Bear-faced cheek

16 April 2010 | This 'n' that

Hello? A bear cub at the Predator Centre in Kuusamo. Photo: Pasi Jäntti

Spring is here at long last, and the bears have woken up: this frightening beast has got out of the lair in Kuusamo, at the Predator Centre in north-eastern Finland (800 kilometres from Helsinki).

Some of our readers may remember Niisku, the brown bear portrayed in the print version of Books from Finland, issues 4/2006 and 1/2007 – very sleepy, contemplating hibernation.

There are probably about a thousand bears in Finland, and they usually hit the hay (aka the spruce branches in their lair) in November. Tiny bear cubs are born in late January or early February. The family will emerge from the lair when the snow melts. Niisku gave birth to two babies in the spring of 2007.

The Predator Centre in Kuusamo is a private orphanage for wild bears, lynxes and wolverines which have been brought there after being injured and/or orphaned.

Morning, pal. Sulo Karjalainen and Juuso in the Predator Centre, Kuusamo. Photo: Pasi Jäntti

Specimens of Ursus arctos has become a lifelong friends of Sulo Karjalainen (in the photo, right, with Juuso, c. 400 kilos) In summer he may go for forest walks and even fishing with Vyöti, 16, who was brought to the Centre as a small orphan.

The brown bear plays an important role in Finnish mythology, and often features in folk poetry. We are fans! But we never go into the woods alone when mother bear takes her babies out for a walk. Or, if we do, we keep making noises so that the bear family will know to avoid us. After all, if they can choose, they prefer carrots to humans (see the video on the photo page of the Centre video entitled ‘Porkkanat ja karhut’ [‘Carrots and bears’]).

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