|Betty enjoying a cool bath|
Some bears require their own transportation and don't like to share accommodations or trailers. Ursula and the black bear we know as Barney prefer their own company while Betty and Whoopper like each others company but do need their own separate beds and cages. Each bed has been stuffed with fresh, dry wheat straw that the bears spread with giant paws to their own specifications and comfort.
|Zeke enjoying a walk and good scratch|
Along with the bears we are accompanied by four skunks, two porcupines, two American Bulldog pulling champions and a superior acting snooty black cat.
We are moving from Discovery Wildlife Park at Innisfail, Alberta to the Papanack Zoo at Wendover, Ontario, about an hour south east of Ottawa. Papanack Zoo has been recently purchased by new people who vow to improve conditions for their animals. Their animals are very well fed and look to be in great shape. It is not perfect but with hard work from dedicated, caring staff improvements will happen.
|Whooper loading his trailer|
Ruth LaBarge is Mother Bear to this family of stars. She has raised and trained them from before their eyes were open. Ruth has been training animals for more than 40 years. She is gentle and very caring while using positive reinforcement and treats to extract bear's true desire to do good work. Ruth trains other animals as well. She has had cougars, horses, dogs, porcupines and skunks as well as other bears that have passed on. Her kids were raised around animals of all types and their Sunday outings often included hunting for baby skunks in old dumps or searching for baby porcupines. They raised, trained and showed horses for many years and travelled the USA and Canada doing shows or movies.
Ruth told me about chasing a skunk one time in hopes of capturing it. "I had a system," she explained, "but someone forgot to tell the skunk." She grabbed the skunk as it was running away and it "shot me a full load, right in the face. I had to ride home in the back of the truck, Tomato juice did nothing and there were no commercial solutions to de-skunk me. I finally washed myself in gasoline and it took several days before I didn't stink too bad."
|Ruth and Skunk entering Ontario|
Whoopper is the largest bear standing eight feet tall and weighs about 1400 pounds. He is a dedicated and versatile actor with many movies and commercials to his credit. Anchorman, Last Trapper, Grizzly Falls as well as Samsung Washing Machine, American Express and many more commercials.
Betty is Whooper's sister born in 1998 and she stands about six feet six inches weighing about 850 pounds. She also has many movies and commercials to her credit such as Anchorman, Grizzly Falls, Dr. Doolittle and Budlight, Pepsi and Rice Krispies.
Ursula is the oldest bear born in 1993. She stands about seven feet tall and weighs about 1000 pounds. True Heart, Vikings, Ethan Allan Furniture, Twinkies and many more commercials are amongst her many credits.
|Ursula enjoying final rest under her favourite tree|
Bonkers is the gentle Black Bear standing about six feet and weighing around 650 pounds. He starred in Jungle Book, Gentle Ben, Brokeback Mountain and General Hospital.
|Bonkers being bribed|
Each of the professional bears has many talents including snarling, teeth showing, standing on marks, throwing things, some can be ridden, some can be hugged or sat beside.
We loaded onto our trailers with the setting sun on March 31. Early next morning we headed east into an Albertan big sky sunrise. By the end of the day we had travelled more than 1000 kilometres to Moosomin, Saskatchewan. After feeding and watering everyone settled down for a fast sleep. The following day we travelled through water logged Manitoba where large snowdrifts were still piled into shelter belts and along the shady side of buildings. Some silt-laden rivers are roaring bank full north toward Hudson Bay.
After another long day travelling more than one thousand kilometres we pulled into one of Ruth's friends riding stable at Thunder Bay, Ontario. All critters were fed and watered and bedded down. A fine kitchen racket accompanied great food and some drinks. Every bed and couch was filled by sleeping drivers and navigators. In the morning a few good friends showed up to have photos taken with some of the menagerie. We toured the stable and admired many spectacular show horses. It was late morning before we headed toward Cochrane, Ontario. The fourth day we finally ended up at the Papanack Zoo after supper. After travelling more than 3500 kms. everyone was happy to reach their destination. It is a big and diverse country that we drove through; Rolling and flat prairies, Canadian Shield and forests interspersed by rivers, lakes and potholes as well as small towns, cities and diverse peoples.
|Bobble head bear enjoying Canadian scenery|
The bears were very happy to get out of their mobile homes to roll in a mud puddle and explore their new digs. They don't seem to mind where they are at as long as Momma Grizz is nearby.