Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Spirit Bear Story Part Three

The Spirit Bear Story Part Three
Since falling into a bears den on New Years Day 2009, a slew of events began to transpire. Two weeks later Steph went out to the den, with an old Sony video camera a local friend Anne from Poland leant us to help get some footage of the hibernating bear. It was only then did we realize that the hibernating bear was actually an elusive White Kermode Spirit Bear, we later named Apollo.
Unfortunately the camera only had a two hour battery that required regular changing. That would be OK under normal circumstances, except that when I went to change the batteries this time, I also had to confront a hungry five hundred pound Kermode Spirit Bear. I would always approach his den talking in a soft voice to him as to not surprise him in any way. I quickly started to look for alternative ways to get some photography of the bear without threatening my life at the same time.
We sought some techie help from Terrace, but found the advice was for naught and also costly. Then we asked our friend Jethro for some assistance. Jethro is a multimedia specialist and in no time had us set up with electricity to the den site along with a box of coaxial cable to stream Apollo's behaviors.
From the beginning, Steph and I saw Apollo as a gift to the world. I don't know that anyone ever will find another Spirit Bear den and film the hibernation like we could. We literally have thousands of hours of the best natural research ever on what really goes on in the den. More about this later.
The next thing that happened was spring. All the bears are out and we are busy filming everything that moved on four paws. Steph even made a film while in a neighbors dandelion field called "Parmenters Bears". You can see it on you tube. I was amazed at how comfortable I had become around the furry fellows. Not so comfortable as to ignore the "tells" when a bear with a little attitude would approach me.
What is a "tell" you ask? Well, when you hang around bears enough, and really watch them, you see they have a pattern about how they graze and protect. Head down and munching the grass, then they take three steps while eating. Then they'll look up to see if anyone is interested. Head down again, walk three steps while eating and check again.
Then one day I saw a young bear heading our way. Except after taking three steps while eating his head didn't come up. That's a "tell". He did something out of the ordinary. Out of pattern. He kept walking toward us head down like a little sneaker.
He was approaching us with some cunning, or trying to be sly. So I would call him on it. I'd say out loud: "Hey bear, what do think you're doing"? "Trying to get in close and personal are ya?" The more I talked directly at them, the faster they would find other grassy areas to eat their favorite dandelions in. As I said earlier in the story. Bears don't get out of bed looking for a fight. Only people do.
We worry about him. Because there are hunters in the area that would kill him, just to say they did. Nothing makes me more sick than to see some outdoor film with a guy hanging in a chair hoisted from high in a tree, out of the bears scent, and then murder them as they come along unsuspecting.
That spring Steph and I set up cameras on our 800 ft. driveway to catch the bears eating the multiple berries that grew wild along the road's edge. Not only did we see Apollo, we saw another Kermode that looked like it had a big pot belly. The locals called her Snowball. I would have called her Bigfoot by how large her back flipper like feet were.
Apollo and Snowball and many other black bears were caught berry red handed by our cameras that spring. But the berries don't last long and neither does spring, so we had a chance to catch our breath and catch up on how to better film the bears.
The more we thought about what had happened that summer, the more we saw an opportunity to let the whole world in on seeing our Kermode bear. Our neighbors were encouraging us to carry on, and carry on we did. The next thing we knew we were creating the web site bcspiritbear.
Later that year I found 800 feet of used number 10 electrical cable. An inch thick and heavy. The John Hancock Wildlife Foundation showed up with huge support by lending us cameras and streaming equipment. He's famous for streaming the baby eaglets on Hornby Island. If it wasn't for John, this story would not have happened. Finally, Steph got an old tablet laptop from Jethro that would be used later to stream the bear from his den.
Steph took a huge step up in her technical knowledge of computers and took John and Jethro's every lead and suggestion to make the streaming possible. I took on the job of laying out 600 feet of cable from our house and hooking it up to a solid base wood 2X4 camera stand while it was twenty below zero out. Jethro's outdoor camera housing did a great job of keeping our cameras from the cold and wet.
All of this was actually done in an immense amount of tension and last minute deadlines. Half way through setting up the stream we realized we were close to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. So the push was on to get the feed ready to help make Canada look awesome to the world. The stream was to act as filler. The CBC, Canada's main TV station, would play the stream from Apollo's den in between the winter sports events on the huge TV screens dotted all throughout the greater Vancouver area and across Canada.
I remember getting greeting cards from different students in the United States where the teachers had moved TVs into the classrooms to see the bear Apollo do his hibernation thing. There was a few embarrassing moments when Apollo introduced us to what the benevolent local Conservation Officers called Auto Genital Stimulation. AGS for short.
If you're every wondering how a bear finds the strength to leave a den after four months of no food, and go prowling for some skunk cabbage roots to clean his unused digestive system out with, he uses hormones. One of the most powerful substances known to man. (And bears.) Apparently a male bear will lick his private parts until properly stimulated. This will then activate the hormones that give him the physical strength to go and find food.
I'm sure there was a teacher or two making a mad dash for the TV mute button when they saw that one coming onto the screen. Sorry guys, nature is nature. And nature doesn't come with an instant delete button. Sorry kids, if that gave you an education that would have come later in life.
There were a few times we had some high winds that knocked the camera out of position. The other times Apollo would knock the camera out of kilter when he would just brush by the camera stand going into and out of his den. I would then have to go out and repair the pole the camera was on, directly in front of Apollo. Less than ten feet away from his face.
At the time it seemed awfully exciting. A test of my martial arts disciplines in centering myself. Especially in front of a live five hundred pound hungry bear. To this day I am still amazed that I am alive to tell this story. When I see some of the old footage, I have to implore anyone who thinks that that is OK to do that, not to. Listen to you local Conservation Officers. It's not safe to do that!
One of the really touching filmed moments with Apollo was watching him make a pillow. He would stretch out his great big claws and skreef or rake a bunch of forest material his way from just outside the den. Then he would use his claws to clamp on and remove the larger pieces of twigs and larger sticks, leaving the little branches and leaves behind. These he would rake into his den and make a nice soft pillow for his head.
Eventually the snow melted, the Olympic sports enthusiasts went their way, and Apollo left the den. That was when CBC came for their interviews of us, and see some up close and personal pictures of Apollo's den. Then we viewed some of our best archived moments we had saved of Apollo's antics. It's been almost three years now since that experience and I'm pleased to say that a local fellow of good repute named Morgen saw Apollo just a couple of weeks ago, as of May 2014.
Thanks for reading. Harreson Waymen
Harreson Waymen is a certified holistic Hellerwork health care practitioner, with over thirty years of physio-psycho therapeutic experience. Presently he works with his wife Stephanie developing web sites like natural hearing aids for hearing loss, nutritional articles, and the spirit bear, Apollo.
His background started with a degree in psychology from L'ecole Montreal, Quebec. Then finished with many different degrees and certificates in the health care field in Victoria, B.C. Canada. Such as N.L.P., Under The Code Therapy, Voice Dialogue Therapy, Thomas Hanna Somatics, Reiki Master, Hellerwork and Shamanic Healing.

By Harreson R Waymen

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