A close encounter in Finland, the White Spirit Bear
October 18, 2019
Last september I was in Finland in search of the majestic brown bear. Most memorable was a close encounter with a young female who is nicknamed the White Spirit Bear. She is known to frequent this remote area of Finland near the Russian border, where she was born.
The first nights I only catch a brief glimpse of her, a white shadow on the edge of the forest. This little bear is cautious. She has to be, she is so striking and fragile with her white fur. She is beautiful, but there is something sad and lonely about her. She is anxious and always on her guard. Normally bears stay with their mother for 2 years. This bear was rejected by her mother at a young age, because the mother was pregnant again. Now with 1.5 years this bear needs to survive on her own. That and her stunning white coat make her so careful.
Every night I see her carefully checking the swamps. She pauses to take a good look at the surrounding area before emerging from the forest. September is a crucial time for her. She has limited weeks remaining in order to build enough fat reserves critical for surviving hibernation. She needs about 20.000 calories a day, that means that food searching may take about 20 hours a day. It’s crucial she has the peace to forage. She needs to put on weight in the last days before hibernation. These first evenings she is too uncertain to leave her cover. But my last night in Finland she suddenly appears close to my hide.
Again she is careful. She comes out of the forest, climbs a rock and inspects the area. She raises her nose and smells. Is it safe to forage? Are there other bears in the around? Carefully she comes to eat, just in front of my hide. I’m glad she finally has a good meal. An hour later I see her again, this time at the back of my hide. Again she is uncertain and careful. Now she hides behind a bush for a long time before she dares to leave the protection of the forest. Again she smells and then she looks directly at me. Does she smell my presence? She approaches cautiously, looking again in my direction, and then decides that her hunger prevails. Again I see her enjoy a good meal.
My heart goes out to this cautious pretty girl. She is always on her guard, this little bear and takes her time to determine whether she can safely leave the protection of the forest. You would like to reassure and protect this small, woolly bear. I hope she manages to eat enough before her hibernation and I hope that she emerges in Spring as a changed and balanced bear, having become greater in spirit and self-reliance.