Toree’s Stories: A look back at the Rainbow Bridge rescue
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a three-part series of Toree’s Stories that discusses living with the black bear population at Lake Tahoe. Read part one here.
We all get the emails of the fabulous stories, happy stories with a moral at the end. I actually love those emails and read every one. A few months ago I got the email titled, “The Bear, the Bridge, and God.” How could I resist?
It was a fabulous tale, complete with amazing pictures of the rescue of a bear that had been trapped on Rainbow Bridge along the old Donner Pass Highway. I have the email and can forward it to anyone who did not receive it. Email me at email@example.com.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I learned the rescue was orchestrated by none other than Lake Tahoe’s BEAR League, with Ann Bryant and other dedicated volunteers literally “pulling” for and ultimately saving the bear.
If you attend the presentation that Ann gives periodically, you will hear this and other amazing stories but here’s what happened:
A bear was walking along the bridge and was spooked over the side by a passing car and landed on the support tresses below the bridge.
It was late in the day and darkness had set so rescuers decided to see if he could get out of the situation on his own but they returned at first light to find the bear asleep on the ledge.
Rescuers strung a giant net below the tress, held in place by people on either side of the bridge. The bear was then tranquilized, pushed into the net and lowered to the ground, a long way down. When he awakened from his “nap,” he wandered off, probably wondering a little bit, “What just happened?!”
This story, of course, is much more involved but to hear all about it, consider attending a presentation given by Ann Bryant and the BEAR League. Story after story will keep you spell-bound and leave you with a love of bears in your heart. Learn more about the BEAR League at savebears.org.
And laughter! One such funny story is the tale of “The Bear Who Got Drunk.” Some years ago, a bear came across an unsecured outdoor liquor cabinet and proceeded to drink three liters of Vodka, completely forgetting about the food he thought he smelled at the residence.
Back into the forest he prepared to stumble but he did not get very far. He ended up falling over a short barrier and passed out where he lay, being found sometime later by a neighbor, who called the BEAR League.
At first it seemed he was dead, being in such an awkward position but upon further investigation (the empty Vodka bottles being a good clue), the consensus was that the bear was drunk.
Ann called upon Minnesota bear expert, Lynn Rogers, to get suggestions on what to do for the bear to better enable him to recover from his certain hangover. The remedy — Gatorade.
Ann spent the next 12 hours with the bear, providing him Gatorade, drop by drop. The bear eventually came to, most likely with a massive headache. He looked at Ann, got to his feet, finally wandering off, shaking his head.
Certainly this bear was thinking, “What just happened?!” and perhaps, “I prefer the Russian labels.”
Ann’s drunken bear story reminds me of the time I took my new husband camping for the first time. He was by no means a city boy, but not as accustomed to being in close proximity to wildlife as I was.
One night, he was awakened by a scratching sound on the side of the tent. In the morning, he told me that a bear had been scratching on the tent, in the area by my feet which contained a 6-pack of wine coolers, the only thing we could think of he might have been after.
My husband described it, “I saw the silhouette on the side of the tent.” And he continued with his eyes all big, “I could see his ears and everything!”
A bear has a one-track mind: Food! And anything that smells like food. A good portion of his day is spent in his quest for food, which often brings him into contact with humans.
Since bears can reason and can learn that certain objects or containers or vehicles mean “FOOD”, they can also be taught to stay out of certain situations.
In part three of this series, we will look at one bear who was determined to make a nuisance of himself in his pursuit of food and we’ll find out how one very determined bear advocate (Ann Bryant) taught him to unlearn his wayward ways and behave. We’ll also take a look at how the BEAR League has evolved in the 16 years since its inception and we’ll talk about ways that interested people can join in the effort to save the Lake Tahoe bear.
See savebears.org or call (530) 525-PAWS (7297) for more information.
Toree Warfield is an avid nature lover, and writes this column to teach and stimulate interest in the marvels that surround us. See save-our-planet-earth.blogspot.com to read columns and to find links to bird song recordings, additional photos and other content.