Saturday, January 30, 2021

Grizzly 399, Queen of the Grand Teton National Park

 Grizzly 399 is a very famous female bear from the Grand Teton National Park located in Wyoming, south of Yellowstone. She was well known in the area but came to international attention by NOT killing a high school science teacher who accidentally spooked her and her three cubs back on 2007. She charged him, he tripped, and she planted one front foot on his back and bit him in the butt twice as a warning. He was rescued before she did any more damage but he said it was his fault not hers.

Because of this encounter, millions of people stated coming to the park. 399 is comfortable in the developed area and so is easier to sight along the highway. She carefully teaches her cubs to navigate traffic as the highway to date has no animal overpass as does Banff. This has created many a traffic jam requiring Park Ranger assistance to sort out as people stop their cars and jump out to get pictures. 

This article: tells how she became famous and describes the tenuous situation of the Grizzly bears in Montana and Wyoming. 399's travels have also been recorded by noted wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen who has published his best in a book called "Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek". The trailer for the book can be seen here:

In the spring of 2020, at the age of 24 years, she emerged from her winter den with quadruplets a very rare occurrence with Grizzlies. And then took them down south of the Park to Jackson Hole, a deep mountain valley and noted ski resort, for the summer. There was a great sigh of relief when the five of them showed up in late December back in the Park and headed for their winter den. Sometime this fall she will abandon them to their own devices having raised them and taught them as much as she can. She will den up for the winter and if a miracle happens, become pregnant again next season and have a new litter in January 2023.

This article: provides more information about her and her four cubs as well as the dangers bears face both in the Park and especially outside the Park where they are viewed by Wyoming Game and Fish (WGF) as a nuisance. of the Grizzlies which die every year, 80% are shot by hunters or officials. 399 has had six litters of which three were triplets and this last one quads. But only one of her daughters, 610, has successfully raised a litter. 

A new children's book about 399 has recently been published. Grizzly 399, by Sylvia Medina and illustrated by Morgan Spicer, with photos by Tom Mangelsen.

Coming home in the fall of 2020

399 and yearlings 2018

610 and yearlings 2020

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Volk - January 2008 - January 2021

 We had to put Volk down today. He had congestive heart failure and was not going to recover. He was 13 years old and until the last week was still going strong. Maybe a bit slower but on our 4 km walks he sniffed and peed as good as any young dog. Then he quit eating and because the weather was so cold, we brought him inside. His breathing was fast and shallow. I'd take him out to do his business and he was mad we were not going for a walk. Then three days ago he collapsed and I had to carry him home.

After that I would carry him out and back. Last evening he couldn't do that. We'd had the vet out to look at him and put him on antibiotics, diuretics and heart pills but it was too late. So today we said it is time. Never an easy call. Volk was one tough bird; he fought to stand and walk to the bitter end.

Volk and Bobik at 2 months of age
Volk was born of purebred Fox Terrier parents which belonged to Tanya's friends in P'yatikhatki. They had two males left, so in March of 2008, we bought them for the princely sum of 1 Hrivna each (to make it "legal"). I named the dark one Volk (wolf) and Tanya named the lighter one Bobik (mutt). They were outdoor dogs from day one and had lots of fun as puppies, play fighting with each other and hunting in the grass and reeds as we went for walks. I loved walking the two dogs on or off leash. We had fun.

Age 6 years
They were hunters and had no interest in toys. Throw a stick and they look at you like you are missing marbles. Chickens and cats were fun to chase when they were pups and couldn't catch them. It wasn't fun anymore when they started catching them and Volk was the terror of neighbourhood cats all his life.

Play fighting got serious when they matured. They were evenly matched so there was no top dog. They should have been neutered but were not. Not my idea. They were jealous of each other and fought to kill at the drop of a pat on the other dog. Once they were separated and cooled off they licked each other's wounds. 

In spring and fall we tried to keep them locked up but they were escape artists. They would disappear three days at a time and one or the other would eventually come home beaten to a bloody pulp. They would tag team other males in the neighbourhood but then would turn on each other. Bobik was a climber and it cost him. In 2014 while I was in Canada, he was climbing over a 1.8 meter fence to meet his girl friend. Once too often. He slipped and caught his collar. I still miss him. 

To prevent Volk from getting lonely we adopted a stray red female which we named Kashtanka (little chestnut) and had her neutered. The three of us went on many walks. I had to keep her on a leash as she chased people on bicycles. Kashtanka died in February 2020 from a tick borne blood parasite Which is particular to Europe. The winter was so warm  that the ticks never died off.  We had no idea. By the time we realized how sick she was it was too late. We have since been treating our dogs for ticks every month. Volk sat by the gate and cried for a month after she died. Today I let Lucky see and sniff Volk's body so he would know that Volk was gone and not go looking for him or cry waiting for him to come back.

A couple months after we lost Kashtanka, Volk was diagnosed with heart-worm. So we treated him for that all summer and he recovered totally. Like I said, he is one tough bird. He was getting cataracts but could still spot a cat crossing the road at 100 meters. We think he was getting deaf but he always listened like a two-year old kid so it was hard to tell. 

Lucky, about 1 year
Lucky joined us in October 2019 as a starving 6 week old puppy in very poor health. We nursed him back to health and after Kashtanka died we put him in the dog yard with Volk. Lucky wanted to play and Volk was old and cranky. They got on fine. I would walk them five km per day five days a week. Tanya would feed them and play with Lucky to make sure he ate as Volk would try to keep Lucky away from both food dishes. Lucky loves to play with toys. He will come when he is called (Volk NEVER did) and will sit when Tanya tells him to. She feeds him, he obeys her. Me too.

Volk would occasionally tune Lucky in, even though Lucky was twice his size. And Lucky would not eat unless Tanya was there to keep Volk away. Then Lucky got jealous of Volk and would attack him savagely. Volk never backed down and every fight looked like one for the ages but...they NEVER drew blood. No serious biting, just serious sounds. Regardless, it was still not something we encouraged, I can tell you.

Tanya made winter coats for the dogs out of people vests. Much cheaper than buying doggy coats in the pets stores. We took them off on warm days and put them on when the nights were below freezing. They had a dog house, inside a room in our outbuilding but she worried. And we were never sure if Volk let Lucky sleep in the doghouse. So when the weather got really cold last week, we brought Lucky into the back porch. A few days later was when we brought Volk inside and when his heart gave out. The three of us had our last 4 km walk together about a week ago. I did not ever think it would be our last. 

Goodbye my friend and companion. I hope you meet up with Bobik and Kashtanka in Heaven where all good dogs go. and may there be lots of cats and chickens to chase but never catch.

Bobik and Volk at 5 months

Bobik about 3 or 4 years

Lucky and Volk this past summer

Friday, January 8, 2021

Just a low level subordinate who brought us coffee.

 Some things strike me funny. Actually most things but I shouldn't admit that. 

After Wednesday's Bay of  Pigs, people are resigning and running as fast as they can. The rats are leaving the ship they helped to sink. "Trump? I hardly knew him. I think I met him once. Just a low level subordinate who brought us coffee sometimes".

And people like Cruz and Hawley and of course, Trump, saying, "We had nothing to do with the invasion of the US Capitol Building". 

Yeah, right. It reminds me of a story. Actually everything reminds me of a story but anyhow...yes, I've told it before. I can do that. I am old.

Business was so good in Madame Lucretia's Bordello that she decided to build on and double it in size and uh, seating capacity. Construction was proceeding rapidly and the Church across the street was mortified. They prayed long, loudly, and publicly that God would prevent the construction and indeed destroy the building.

Wouldn't you know it, during a hot summer's night, lightning struck the Bordello and burned the place to the ground. Madame Lucretia sued the Church for destroying her business. The congregation defended itself by saying that in no way were they responsible. 

The judge found himself in an awkward position. As he said, "On one hand we have the owner of a brothel fervently believing in the power of prayer and on the other hand we have a Church claiming it is all bullshit".