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Gary Shaw: We aren’t the only ones out there berry picking

Walk on the Wild Side
Walk on the Wild Side - SaltWire Network

LABRADOR CITY, N.L.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

CANADA

We folks from Labrador are by virtue of the fact of where we are, and the culture that we are exposed to, and live in, watch the coming and going of the seasons with a bit more attention than many folks from other parts of the country.

We measure the weather, what it means to us, and react with a bit more attention to the consequences than a lot of folks.

Mother Nature sends signals out there that are of critical importance to our creatures great and small. There is no better example of this than the actions of the black bears that live among us.

Many among us this time of year see the season changing from summer to fall with the intensity and consequences that this change represents. We know that it’s that time of year for many of us to hit the hills and the burn overs for the annual fall berry picking efforts.

We do this for a number of reasons. First and foremost, for many of us, it’s an annual tradition that we have been engaged in since we were kids. We get out the door, have a day in the country, many times a social day with family and friends and pick away and gather a bucket or two of the year’s annual berry bounty.

A good day in the country, a good yarn, and the bonus of the berries is easily reason enough to get out there. If for some reason we don’t make it out for this annual harvest, although disappointing, it would not be the end of the world. It would mean the absence of the tasty treats that the berries would bring to our tables, but in the end, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

For our black bears, this time of year, and what they do, it is an action on their part that means literally, life or death. I don’t know what goes on in a bear’s mind. I doubt that they check their calendar of things to do, in their daily planner. What I do know is that they start their annual fall berry picking activities this time of year and are relentless in their pursuit of these sweet treats every waking hour. Their lives depend on it and through Mother Nature’s infinite wisdom; they have for eons of time and evolution, known this reality.

We know that when these bears wake up from their long winter’s hibernation, their fat supply is gone, they have to start over. They have to take in enough food to supply the needs of getting through each day, but just as importantly, they have to start the season long process of piling on as much fat as possible to head into their dens for the upcoming winter’s hibernation.

As they head into the fall season, they somehow know that the pressure is on, and the berries on the land, and how much they gorge themselves with them, will determine a good outcome or not, next spring. Each day closer to hibernation, the pressure to eat as many berries as possible gets greater.

At this parallel, a black bear has to put on a minimum of 30 per cent of their body weight in fat from when they come out of their den in the spring. Any less than this and they won’t wake up next spring. They would not have had enough of their fat reserves to get them through the winter. They will have starved to death in their sleep.

As we find ourselves in the country on the hills or the burn overs, don’t be at all surprised if we encounter a bear, head down and diligently feeding feverishly on the berries.

We are in the berry patch because we want to be, the bear is there because he has to be. Give them their space undisturbed; their lives depend on it. Once again, Mother Nature at work.

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