Gathering-of-Bears

McNeil River Sanctuary

McNeil-River

A Gathering of Bears

We have barely finished storing away food and setting up tents among tall meadow plants when a family of brown bears comes ambling down the narrow sand beach that fronts our camp. The bears are walking slowly, without menace, eating as they go. Still, they’re moving ever closer. In the lead is a large female with a beautiful milk chocolate-colored coat that has not yet begun to shed. And trailing her in single file are four tiny cubs. Darker than their mom, the cubs were born in January or February. Only a pound or so at birth, the largest of the four in late July weighs 25 to 30 pounds. The runt of the litter weighs half as much; incredibly small and fragile-looking, he has the cute appeal of a real live teddy bear.