By Charles Towne
Black bears can be capricious, and they can be playful, as well as adorably cute when they are cubs. They can appear clumsy, clownish, but never dull.
As they age they tend to lose that early playfulness for the most part, but I have seen fully grown adult bears of both sexes play with other bears.
Once I saw a big male playing with of all things, a turtle. (I am certain the turtle was an unwilling participant of the game.) The bear was slapping the turtle around something fierce. The turtle would roll several feet and the bear would chase it, pouncing on it, grabbing it in both front paws, clutching it to him chest, he would then mouth it, slobbering and drooling on the poor turtle as if he were trying to turn it into a big turtle spit-ball.
The turtle was slapped again to go rolling a score of paces only to be pounced on again. The reptile, a gopher tortoise common to Florida, was next clutched tightly to bruin’s chest, the bear rolled onto his back, juggling the toy, and then there was some more mouthing and slobbering.
At any time the bear could have closed powerful jaws on his unwilling toy, killing it, but it was obvious that was not his intent.
The worst possible thing that could have happened to that poor turtle was he could possibly drown in all of that foamy bear slobber. Finally the bear dropped the turtle and walked off swinging his big behind in the humorous way of his kind.
Another time I watched a large male sitting on the bank of the Wekiva River.
The Wekiva is not a long river as rivers go, spring fed and crystal clear for much of its 27-mile length, it is bordered by prime wildlife habitat.
Here roams the whitetail deer, as well as bobcat, otter and the coyote, and that true symbol of the wild places, our friend, the black bear.
I was paddling my canoe down the river when I spied a large bear sitting on its broad rump on the bank of the river. At first I was puzzled. What in the wide, wild world was the creature doing? Then it struck me, the bear seemed to be enjoying the sunset. Silently I let the canoe drift to within twenty feet of the bear where it silently washed up against a large raft of water hyacinth and stopped.
The bear, sitting there swaying forward and backward, was unaware of me, and not wanting to break the spell of the moment I sat still and watched, listening to the water murmur under the canoe. Truly it was one of those magical moments that you will learn to look forward to if you spend enough time in the wild places.
Then it was that I heard something else. At first I was uncertain as to just what I was hearing, a low murmuring; moaning sound. when I realized what was making the sound I was almost shocked, for that bear was crooning, enjoying the sunset as much as I was. I sat there until the sunset was almost gone. Shadows crept over the bear, and then he too was gone.
I have watched Old Blackie play with a twig in the water. I have seen and filmed a large male black bear push and pull at a log, lifting it, for no more reason than it was there, and needed to be pushed and pulled and lifted.
I have watched adults go into mock wrestling bouts, only to break off the contest after a short time, to go their separate ways.
One time I was hiking way back in the forest. I had stopped to take a drink from my canteen when I heard something that puzzled me no end.
A crashing and rattling held my attention and it was obvious that whatever was making the noise was coming in my direction. Whatever was making the racket was not at all concerned about the noise it was making. I mean, Attila the Hun and his hordes couldn’t have made more of a racket!
Then, not far from me I saw a bear, or I should say, I saw the rear end of a large bear and I was puzzled to see that the bruin was dragging a large piece of greenhouse shade cloth. Blackie would slap at the shade cloth and then roll on it until tiring of the game it abandoned its toy to wander off to more important things. After witnessing these periods of whimsy, I can only conclude that though bears spend much time alone, there are those times they certainly like to play, and they enjoy the occasional company of another bear.
An Outdoorsman’s Prayer
Thank you Lord God for being! Thank you Father for revealing yourself to me as my forever friend, the one and only God in who I can place my trust completely and unequivocally, for I know that you never deceive, nor do you lie. Walk with me this day, protect me from all deception. In Jesus’ Holy name I ask it. Amen.
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.