KEYWORDS: bears, bag, nectarines, bit, david, food

Beggar Bears, The

David Berg

—A Grandpa Story! DO 2317 9/86

1. In the days when I was camping out with my parents, we passed through Yosemite National Park in California. Alongside the road as you came into Yosemite were all these bears sitting there on their haunches, sitting up on their rear ends waving their paws in the air!—Holding their hands out just like beggars, for food. You'd stop there & give them old bread crusts or some old food or something you could spare, & feed it to the bears. They'd come right up to you & reach up a paw for it, or you'd put it right in their mouth. So of course I had to get out & do this too. We had a little bag of nectarines. They're kind of a sweet fruit, a cross between a plum & an apricot, & they were getting a little bit soft with spots so we decided we could spare them.

2. So I got out with this paper bag of nectarines. There were maybe about half a dozen of them in there. I started feeding them to this bear that came up to me, a little brown bear. Some of them were much bigger, & he was almost full grown but not as big as some of those huge big monsters. He was as tall as I was when he was standing up on his hind legs. (Techi: How old were you?) Oh‚ I was about as old as David, he's almost a teenager. Are you twelve now? (David: Eleven.) Standing up on his hind legs, I could look him right in the eye—in fact, I did! What happened was I kept holding the bag of nectarines over to the side like this, feeding them to him one at a time, but I wasn't fast enough for him. And because I couldn't get them out of there fast enough, he just suddenly stood up facing me, putting one paw on each shoulder, as I kept holding the bag higher & higher where he couldn't reach it!

3. But then when he stood up & put his paws on my shoulders & looked me right in the eye, I knew the next thing he was going to be trying to do was climb up me to get to the bag of nectarines! When he started reaching out for the bag of nectarines, standing with his left paw on my right shoulder, reaching up with his other paw toward the bag of nectarines, I decided it was time to get rid of them! So I threw them‚ bag & all‚ over to the side & he scampered off after them, tore the bag apart & ate the rest of them. By that time I got back in the car & we took off!

4. A lot of tourists have had bad accidents with the bears because they didn't know how to handle them. The bears would get angry because they didn't give them any more food & bite them. (Techi: Would they kill them?) Well, you could get your fingers bit feeding them like that, the bear didn't know the difference between your fingers & the food you were giving him. I don't know if anybody ever got killed, but a lot of people got hurt by getting bit by the bears, either accidentally, or the bears got mad & bit them because they didn't give them enough. (David: Did they hurry & get in the car afterwards?) Well, this tourist sure did! We decided to get out of there quick with all these beggar bears around. So that's the story of the beggar bear!

5. After that, I noticed they'd put up signs all over the place, "Don't feed the bears!" (Techi: Why not?) Because it's dangerous. (David: Could you throw it out of the window while you were driving along?) Well‚ you could get away with that, but people would be stopping & getting out of the cars & feeding the bears & petting the bears & all that kind of stuff‚ like they were some kind of a pet dog. But these were wild bears, they weren't pet bears! They came out of the woods! So they had so many accidents, people getting bit, they finally had to put up signs & forbid it by law. If you fed the bears you'd get fined. (Techi: What does "fined" mean?) Fined means they charge you money, they give you a citation, write you a ticket so you had to go to court or the courthouse & pay a fine, $5 or $10, something like that, for feeding the bears. (—So Beware of Bears!)