In the most recent edition of our once-a-month village newspaper, a "public service" ad appeared that warned residents to bring all of their bird feeders inside by the end of this month. Living here, surrounded by acres and acres of forest, we're all accustomed to this springtime ritual by now, and the photo below illustrates the major reason why people take these warnings seriously. It's the end of hibernation season and certain mammals out there are plenty hungry.
|photo by Tom Sears|
You'll probably notice right off the bat that this is no ordinary photo of a few black bears. Normally, Black Bears have two cubs; rarely one or three. But, five? Well, four years ago, in the northern part of New Hampshire, photographer Tom Sears heard of a Black Bear sow that had given birth to quintuplets and he was determined to get a photo of them. So, after some investigation, he was able to discover the trail they used (usually at dusk) and for four hours every day he followed it. He continued this, seven days a week for more than six weeks, until he finally captured this incredible image.
Sears stayed in touch with the people in the surrounding area where he had taken the photograph, and they reported seeing the family of six bears off and on throughout the summer months. But as hibernation time approached, there were no further reports of sightings. The long New Hampshire winter soon set in and no one could be sure if the cubs would survive. Then, the following Spring, on April 25th, Sears again had an improbable second encounter and was able to capture this next amazing photograph of the entire family. It's evident that all the cubs made it, but what's also pretty clear from this second photo is that bear cubs can grow faster than a professional wrestler on steroids!
|photo by Tom Sears|
Black Bears are not a rare occurrence here at Juniper Hill. They once bent a one-and-a-half-inch thick solid iron pipe into the shape of a horseshoe trying to get at an attached empty bird feeder in our garden. And Caleb, our little Corgi, who almost never thinks before he barks, has chased his share of Black Bear sows and cubs over the stone walls that form the boundary to our property. Every time he dose this, I can't help but think what a thin line it is between bravery and stupidity. He has to be all of eleven inches tall! But, then again, Caleb has never imagined himself that way.
|photo of Caleb Corgi by Karl Smizer|
|illustration by Arthur Rackham|
Thanks to Nick Reinhardt and Helen Bowdoin for sharing the photos of the bears and bringing this story to my attention.