Low-wire act

BIRD feeders and bears -- it’s a match made in heaven.

In early June, Erik Kalviainen was standing on the backyard deck at his parents’ home in Sudbury in southeastern Ontario, Canada, when he saw a young black bear crawl up a tree and then swing along a rope with all the grace of a drunken monkey. His father, Esko, had strung a bird feeder on the rope to keep it away from non-avian intruders.

“The bear was shimmying along the rope, hanging upside down,” says Kalviainen, who grabbed his camera and started shooting. “It was hanging from its front paws and tried to kick the bird feeder over [with its back paws].”

Kalviainen e-mailed the series of photos to a few friends, who mailed them to a few more friends and soon the photos were making the rounds in cyberspace, bouncing around Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

They eventually made their way to Valerius Geist, professor of environment science at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. “Judging by the relative size and behavior, this little guy is 2 years old,” he says. “The little chaps are extremely good climbers.”

So what snacks did the bear get? Only a few seeds it had knocked out of the feeder and onto the ground. The effort was hardly worth it. The bear had to retrace its steps along the rope and back down the tree. “The bear fell the last 2 feet from exhaustion,” says Erik Kalviainen. “He seemed to be completely worn out after the rope climbing.”


Esko Kalviainen has since changed the angle of the rope to the bird feeder to make it harder to reach. And, since the humiliating incident, the acrobatic bear kept its distance.

“I had not seen the bear all summer until [Oct. 8], when it made an appearance,” he says. “But it was too fat to even climb the tree.”

-- Janet Cromley