"Where can I see the bears?" This question greets the office of the Park Naturalist more frequently than almost any other. Seemingly there is a peculiar fascination about these particular citizens of the Park, lacking in other denizens of the forest, less widely known, yet fully as interesting, both in habits and characteristics.
The frequency of the inquiry may be explained in part by the fact that whereas much of the wild life usually remains under cover as much as possible, the bears are less fearful. From six-thirty until nine every evening from one to six, or even more, bears usually visit the refuse and garbage pit, located beyond the Paradise auto camp. There are black bears, although they are not all black in color. In fact, many are likely to be brown. A mother bear with a blonde cub and a brunette is not an infrequent sight, thus proving that the color of the animal is but a variation, rather than an indication of the variety.
It is not safe to approach the Park bears too familiarly, even though some which may be seen roaming about the slope during the daylight hours are fearless enough to eat from the hand. It is well to remember that these are wild animals, and if treated as one handles a pet they may resent it vigorously. One tourist offered empty peanut shells to a bear and was soundly cuffed in the face for his pains. The Park bears are not a nuisance, and if left to their own devices will afford much of harmless interest for the tourist.
Undoubtedly there are many more bears in Mount Rainier National Park than might be supposed, living under cover of the underbrush, and in those sections not usually visited by man. During the early days of December they take to their dens usually below an elevation of 3500 feet, and there hibernate until about the first of April. The dens may be located in hollow logs, or beneath protected rocks, or in caves. In any event, after their long sleep, the bears come forth in the spring quite hungry and ready for whatever food they can find. At such times they are more apt to be thievish than during the summer season when there is an abundance of berries, roots and other food available in the forest.
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