another bear in that neck of the woods.
And the challenger turned round and walked away as
deliberate, as digmfied, and as unconcerned as though
nothing whatever had happened.
The actions of these two bears, moreover, illustrate
another characteristic of the tribe. You never watch
Black Bear when they are quite at home and undisturbed without being made to feel that they are hard
put to it to know what to do with themselves. A
grizzly "knows Ms business" in every sense of the ex- 120
The Black Bear
pression. When he starts out, he knows where is he
going and goes there. When he starts a job, he fimshes
it and goes on to the next. I have followed one along
and over the Mgh ridges of the Rockies for two days
on end when the light snow of early fall showed every
step he took. I have tracked one from ground-squirrel
burrow to marmot hole; seen where two hours of incredibly laborious digging had yielded Mm a mouthful
of breakfast; followed Ms careful search for more
provender, to be got by more digging, and seen where,
the possibilities of that particular ridge having been
exhausted, he had started on a predetermined journey
across country for another feeding ground. The
grizzly is working for his living and knows it.
But Black Bear act for all the world like boys on a
rainy Saturday. They've got nothing but time, and
the one problem in life is how to kill it. Watch one for
a couple of hours and you'll see Mm start forty different
tMngs, fimsh none of them, and then sit down and
swing Ms head hopelessly from side to side as though
to say, "Now what shall I do next?"
If you have only seen these ammals in captivity
you are apt to tMnk that their air of restless boredom
is due to their confinement; that they don't know what
to do with themselves because they are unable, in a
bear pit, to follow their natural vocations. I am
always sorry for wild ammals in captivity, but I am, I
think, less soiry for the Black Bear than for most The Happy Hooligan 121
others. For they act just about as bored to death in
the woods as they do in the Zoo. I have seen one
come along, rip a piece off an old stump, smff for bugs,
find none, stand undecided for a few minutes, and
then walk up to a tree and draw itself upright against
the trunk, stretching like a cat. It then sat down
at the foot of the tree and scratched its ear. It
then got up and started off aimlessly, but, happemng
to straddle a low bush in its path and liking the feeling of the branches against its belly, it walked backward and forward half a dozen times to repeat the
sensation. Then it started back the way it had come
and smelling a mouse under a log, suddenly woke up
and became all attention. It tried to move the log
and failed. It dug a bit at one end but gave that up.
It then tried again, very hard this time, to turn the
log over, and the log giving away suddenly, the bear
turned a complete somersault backward, but instantly
recovered itself and rushed around with the most
ludicrous haste to see if the mouse had gotten away.
It hadn't. It hadn't had time. Which may give you
a faint notion of how quick that clumsy-looking bear
was when he really got awake. After he had eaten
the mouse he was up against it again. He didn't
know what to do next. There was a fallen tree near by
and he got up on the trunk and walked the length of it.
Then he turned around (quite hard to do without
toucMng the ground, but he was very careful) and 122
The Black Bear
walked back again to the butt. Here he stood and
looked straight ahead of Mm—stood at gaze, as the old
romancers used to say. Then (the log was perhaps
eighteen inches Mgh) he climbed down backward very
slowly and carefully as if he were afraid of falling, and
walked around to examine a place where the upturned
roots had left a hole in the earth. Finally he sat down
and began "weaving." That is to say, he began swinging Ms head from side to side, making a figure oo with
his nose, as one often sees them do behind the bars of
the Zoo. There is notMng in the world more expressive of hopeless ennui.
But although one is constantly tempted to call the
Black Bear names; to refer to Mm as an idle, pottering, purposeless, "footless," lazy, loafing tramp; he
can upon occasion be the most persistent thing on
four feet (always excepting a porcupine), and the fact
that he has no business of Ms own to attend to by no
means deters him from poking Ms sharp nose into any
and everything that doesn't concern Mm. There
never was a more convincing example of the fact that
idle hands (and paws) are supplied by Satan with
mischievous occupation. He is chock-full of inquis-
itiveness and eaten up with curiosity. And if you
imagine that because he's clumsy he can't be quick, or
that because he acts foolish he is anybody's fool, you
will be very far out of the right reckomng.
One Black Bear in one-half hour can do more to The Happy Hooligan 123
make an unguarded camp look like a hurrah's nest
than any other known agency; and I have had one
come back half a dozen times from half a dozen different
directions, to try to get at my camera to paw it over
and find out what it was. One day when I was photographing grizzlies I buried the tin case that held my
electric battery while I went back to camp for something. I did this because I knew that there were
Black Bear in the neighborhood, and I hoped by tMs
trick to keep them from tampering with my effects.
But when I got back a Black Bear had been there, had
dug up the case, pulled the cover off, chewed the tin all
out of shape, and had bitten holes in each of the dry
batteries. Another time I found one sitting under a
canvas shoulder bag that I had hung on the branch of
a tree, hitting it first with one paw and then with another as it swung. He made so comical a picture that
I watched him for a wMle, but when he reached out Ms
snout and grasped the bag with Ms teeth I hurriedly
drove Mm away, for the bag had some wooden cylinders
of flash powder in it.
On the trip when Mr. Kerfoot and I were working
together we frequently built ourselves seats in con-
vement trees from wMch to watch for grizzlies, and
operated the electric mechanisms of our cameras by
strings stretched from the apparatus to our crannies
among the branches. On one occasion, when we determined to work a second mght from the same location, 124
The Black Bear
we left these strings in position so as to save ourselves
the considerable trouble of running them a second time.
But the next Mght when we came to set up our cameras we could not find the ends of the strings. There
had been two of them runmng to widely separated
points, each one hundred feet or so distant from
our look-out. And we could find neither of them.
Finally, I climbed to the seat in the tree to see if I
could find the other ends of the string, and discovered
that a Black Bear during our absence had been trying
our seat, and had pulled both strings in and left them
hopelessly snarled up among the branches. He had,
I suppose, found our scent on the tree, followed it up
to investigate, found the seat (a piece of board nailed
across two limbs), and having Ms curiosity aroused by
the strings, had pulled them in to see what was at the
other end.
There was a fairly well-trodden bear trail that led
under this same tree, and that mght, after we had
got tMngs sMpshape again, we had another amusing
object lesson in the ways of the Black Bear. We had
little more than got settled for our long wait for dusk
and the coming of the grizzlies, when we saw a lean
old Black Bear with one cub coming down the trail
toward our tree. When they got witMn tMrty feet or
so of us the mother stopped, evidently seeing us. But
the cub kept on. Whereupon the mother called it
back and it sat down beside her.   Then began one of The Happy Hooligan 125
the most farcical exMbitions I ever saw. TMs old bear
(Kerfoot declared her to be an old maid that had
married late in life) was evidently used to going down
that particular trail and wasn't going to change her
habits on account of any interlopers. But at the
same time she was afraid to pass the tree with us in it.
She would come on a few steps and then back off
again. Then she would wander up and down in the
most undecided and worried way, grumbling and
growling to herself. Finally she sat down and fairly
cried—moamng and whining like a spoiled child. All
the while the cub kept runmng ahead and then turmng
round to look back, as much as to say, "Come on,
it's all right. What's the matter with you to-mght?"
And, of course, all the time the whole Rocky Mountains
was open to her to go round by. Once she went back
the way she came and we thought we were rid of her.
But she came back again and recommenced the performance.   Then I got down and drove her off.
Black Bear are found pretty generally in grizzly countries except in places where the grizzlies are very
plenty, and now that they are all scarce they cover
the same ranges almost everywhere. In the early
mneties, in the Selkirks in British Columbia, I never
saw a Black Bear. Now, however, although the
grizzlies are still as plentiful there as anywhere, the
Black Bear are numerous. But the Black fellows are
mighty careful never to get in the grizzlies' way.   I The Black Bear
have seen one stand up on his hind legs behind the
trunk of a good-sized tree and sidle round it, peeking
out as he went to watch a grizzly bear go by; and I
have already told how the two Black Bear took to
the trees when they heard a grizzly coming. I know
of notMng that better illustrates the keen senses of
these ammals than the way in which they will detect
the approach of a grizzly long before a man's senses
can make Mm aware of the fact. In the Yellowstone
National Park, where there are many ammals of both
species occupying the same ranges, I found that I could
always get warmng of the approach of the grizzlies
when their twilight feeding time approached by the
sudden and complete disappearance of the Black Bear;
and on several occasions, in different parts of the
mountains, when the frequent flashes of our electric
cameras had scared the grizzlies away from that part
of the wood, the Black* Bear seemed, strangely enough,
to be aware of the fact and made no attempt to retire
at their usual hour. TMs was so interesting an ex-
Mbition of keen senses or quick intuition that I watched
very carefully during the whole period of my stay to
try to satisfy myself as to the source of their knowledge.
The fact that they began to be uneasy as the usual
hour for the grizzlies' arrival came near, sometimes led
me to tMnk that they merely judged from past experience as to how long it was safe for them to stay out.
But, on the other hand, I saw so many cases where a The Happy Hooligan 127
sudden suspicion of unexpected danger led them to
make themselves scarce, and tMs, too, when the suspicion turned out to have been right, that I was forced
to conclude that they either heard or smelled their enemies. But I could never find out wMch it was that
they did. Several times I have seen them suddenly
rush with snorts of apprehension to the nearest tree,
and had their actions explained a few minutes later by
the silent appearance of a huge grizzly.
The grandest wild ammal of the United States is the
grizzly bear. But the most amusing the most ludicrous, the most human and understandable of our wild
ammals, is our friend Ursus americanus (Pallas). I
have called Mm the Happy Hooligan of the woods, and
I can tMnk of no more descriptive phrase for Mm.
He is neither evil-intentioned nor bad-natured. Yet
he has probably terrified more innocent wayfarers than
any other denizen of our forests'.     


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