Wildlife in North America: Mammals

A bear cub in present day Manning Park, BC Canada. Photo (c) Pete Nuij

He was blind, hairless and toothless, a pink, helpless thing that weighed a scant seven ounces when he wriggled from his sleeping mother one morning in January.

Through the thin eyelids that veiled his brown eyes came a soft light, the first impression of his new world to register in the virgin labyrinths of his brain. He didn’t know it, but the light came diffused through a filter of snow that, could he have seen it, looked blue from the inside and was tinged on the outside by the yellow rankness of his mother’s breath.

He was wet and cold, and this was another sensory awaking. Until the moment of his birth he had been gently cushioned within the warmth of his mother’s womb.

He squealed. It was a thin noise that resembled in miniature treble the petulant hysteria of a hungry pig; because he didn’t know what else to do, he continued uttering the wail. Still his mother slept and the cold congealed on his naked little body, crusting it with ice flakes that were made from the wetness of his birth, but the instinct urged him towards the furred bulk of his mother. He wriggled to her on legs that were as yet hardly formed; his questing nose touched the edge of a big paw and he quickened his struggles.

His wailing ceased as a strange, urgent aroma assailed his nostrils and aroused awareness of the hunger that was within him. Soon he was encased in a muff of warm black fur and his eager mouth found and seized a full dug. He sucked greedily and some of the warm milk dribbled from between his black lips. After the feed he slept, his body stilled in the position it had adopted during the meal.

While he slept, grayness shrouded the snow skylight. Outside a blizzard ravaged the forest, swooping through the trees and shrubs in a crescendo of fury that mantled his yet unknown world with a cowl of white.

But the bear cub knew nothing of this. Inside the rock cave he and his great mother slept through the storm’s wrath, secure on a warm bed of grasses and leaves and pine needles that succeeding generations of sleeping bears had deposited on the cave floor. This was a time of beginning for the cub, a time during which nothing was demanded of him except the will to live and to take sustenance from the fierce being that had given him birth during a fitful interruption of her winter sleep.

Wildlife in North America: Mammals (c) 1974 R.D. Lawrence ISBN 0 7181 1354 3

Also available as an e- book.

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