Considering how infrequently I get down to see the grizzly bears – relative to all the rest of the animals in the Zoo – they are pretty well-represented among my favourite photos and “Calendar Animals.” When you toss in the polar and panda bears, I am fairly certain that I have more “calendar-worthy” shots of animals in the Ursidae family than any other.
When the babes finally did reappear, they must have sensed that the hammer was about to fall, because they did not come completely out of the den a second time, preferring instead to watch the funny-looking creatures staring back at them for as long as they could. And they almost overstayed their welcomes, because…
Dora was an amazing first-time Mom. Six is quite a large litter for an Arctic wolf and there were times when she looked so impossibly thin I didn’t know how she was going to survive until the cubs weaned. But survive she did, and a good portion of that credit goes to her sister, Auntie Vera.
The best guess anyone has is that the cubs were born on May 10, judging from when Dora was last seen (May 6) and when she reappeared for some food (May 11). And while everyone headed for the clearly dug-out den at the northwest corner of the enclosure –a fence was set up to keep giddy visitors a little farther from the “den” – my first glimpse of the new Mama (pictured here at right) came in an entirely different area of the domain.
Aurora and Nikita first arrived at the Toronto Zoo in the early spring of 2001. They were found as orphans, wandering around together in Polar Bear Provincial Park near James Bay, in Northern Ontario. It is estimated that they were born the previous December and they had recently emerged from their den with their mother to forage, only to have her shot by a hunter.
The first time I ever saw Kenora I don’t recall any special feelings towards it. Well, as I discovered on my next trip to Kenora 33 years later, the problem was that we approached it from the wrong direction: from the east.
I knew at the time (because I was told at the time) that this was a very special thing to witness; a rarity that is considered very fortunate to see among the First Nations people. But I honestly had no concept of how rare it truly was.