Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 01/05/2012

Milk… Sugar… and some butter…

Brown Bear, originally uploaded by

Pretty isn’t she? She even has a pretty name… Fudge; she is, possibly, a Syrian Brown Bear. She is the right size and colour for this Syrian subspecies but as we know, looks can be deceiving and until the DNA test results are back it can’t be 100% confirmed (but all indications are that it is!). You’re wondering, Dear Reader, I can see but are too polite to ask what the rough nodule on her forehead is, aren’t you? It’s a bit like a scab and will fall off at some point – personally I think it makes her look incredibly mysterious, a bit like her “Inner 3rd Eye” has been revealed. Even if I cross her paw with silver, I won’t be letting her read my palm… I know my lifeline would be much shorter than normal.

Syrian Brown Bears are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the group who monitor species levels around the world, and as usual habitat loss and destruction is to blame. It’s always difficult with such large animals when they live in close proximity to human habitation especially when they can be as dangerous as these animals are, though bears will rarely attack unless provoked in some way. There are several areas in Canada where tourists (and non-tourists of course) are able to get incredibly close to Grizzly Bears whilst the animals are busy fishing in streams and rivers for migratory Salmon on their way back from the ocean to spawn. People are blissfully ignored providing they keep a comfortable distance away from the fishing bears, and providing they don’t come between a mother and her cubs. I don’t think I’ll be reaching out any time soon to embrace one however.

Fudge is around 30 years old, quite an age for a bear on the wild, in fact they generally only live 20 or 30 years however, as ever, life expectancy for captive animals is much greater adding another 20 years. Good diet, medical care and wanting for nothing all help play a part, and with nearly all zoos practising enrichment programs to mentally stimulate animals these animals should live a happy and productive life. Importantly, they’re also helping to keep the gene pool of the species going and with co-ordinated captive breeding programs hopefully we won’t see their like die out.


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