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Title: The Black Bear
Author: Wright, William H.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Black Bear" ***

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                             THE BLACK BEAR


[Illustration: Ben and the author]


                             THE BLACK BEAR


                           WILLIAM H. WRIGHT

                      Author of “The Grizzly Bear”

                           AND J. B. KERFOOT

                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
                         NEW YORK - - - - 1910


                          COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY

                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS


                         Published April, 1910

                    [Illustration: Publisher’s Logo]



          THE STORY OF BEN                                  3


            Classification of Bears                        53

            Description and Distribution                   56

            Characteristics and Habits                     68

            Food and Feeding                               91

            The Happy Hooligan                            105



             Ben and the Author                       Frontispiece

             Making friends                              16

             The next day we cut a hole in the sack      22
               so that he could ride with his head

             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     62
               of a black bear; front foot of a
               grizzly bear, front track of a grizzly

             Hind foot of a black bear, hind track of    64
               a black bear; hind foot of a grizzly
               bear, hind track of a grizzly bear

             A mother and two cubs                       74

             Taking a sun bath                           88

             She began to swing her head from side to   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 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.

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

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. 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
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 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 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 him.
But there was considerable 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 until 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.

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 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 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 breakfast.

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 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 altogether.

We stayed at this camp more than two weeks, waiting for the weather to
settle; and though we did 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

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 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.

[Illustration: Making friends]

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 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-enacted.

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 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

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 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. This 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
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
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.

[Illustration: The next day we cut a hole in the sack so that he could
ride with his head out]

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
his 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
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 in 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

Ben soon came to know his own horse, and after Buckskin was packed of a
morning would run to the pony’s side and bawl to be lifted to his place
on the pack. And once there he spent several minutes each morning
inspecting the canvas and the ropes of his 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
first time we tried the experiment. 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 his head down
between his fore-legs 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 thing to be done was to get out of the road and wait
until the frightened animal 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 his
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 dislodged a large section of loosely
hanging bark which came down with much noise, striking the head
packhorse squarely across the back; and this was almost instantly
followed by the falling of the old tree itself, which came down with a
crash of breaking limbs and dead branches, and sent up a cloud of dust
that completely hid Ben and his cavorting mount as they tore down the
mountain. This was too much for the leading pony, who already stood
shivering with excitement, and turning sharp to the right he shot off
around the side of the mountain.

The other horses were quickly tied up, and while 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 things 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 this easily
followed trail I at last reached the 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 thick 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 him 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 him 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 his upper lip, as all bears do
when mad and out of humor, reach out stealthily one of his hind legs,
and with a sharp stroke drive his catlike claws into Baldy’s rump. So
here was the cause of all the trouble. Ben, objecting to the change of
programme, had been taking it out on the horse. I at once tied him 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 him. Only
twice after this, however, did we mount him 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; while
freshly 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 animals. Ben had never,
before we captured him, had a mouthful of any food except his mother’s
milk. Not only had the family just left the winter den in which 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 nothing for
even a grown bear to eat except some of the scant grasses that our
horses found along the little open places on the 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 his
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 recognize, I would take it
away from him 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 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 mischief 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 his and was an exemplary
housekeeper, for no insect was ever permitted to dwell in the coarse
hair. At first, when the hide 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 his house,
and with much sniffing and clawing, would dig out and eat every egg to
be found. And not one ever escaped his keen little nose. Many times in
the night we would hear him sniffing and snuffing away, searching out
the fly-blows.

He grew to be more of a pet each day and he still juggled his ball of
rope. Indeed, he got to be a great expert at this trick. He knew his 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 his only
four-footed friend, Jim, would he come out of his 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 was the smell of the grizzlies, of which the Black Bear is
more or less afraid, that affected him. He still remembered his 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 him to smell it, that we finally had to keep this
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 morning to find a practicable
ford. In this 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
his skin house, was placed under a tree, and then each of us rolled up
in his blankets and was soon lulled to sleep by the roar of the water
over the boulders that lined the river’s bed.

[Illustration: Ready for the start]

We were up and ready for the start before it was fairly light in the
deep canyon, and, on account of 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 his 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 ponies a few days in which to rest up.

The horse on which Ben had been mounted for the day was called Riley,
and, as I have already said, we had selected him 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 his 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 this 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 another 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 can-full 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 of Ben and realized that his
pupil had learned a new trick and had incidentally evened things up with
his master.

The acuteness of Ben’s senses was almost beyond belief. Nothing ever
succeeded in approaching 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 nothing would distract his
attention from the approaching object. Moreover whenever he had one of
these spells of suspicion something 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 him 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 behind 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 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 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, ship 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 happenings but no serious
misadventures, we arrived 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 ship 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 travelled.

[Illustration: Ben tries on his new chain and collar]

Ben was still the same jolly fellow, but now grown so large that by
standing on his hind feet he could catch his claws in the hair cinch of
the saddle and relieve us of the trouble of lifting him to the back of
his 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 his strength, and he spent
many hours at the pastime. While we were packing the baggage Ben
attracted the attention of the entire population. The children, being
told that he was gentle, brought him 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 him,
moreover, and his entire time at this 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 highway,
and these 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

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 stable, where we
would find hay for our horses and where we could spread our blankets for
the night. Next morning 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
opening into a small court, where an old partly rotted log was put to
remind him of the forest. He soon became a great favorite, and as no one
was allowed to tease him he continued to be friendly and gentle.

This shed in which 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 him dig before, unless it was for a root, or the
time I had buried him alive to hush his crying in 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 furnishing his home. He found some cast-off clothing in
the alley near his shed and dragged it into his den under the
carriage-house. After arranging this first instalment he hurried out to
look for more, and for several evenings the furnishing 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 his
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 him
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 third peremptory call there would be a few puffs and snorts
and out he would come, fairly 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 his hind feet with his forepaws
against my shoulders, lap my face and hands with his tongue, and crawl
back to his 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 himself 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 ten or twelve feet of old garden
hose. This he would seize in his 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 himself squarely on the ground, and held one eye
to the opening to see where the sound came from. This sitting down to
things was characteristic of him. He would never do anything that he
could sit down to until he had deliberately settled himself in that
comfortable position. A mirror was a great puzzle to him and he never
fully solved the riddle of where the other bear kept himself. He would
stand in front and look at his reflection, then try to touch it with his
paw. Finding the glass in the road, he would tip the mirror forward and
look behind 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 nothing to his
determination to catch the kitchen cat. This was his supreme ambition,
and, although he never realized it, there was one occasion on which he
came within 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 everything had been upset except the stove; or until the cat,
watching her chance, had escaped to the woodshed to 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 his 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 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 this 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 his 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 him. Then, when about to be caught, he would go
snorting up a telegraph pole. I frequently took him walking 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 his 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 him he would start
for his woodshed on the jump, and after he got to weigh a hundred pounds
or more I invariably went with him—if I hung onto the chain.

[Illustration: A stop for a drink of water]

He still juggled his block, but now he had a new one 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 which 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 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 this fast and
left the bear in his bed of shavings. That same afternoon, happening 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 bloodthirsty, 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. This
was scarcely pleasant news 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 him 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 his head—redder by far than ever nature had
intended—was a bloody horror. As soon as I laid eyes on him 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 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 his back. And now an
amazing thing 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 miniature logs, instantly undertook to give an exhibition
with his new implement. Gathering the badly frightened boy into
position, the bear set him whirling. His clothing from his shoe tops to
his knees was soon ripped to shreds and his legs torn and bleeding; his
scalp was lacerated by the sharp claws until the blood flew in showers;
his 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 something 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
him to drop the boy, who was then dragged out apparently more dead than

Dr. Buckley, of the Northern Pacific Railway Hospital, carried young
Urlin to his office, shaved his head, took seventy-six stitches in his
scalp, and put rolls of surgical plaster on his shins. So square and
true had Ben juggled him that not a scratch was found on his face or on
any part of his body between the top of his head and his knees. He
eventually came out of the hospital no worse for his ordeal, but I doubt
if he ever again undertook to ride a bear.

For a while there was much curiosity in town as to what old man Urlin
would do in the matter, and many prophecies and warnings reached me. But
for some days I heard nothing from him. 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 his 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
him; 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 him loose in the hills 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 which the “don’t’s” were more easily discovered than the
“do’s.” 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 him Ben’s story, obtained his
promise of kind treatment and good care for my pet and, with genuine
heartache, presented the fine animal to him. 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 doubt.


                             THE BLACK BEAR
                      Its Distribution and Habits


                        CLASSIFICATION OF BEARS

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
Batrachian,” we would call a tadpole. And so on through 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 animal, 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
which, added to the Latin name of the family to which 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 horribilis_ (Ord), which, being interpreted, means that
this much-misrepresented member of the bear tribe was first described
officially by George Ord and was named by him “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 relationships 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 americanus_ (Pallas) of the text-books, I reproduce (without
recourse) a list of what appear to be the most generally recognized
varieties of bears inhabiting the North American continent.

The Polar Bear. _Ursus maritimus_ (Desm.). Polar regions generally.

                        THE ALASKAN BROWN BEARS

The Kodiak Bear. _Ursus middendorffi_ (Merriam). Kodiak Island, Alaska.
    The largest of all living bears.

The Yakutat Bear. _Ursus dalli_ (Merriam). Yakutat Bay and seaward
    slopes of the St. Elias range.

The Admiralty Bear. _Ursus eulophus_ (Merriam). Admiralty Islands,

The Peninsula Bear. _Ursus merriami_ (Allen). Portage Bay, Alaska

                           THE GRIZZLY BEARS

The Rocky Mountain Grizzly. _Ursus horribilis_ (Ord). Rocky Mountains
    from Mexico to Alaska.

The Sonora Grizzly. _Ursus horribilis horriæus_ (Baird). South-western
    New Mexico.

The Barren Ground Grizzly. _Ursus richardsoni_ (Mayne Reid). Great Slave
    Lake regions and Barren Grounds.

                            THE BLACK BEARS

The American Black Bear. _Ursus americanus_ (Pallas).

Scornborger’s Black Bear. _Ursus americanus scornborgeri_ (Bangs).

Queen Charlotte Islands Black Bear. _Ursus americanus carlottæ_

Desert Black Bear. _Ursus americanus eremicus_ (Merriam). Coahuila,

Florida Black Bear. _Ursus floridanus_ (Merriam).

Louisiana Black Bear. _Ursus luteolus_ (Griffith).

North-western Black Bear. _Ursus altifrontalis_ (Elliot). Clallam
    County, Washington.

Alberta Black Bear. _Ursus hylodromus_ (Elliot).

The Fighting Bear. _Ursus machetes_ (Elliot). Chihuahua, Mexico.


Emmons’s Glacier Bear. _Ursus emmonsi_ (Dall). Mt. St. Elias region,

The Inland White Bear. _Ursus kermodii_ (Hornaday). South-western
    British Columbia.



THE American Black Bear, or, as our friends with the big spectacles have
named him, _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 United
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 him that it takes a specialist and sometimes a
post-mortem examination to tell them apart.

I have watched and studied these animals in the open for nearly thirty
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 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 recognized 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 beginning to a mistaken
idea that is a very old one and is very generally entertained about
these animals. 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 United 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; while the difference between a
brown-colored grizzly and a brown-colored Black Bear is like the
difference between a brown cocker spaniel and a brown setter—one of

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. This
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
chief of these uses is climbing.

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 his 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 while they work use day nurseries. The first
thing a Black Bear mother does when any 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 children 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 thinks 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 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 which he can conveniently clasp his 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 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_. This is true of all bears.

As, in the West, these two bears are often found in the same localities,
and as one of the first things 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

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 hit the heel, while in the
grizzly’s track it will fall well to the outside of the heel. The Black
Bear’s hind paw is also more deeply dented at the instep than that of
the grizzly.

1. Front foot of a black bear

2. Front track of a black bear Size, 5 × 4 inches

3. Front foot of a grizzly bear

4. Front track of a grizzly bear Size, 8 × 4½ inches]

The feet of the Black Bear are stockier than those of the grizzly and
more powerfully muscled—probably as a result of the animal’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

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 animal became officially known as the American Black Bear. The
designation, however, as we have seen, is by no means universally
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 animal 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, 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 this same locality. One sometimes hears it declared that the
“true” Black Bear has a white horseshoe on its breast. This is simply a
distortion of the fact that many Black Bears, especially black ones,
have a “white vest,” varying from a few white hairs to a spot six inches
square. Now and then one sees a star, or a shield, or some other oddly
shaped mark, and sometimes instead of being white these are cream color
or a dirty yellow.

Like the grizzly, the individual Black Bear may vary in color according
to the season, the age of its coat, and the weathering that this 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.

1. Hind foot of a black bear

2. Hind track of a black bear Size, 8 X 4 inches

3. Hind foot of a grizzly bear

4. Hind track of a grizzly bear Size, 10 X 5½ inches]

All fur-bearing animals have both fur and hair—the long guard-hair
completely covering and protecting the fine fur underneath. This 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 leaving the animal
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 this time the animal takes great
satisfaction in scratching 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 animal 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

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 this bear, and
guesses, before weighing, ranged from three hundred to seven hundred
pounds. This gives a good idea of the danger of putting much faith in
the estimates of people who have merely seen an animal in the open, and
have no actual data for comparison and upon which to base their opinion.
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 him, 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 thirty-two pounds, and I believe that four
months later, when I gave him away, he would have gone better than four
hundred. This 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 his father of Cuyahoga
Falls, Ohio, 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 healthy and vigorous. There is no reason to suppose that a
free animal 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
him. 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 this 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 this 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 animal from the time it is born until it
grows up, lives its natural life out, and dies; nor even to follow one
through the activities of an ordinary year of its life. And even if one
could do this, 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
animals. For all animals are like men in this, 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 hibernating animal. 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 this 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 higher up in the hills it
happens to live, the later the spring sets in and 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 definitely 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
whimper if one has located a bear’s hiding 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 hill
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
furnishing accommodations for their captive animals; 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 can get down to the bottoms where the snow is gone
and the vegetation has started sprouting. This, 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 through the summer and
until they either den up with the mother in the fall or, as I think 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 persistence.

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, and not only seemed to want all the various things the hills
provided, but would howl lustily if he did not get them.

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 night, 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, which 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 thicket and lie up there between
feeds with her youngsters.

There are few things more interesting than to watch a bear with her cubs
when she thinks 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 admonition. They are doubtless
merely encouragement or assurances of her presence. But 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
meaning. 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.”

[Illustration: A mother and two cubs]

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 shift for themselves. For, like other animals, 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
returning some half-grown cubs to their mother after a comparatively
short separation, during which 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 nothing 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 which had taken refuge there when the owners interfered and
rescued the youngster. Here, as I see it, was a case of artificial
separation which, 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, which 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 opening 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 his senses
and the alertness of his attention, and the practical impossibility of
getting within seeing or hearing distance of him without his 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 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, this 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 convenient
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.

Soon after I got settled I noticed two Black Bears in a little clearing
to my left and, for something to do, I set to watching 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
his hind legs and listened for a moment, and then went up a convenient
tree, his companion following his example and taking refuge in another
one. I was much interested over this 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 maneuvers, 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, his companion 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 dignifiedly out of the woods and down the trail
upon which my camera was set. But he had evidently noticed that
something 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 him 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 his curiosity more keenly than a mere Black Bear,
for he discovered my pole and flash-pan. He stood up on his hind legs
and easily sniffed the top of the pan and then, discovering the wire, he
followed it without touching it away from the pine tree and across the
trail to where it was fastened. Then, his curiosity getting the better
of him, he raised one front paw and pulled the bush toward him,
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, while 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 this 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 disappeared into the woods I saw that his larger companion 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 his 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 holes or openings as would
expose the interior to the weather. The Black Bear is far less
particular. Any old place that offers him 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 opening, 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 his 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
while if a warm spell follows his denning 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

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 this 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 truth. Bears sleep,
but are easily roused, quick to scent danger, and ready to abandon their
retreat and look up a new one if they think it necessary.

Ben, at any time during the winter, would rouse if I called him, and
would even come to the mouth of his lair for a moment to greet me. I
could, moreover, hear him breathing, and sometimes hear him 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 Washington, near Colville in the Calispell Mountains, while
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. This 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 this same trip I saw seven other Black Bear sleeping places, all in
similar situations under tree trunks or tangled down-timber.

Only a year ago, up at Priest Lake, in Idaho, some 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 their way through
several feet of snow out of six different caves on the side of a single
mountain all in one night. 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 within 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 opinions upon observations made on captive animals, claim that
both the grizzly and the Black Bear breed annually. But a long series of
observations and the closest possible attention given to this 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 denning up the first
fall. In the case of the grizzly the mother and the cubs den up 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 shift for themselves. This family of
young grizzlies then usually den up together and continue to run
together the third summer, at the close of which 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 running in company
without their mother; but as this 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 hibernation 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.

I believe that the explanation of this very striking difference of habit
between the Black and the grizzly bears in the matter of breeding
annually or biennially, 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 opportunity; and, unnatural as this
seems to us, it is true of many or most carnivorous, or partly
carnivorous, animals. It is true of rats, as most boys who have bred
white rats have had occasion to discover. The memory of the habit, at
least, survives in the fierceness with which 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 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 this
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 animals 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 while the young are still with her. But the
Black Bear mother is not only a comparatively inoffensive animal 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. This 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
associate with their possible enemies—the cantankerous males of the

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 which this female
has failed to breed have been in years when her cubs were allowed to
remain with her throughout the summer, and when, as the owners state,
she was so taken up with them that she refused to have anything to do
with her mate.

This 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 this 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.

[Illustration: Taking a sun bath]

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 and den up
individually at the end of their third 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 youthful responsibility.

There is a widespread notion that bears are given to travelling in
company; that they are sociable animals, 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. This 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

Another point on which there is much popular misconception and disbelief
is the extreme smallness of bear cubs at birth. This, at first glance,
is not only astonishing, but to many people seems almost incredible.
“How is it possible,” they ask, “and why is it advantageous for an
animal 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 grizzly, where the
mother sometimes weighs twice as much as the Black Bear mother, the cubs
are, if anything, 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,
weighing 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


                            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 true, for
he has democratic tastes, a magnificent appetite, and nothing much to do
between meals. Technically, 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 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

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 this 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 acquire the habit of eating again.” Later on these Cuyahoga Falls
animals 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
animal in its free state, has had much to do with the success of the
owners in inducing them to breed.

Wild white 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 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 catching these. They will turn over stumps and roll logs aside
and up-end flat stones and catch an escaping mouse before it goes a

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 lightning-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

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 larvæ. Their sense of smell is wonderfully acute
and one can hear them sniffing and snuffing over the punky mass of an
old tree trunk they have ripped open, searching 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 kinds in order to catch them. Their greatest
feasts in this 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 companies 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. This results 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 him. He will lean forward, sniff at your fingers, and then
grab the dainty as eagerly as though it weighed a pound.

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 him
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 opening 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 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 bumble-bees and eat them and will lap yellow-jackets off
his fur exactly as he does ants. Of course the bear is fully protected
by his 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 thoroughly. 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 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 sarvis berry is another of their staples. They will reach
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 anything in that line, even feeding on the Oregon grape in
the Rockies, a food disdained by the grizzly.

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 higher
ranges of the Tetons and Bitter Roots, and indeed throughout the Rockies
down into Mexico, there is a tree locally called the Jack Pine that
bears a curious cone two or three inches across the butt and only two or
three 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 this 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 wounds. They also scrape the gummy pulp from the inside of
the bark and eat it. The grizzly never does these things. This pulp,
however, is used by some of the Indians, who make a kind of bread out of

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 spawning. 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
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 which 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 nothing but
bare spines. Their sides are torn by rocks, they are thin 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 animal that finds them. And many animals gather to the feast. Here
is the free-lunch counter of the wilderness; during the salmon runs
everything in the mountains lives on fish: bears, cougars, coyotes,
wolverines, lynx; in Alaska the very geese gorge themselves on salmon;
and the Black Bear gets his share of the loot.

The grizzly, as I have said, is an expert fisherman. I have seen one
toss out seventeen big salmon in less than an hour, and after eating his
fill bury the rest of his 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 opportunity 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 his 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 anything 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
him, and I do not believe that meat can be too putrid to suit his taste.
Ben, when he was out walking with me during the time we lived in
Missoula, would turn aside to sniff over any dead cat or hen that he
came across—even if nothing remained of it but dried skin and bones. And
he would actually lie down and roll on the find, and, if allowed, would
then pick it up in his mouth and carry it home for a nest egg.

But in spite of his preference for carrion, the Black Bear soon learns
to take advantage of easily procurable live meat. They are remarkably
adaptable animals, take kindly to civilization, and accommodate
themselves readily to the conditions and opportunities 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
something about a shoat that appeals directly to the Black Bear
instinct. They learn to be sheep thieves; but they appear to be born pig
thieves. The summer that I caught Ben, as we were returning to Spokane
across the Palouse farming country, we stopped at a ranch over night 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
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 him lying by this 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

Of course the diet of the Black Bear, like that of the grizzly, and of
most other wild animals, depends largely upon the locality in which 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
animal, 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 hide the carcass of any animal 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 animals from finding it in their absence. The Black Bear does not
look so far ahead. He will carry away a few pounds of meat or bones in
his 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
the woods.


                           THE HAPPY HOOLIGAN

In this 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 shirt-sleeves with your feet on the table. There
is a good deal more difference between the two attitudes than appears in
a book on etiquette.

If you meet a man at an afternoon reception you see one side of him—the
outside. If you are a member of the local vigilance committee and call
on him officially in the course of business, you get a specialized
insight into another phase of his 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 him through the transom when he
thinks himself 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 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

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
customary five minutes in which to say their prayers. In their reports,
as in accounts of other executions, the chief 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 animal 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 bloodthirsty monster died game.”

[Illustration: She began to swing her head from side to side]

This may be good journalism, but it is mighty poor natural history. It
gives us some insight into the nature of the man behind 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 shining sun it was. He had never, he said, seen anything 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
hides 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 hides, but there will be a lot of
things that you don’t know.

We are not here discussing the ethics 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 animal up a tree and then to stand underneath and shoot
it is no very great achievement. 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 shirt and stalking 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 this: that if you want to
find out how an animal lives, you must watch it live and not watch it
die. When you start out to study the habits of a wild animal the place
for your gun, if you have one, is in the rack at home.

For one thing, if you undertake to watch a man 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 something 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 animals soon distinguish
between a desire to kill and a desire to look on. I have tried both and
I know.

All animals 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
his 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

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 night, and on our way back we ran
across an old Black Bear 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 things 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 himself between her and her bawling offspring looked to him
a good deal like suicide. I finally persuaded him 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 coughing snarl that made him think his last hour had come. I
could not help laughing 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—whining and walking nervously back and forth and
showing quite plainly that she thought herself badly used by a superior
force. But Kerfoot was hard to convince in regard to her bluffing
qualities, and while we were all maneuvering 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.
This time I picked up a club and by brandishing it valiantly every time
the bear snarled at Kerfoot, managed to reassure him sufficiently to
coax him up within about thirty feet of her. He had a Graflex
natural-history camera that took a 4 × 5 plate, but had sufficient
bellows to accommodate a twenty-inch lens, thus giving a very large
image at a comparatively considerable distance 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
thirty 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 things to
his liking and was standing with the long camera held at the level of
his eye and his head bent over the focussing hood when the bear gave a
vicious snort, and executed the peculiar combination of broken coughs
and gnashing 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

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
which, 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, while 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
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 his life 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 his hand he would be afraid of anything that walks, but he had
evidently never investigated very closely into what would happen to him
when he had left his gun at home. We had stopped over night at a public
camp at a place called Tower Falls, and after supper in the evening
Kerfoot and I, having seen a Black Bear at the edge of a clearing,
walked over to look at her. She was a large animal 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 fashion of her kind, she made no other demonstration, and
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
running back up the hill very much frightened, and as Frank was bringing
up the rear we asked him, rather jokingly, what was the matter. “Gee,”
he answered, “I tell you, that’s a fierce old bear.” And we have not
finished 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 half-way down, you
would have a hard time getting at close enough quarters with it to get

[Illustration: A black bear at home]

These conclusions, like all the others scattered through 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 animal;
and I want to lay especial emphasis upon the fact that when I give, as
an illustration, the account of any particular happening, it is only
cited as an example of the things that, taken together, have gone to the
forming of my belief. For instance, in the summer of 1906 I was camped
high 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 hills we
saw a Black Bear go into a thick 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
thicket, Bill stationed himself 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 thirty 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 this by driving the bear further up the
tree, and as Tommy said he was not afraid of the animal I cut him a long
pole and he climbed up to where he could reach up and 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 him by climbing higher yet and fairly threshing the
branches with his 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 convenient 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 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 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 hitting 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 himself 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—which 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 “thinks 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 his
actions is to say that they seem to mean, “I did not know that it was
_you_, or I never would have tried to frighten you.”

But a Black Bear does not, as the boys say, give a continental whether
his bluff works or not. If he scares you, well and good. He’s gained his
point. If he doesn’t scare you, well and good again. Nothing has been
lost by the attempt. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he’ll sit and
look at you exactly as though nothing had happened, and the inference
is, “Well, _I’ve_ made _my_ suggestion. Now it’s _your_ move.” It was
thoroughly typical of the animal that the old bear that so scared
Kerfoot when he was focussing his 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 this kind of bluff and this 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 through 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,
anything-to-keep-one’s-self-amused attitude of these beasts—will serve
as an example. I had been watching 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 leaning lazily
against the trunk, turning its head now and then as though watching
for something to turn up. It was a pretty good-sized bear—three
hundred pounds or so perhaps—and when another animal of about its own
size appeared some distance along the side hill and, somewhat to my
surprise, began to walk threateningly 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 thick) he half drew back on his
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 dignified, 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 his
business” in every sense of the expression. When he starts out, he knows
where he is going and goes there. When he starts a job, he finishes it
and goes on to the next. I have followed one along and over the high
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 him a mouthful of breakfast; followed his 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 him start forty
different things, finish none of them, and then sit down and swing his
head hopelessly from side to side as though to say, “Now _what_ shall I
do next?”

If you have only seen these animals in captivity you are apt to think
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
animals in captivity, but I am, I think, less sorry for the Black Bear
than for most 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, sniff 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,
happening 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
touching the ground, but he was very careful) and walked back again to
the butt. Here he stood and looked straight ahead of him—stood at gaze,
as the old romancers used to say. Then (the log was perhaps eighteen
inches high) 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 his head from side to
side, making a figure ∞ with his nose, as one often sees them do behind
the bars of the Zoo. There is nothing in the world more expressive of
hopeless ennui.

But although one is constantly tempted to call the Black Bear names; to
refer to him 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 his own to attend to by no means deters him from poking his
sharp nose into any and everything that doesn’t concern him. 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
inquisitiveness 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 reckoning.

One Black Bear in one-half hour can do more to 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 this 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 while, but when he reached out his
snout and grasped the bag with his teeth I hurriedly drove him 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 convenient trees from which 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 night from the same
location, we left these strings in position so as to save ourselves the
considerable trouble of running them a second time. But the next night
when we came to set up our cameras we could not find the ends of the
strings. There had been two of them running 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 his 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 night, after we had got things shipshape 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 within thirty 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 most farcical exhibitions I ever saw. This 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—moaning and whining like a spoiled
child. All the while the cub kept running ahead and then turning round
to look back, as much as to say, “Come on, it’s all right. What’s the
matter with you to-night?” 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
nineties, 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 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 nothing that better illustrates the keen senses of
these animals than the way in which they will detect the approach of a
grizzly long before a man’s senses can make him aware of the fact. In
the Yellowstone National Park, where there are many animals of both
species occupying the same ranges, I found that I could always get
warning 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. This was so interesting an exhibition 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 think 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 sudden
suspicion of unexpected danger led them to make themselves scarce, and
this, 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 which 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 animal of the United States is the grizzly bear. But
the most amusing, the most ludicrous, the most human and understandable
of our wild animals, is our friend _Ursus americanus_ (Pallas). I have
called him the Happy Hooligan of the woods, and I can think of no more
descriptive phrase for him. He is neither evil-intentioned nor
bad-natured. Yet he has probably terrified more innocent wayfarers than
any other denizen of our forests.


                            THE GRIZZLY BEAR

            The Narrative of a Hunter-Naturalist—Historical,
                       Scientific and Adventurous


                           WILLIAM H. WRIGHT

            With 24 Full-Page Illustrations from Photographs
                       $1.50 net; postpaid $1.65

“This is the narrative of a hunter-naturalist, who deals with a single
animal as he has found it in the Western mountains. It is the best book
that has ever been written about any of the bears. One of the best books
that has ever been written from the popular standpoint about a single
species of animal. It deserves far more extended notice than it can
receive here and will be read carefully and thoughtfully by naturalists
and big game hunters who may learn much from it.”

                                                     —Forest and Stream.

“Far more entertaining than a novel.”

                                                   —William T. Hornaday.

“One of the best books of adventure that has appeared in many
months.”—San Francisco Chronicle.

“Full of the atmosphere of the big game woods and vibrant with hazards
of the chase.”

                                                          —Boston Globe.

“The very spirit of the grizzly is in subtle fashion brought near us.
The book will long hold high place in the literature of sport.”

                                                      —New York Tribune.

“Well illustrated with photographs of bears taken in the woods set off
by the animals themselves.”

                                                      —Spokesman Review.

“An excellent work.... The book is fascinating in its descriptions and
furnishes another proof that if truth is not stranger than fiction, it
is at least more interesting.”—The Independent.

“The volume is most entertaining and wholesome. It is filled with the
atmosphere of the wide open outdoors and it ought to appeal to everybody
who has a drop of red blood in his veins.”

                                                        —Brooklyn Times.

“All the beauty and glory of life in the open permeate this book. It is
a book for live boys, for active men, for every Diana spirit chained to
domestic or professional task, for all Americans keen for adventure, and
zestful for nature truths.... This is a genuine hunter-naturalist’s
narrative. Its historical and scientific facts are savored with the
spice of the camp-fire story-teller’s style.”

                                            —Philadelphia Public Ledger.

“This book should grace the library of every true American.”

                                    —Portland (Oregon) Evening Telegram.


                   Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York


 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ The numbering of the footprints of the brown and black bears was
      illegible on pages 62 and 64. New numbers were typed for each
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

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