Our World Bear necessities of life

Photo of Mogens Johansen

MOGENS JOHANSEN captures the joy of Grinder the grizzly, who is thriving in captivity.

How much fun can a grizzly bear? A lot as it turns out. I’m at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, Canada, on a beautiful spring morning and I’m watching Grinder the grizzly bear enjoying himself.

He and his mate Coola have just come out of their winter hibernation and clearly enjoy being out and about again. Coola seems most interested in searching for food but Grinder is in the mood for fun. First, he sticks his nose into the snow and then playfully rolls around in it — he rolls on to his back and sticks his legs into the air while wriggling around in the snow, he is clearly loving it.

My wife and I and a small group of other tourists are thrilled to witness this moment of unbridled joy from the giant bear less than 100m from us. I snap away with my camera — luckily, I have a telephoto zoom so I can get nice and close. I feel lucky and privileged to witness the moment and thrilled to have captured it with my camera.

It is the second day of our Canadian holiday. We spent the first day exploring Vancouver and we are drawn to the snow-covered peak across the water from our harbourfront hotel.

We decide to take advantage of the good weather and head up to Grouse Mountain in the Skyride gondola to see the snow and enjoy views of Vancouver from the 1231m peak.

We did see, when we purchased the tickets, we’d be able to see grizzly bears up there as well but didn’t hold great hopes for something special, the opposite in fact.

We feared a sad sight of bears in a small enclosure so were delighted when we found out that the two bears had a big 2ha natural enclosure where they could roam freely and do bear things.

The bears have been at their Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife for 18 years. Both were orphaned and found in different parts of Canada in 2001 — Coola was found on the side of a highway in Bella Coola after his mother was hit by a truck and Grinder was walking alone on a logging road near Invermere.

During the winter months they hibernate inside a specially designed den. Researchers and carers monitor their behaviour, health and weight before, during and after hibernation.

During the summer months the mountain operators expand the ski terrain into a big enclosure for the bears to roam around and exercise.

Grinder and Coola are in excellent health and are expected to exceed the average lifespan of a wild grizzly bear, proving that when you give them more than the “bear” necessities of life, like free dental and health care, they can thrive in captivity.

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