WATCH: Spotlight Russia: the first rule of moving bear cubs, you can’t say a word
It’s time for our cubs to abandon the little lair-homes that served as their shelters during the initial months of their existence and go out into the forest. But, since they’re not familiar with humans, not domesticated animals, and can’t be moved in someone’s arms or walked into the woods by leash, the move to the forest is a serious operation.
First the cubs have to be put into a carefully-constructed wooden box with holes to allow air circulation so that in the 10-15 minutes during which they are transported, the cubs can breathe.
The box has to be sturdy, because even at this age the cubs are already strong, with teeth and sharp claws. And of course, it has to be opaque so that the cubs can’t see the world and worry about the goings on outside of their enclosure. Once the box is ready, the cubs must be moved—a process that has to be handled gently, calmly, and at the same time artfully and quickly, with careful attention paid to the act of not disturbing the little bears.
This year I was able to participate in the move, and I must admit that it was no less nerve wrecking than holding a newborn for the first time.
Here are the main rules: You can’t say a word; you have to walk at a brisk pace but you can’t, under any circumstances, shake the box with the highly precious cargo.
Though it was heavy, and the handles dug into my hands, I got an A+—I walked the cracked road without slipping, and didn’t make a peep even when the cubs started grumbling behind my back (a moment difficult to handle without emotion).
And so, we’ve overcame the short but important journey, and we made it to the big leafy shelter.
Here the cubs also have a home to shield them during the night. Here they’ll begin their acquaintance with the forest, acquire all of the skills necessary for living there, learn to gather food, and, in times of danger, climb trees--they’ll grow into large animals.
But in the meantime, in order to pacify these little ones and help them to acclimate to their new place, the cubs are immediately fed.
Oh how many new smells, tastes and neighbors they’re destined to encounter before the forest finally becomes their home again.