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There’s a reason you get the nickname grizzly

Zoos. I like going to them, I like going to them with children (NB: other peoples) (NB NB: With their parents as well. Or their parents permission), I like going to them alone in foreign cities, I sometimes get very sad in them, but, in many places, where the ‘education and preservation’ message is more prominent than the ‘point and stare and throw junk food if you like, we’ve not given them anywhere to hide or room to get away, so feel free’ message, then zoos are nice things to visit.

Particularly, I discovered in the case of San Francisco Zoo, when it is feeding time, and quiet.

Feeding time for the bears in SF Zoo is the best I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’m prejudiced: I really like bears, but this is how it works.

There is a viewing area that, for the minutes approaching 11am, has some nice green grass and a large-ish pond with some fish swimming around in it, with a pane of one-way glass that segments the pool and allows you to see all the way underwater, and overwater, and for the animals to see nothing but each other.

I really hadn’t thought about why the fish might be looking nervous.

“Hello fish!” shouted the children and adults standing by the glass. “Oh! Look at his little mouth! It’s going up and down and up and down, and his little fins are flapping, and…”

Well, they weren’t much longer.

Moments before the carnage began

It is more realistic a hunting scene than if they just flung dead fish substitute at them – though of course only so much as me hurling tasty cat treats to different corners of my living room for my cats rather than getting them to eat them from my fingers.

The bears hunt the fish. The bears kill, dismember, and devour the fish. It was thrilling to watch. Well, I thought so. Some of the other five-year-olds in attendance also. Some of the mothers, I think, were not so keen.

But I love bears. And I have never been so close.

After his fish, the bear went to get another course. There were various pieces of fruit floating around the pool. The bear got a pear (which was delightfully Dr Seussian of it) and brought it back to the point it had eaten the fish. It ate the pear.

As close to a bear claw as I ever want to get

It is as close to a bear paw that I want to get, now. Unless it is the pastry called a Bear Claw, made with maple syrup and pecans and things, in which case I am prepared to get closer.

But I don’t think I will get a pet Grizzly after all. I have decided.

  1. Don’t love the bears too much, or you’ll end up like the woman who was arrested yesterday for feeding a bunch of bears around her house up to 6,000lbs of food a month

    (Not that I’m suggesting you’re a Crazy Bear Woman. More that I was amused by the coincidence of that story with your post in my feed reader)

    Comment by simon b — 29 September, 2010 10:44 am

  2. I had no idea they would allow the bears to actually catch live food. I think that is great — must help the bears maintain their sanity a bit, even if it is isn’t so much fun for some people to see it happening. I at the Los Angeles Zoo there was an old orangutan sound asleep with its hand up against the glass and I was stunned at how big it was. One doesn’t get a feeling for these animals through documentaries on TV. Hope your “Little Red Boat” will continue when you return to UK (perhaps facing the other direction?). I enjoy your writing very much

    Comment by Leilani Lee — 30 September, 2010 7:49 am

  3. Oh Leilani – talking of things that keep you a bit sane, if i didn’t have the blog to keep me afloat I’d be a bit lost, I think.

    Comment by anna — 30 September, 2010 8:34 am

  4. Great googly! That’s a big paw.

    I remember I was at the Bronx zoo, approaching the tiger enclosure. Down a short path, there’s a glass partition straight into the ground, and there was a tiger standing right there as I approached. Mild heart attack as I realized there was glass. It takes your breath away.

    Comment by Jennifer — 30 September, 2010 10:13 am

  5. A couple of years ago, I was driving into the car park where my dearest works, late-ish in autumn, and had the slightly bizarre experience of seeing the headlights pick out a large furry arse passing in front of me: it took about half a second to register that, out of all the native fauna, the arse belonged to a black bear, which I subsequently watched from a safe distance as he raided the dumpster.

    Black bears aren’t as ohshit-scary as grizzlies, but they’re still WILD! BEARS!, and I don’t think Britishers accustomed to a Wind In The Willows natural environment will ever get used to that. There are a few alleged to loiter in the woods near where we live, and though we’ve never seen one, there have been moments late at night where the cats have got skittish about something outside.

    Comment by nick s — 30 September, 2010 1:33 pm

  6. Wow. Those claws are huge. The fish did not stand a chance but how funny would it have been to see the fish fight back.

    Comment by Invader_Stu — 1 October, 2010 3:18 am

  7. Yes, fighting fish and bear would be interesting to watch. Piranha vs Grizzly.

    Comment by guyana gyal — 1 October, 2010 5:23 pm

  8. Finally wrote about the snailr card I receieved. Here: http://beleagueredsquirrel.blogspot.com/2010/10/slow.html

    Comment by Beleaguered Squirrel — 3 October, 2010 7:48 am

  9. I always wanted a pet bear when I was a little girl. I would have rode on its back to school. We’d sit by each other at the dinner table and help clear up afterwards (I’d put all the dishes on its back and it would carry them into the kitchen for me). At night we’d snuggle up together in bed and he’d be like the world’s biggest, softest, loveliest teddy bear. He’d also be able to bite the face off anyone who was mean to me and lick the faces of my friends and family lovingly.

    Sadly, my parents would never let me have one. Evil parents.

    Comment by Amy — 4 October, 2010 2:53 pm

  10. “The bear got a pear (which was delightfully Dr Seussian of it)”

    I keep reading this line to myself over and over, suppressing a giggle. It’s wonderful!

    Comment by Kate — 7 October, 2010 3:34 am

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