An Interview With The Barnstable Bear [Nor'easter Blues]

He prefers to be called DaQu'an.......

Perhaps the biggest story this week on Cape Cod concerns the arrival of a black bear to Barnstable. We don't know if he swam over the Canal, walked across the bridge (unlikely, as one of the bridges- the Sagamore one, which is closer to 6A- had 24/7 work crews), or maybe jumped into the trash train after a treat. It doesn't matter, because he's here now.

"My name is DaQu'an. My mother was sort of a militant black bear. My siblings and I all have Afrocentric names."We haven't had bears on Cape Cod in many, many years, and this one has gained a sort of quasi-celebrity. There's only one of him, sort of like the last surviving Beatle (apologies to the drummer guy, but he's not technically alive, musically). Therefore, his presence here is the lead story on the news every morning.

The Barnstable Bear is actually the Barnstable County Bear now, as he has left Barnstable town and headed through Yarmouth. Reports this morning have him in Brewster as he continues his drang nach osten (German for "thrust to the east").

Black Bears (Ursus Americanus) are the most common bear in America. They are omnivores, meaning that they eat both meat and vegetation. They can stand up to 6 foot 9 inches tall, and the heavy ones can easily top 550 pounds. They are smaller and less aggressive than the brown bear, but that really won't matter too much if he decides he wants a You sandwich.

Black Bears are nocturnal, although the younger ones will venture out in the daytime. They mark their territory by rubbing themselves on trees and clawing at the bark. Black bears are known hibernators, and their lazy period usually runs from late October/early November through February or March (3-5 months).

Their diet includes 85% vegetation, mostly berries, fruits, grasses and nuts. Their animal diet generally involves bees and ant larvae (beekeepers are straight HATING on the Barnstable Bear). They can indeed hunt and kill adult deer (generally via ambush), although it is said to be rare.

Some more black bear facts include them being superb swimmers, able to cross the Mississippi and easily able to surpass the Canal. The Algonquin name for them is makwa. In France or Quebec, they are known as "baribal." There are 400-500,000 black bears in the USA.

They try to avoid humans, and if confronted, will usually limit themselves to mock charges and roaring. Between 1900 and 1980, there were 23 humans killed by black bears. If you are attacked, it is usually hunger causing it. Unlike the more territorial grizzly (who experts say you should play dead for), your chances of surviving a black bear attack are greatly increased if you fight back.

Smokey Bear is a black bear, and make sure you don't pitch any cigarettes out the car window in Barnstable this week. Gentle Ben was a black bear, for all you old people. Br'er Bear was also a black bear, as nearly as I can tell. While famous fictional bears like Winnie The Pooh and Fozzie Bear are generally brown or yellow, they are based on black bears.

Yogi Bear, while black bear-sized, lives in Jellystone Park, which I assume is in Grizzly country. Yogi is human sized when he walks on two feet, a characteristic of black bears. Black bears are also the only ones who favor Yogi's particular style of hat. Cape Cod frequent visitor Dan Aykroyd voiced Yogi in the 2010 feature film.

The Teddy Bear was named after President Roosevelt, who intervened to prevent a fellow hunter from killing a black bear. The bear had cubs, and Teddy knew it wasn't right to kill her. The story went worldwide, and someone smarter than you or I invented the Teddy Bear to capitalize on it.

While not native to Massachusetts and especially eastern Massachusetts, black bears have been making frequent appearances in areas formerly un-beared. A juvenile black bear who most likely wandered down from New Hampshire has been in the news for a few years now, showing up in Wareham, Plymouth and various spots in Britstol County. His appearance in the Cedarville section of Plymouth should have told all but the most ignorant that it was only a matter of time before he crossed the Canal somehow.

Anywho... now Cape Cod has a bear of our very own. Of course, we knew we had to hunt, find, and interview this bear.

The key to finding bears is to think like a bear. Of course, I'm a sportswriter, so my only nomme de guerre, as I think it increases my Q rating. I may be the most well-known creature on Cape Cod, now that Ted has passed.

S: The things you learn in the forest... How did you come to Cape Cod?

D: I actually came over last winter. I was ranging from Wareham to Plymouth for a spell after I left the den up in New Hamster, but Wareham was a little dangerous for me, so I swam across the Canal (black bears are ridiculously good swimmers, and swim for both hunting and recreation) and cut through the military base.

S: Did you hibernate here?

D: Just because I had come this far, I roamed down to Hyannis Port and forced my way into one of the guest houses on the Kennedy Compound. It was a fairly warm winter, so I didn't bother hibernatiing.

S: No one noticed you at the Compound?

D: One of the maids kept calling me "Governor Schwarzenegger," and she seemed so earnest that I didn't have the heart to tell her, let alone kill and eat her.

S: Do you eat a lot of humans?

D: I try not to. You people don't really have a lot of meat on you, and marrow isn't really the tastiest snack. I did get desperate a few times, and devoured a few transients.... All bears love a little "homeless" cooking, ho ho ho.

I do prefer dark meat, so most of your readers (Barnstable is 92% white, Barnstable County even more so) should be safe.

S: Do you intend to live here permanently?

D:  I actually tried to go off-Cape to see my Momma Bear on Mother's Day, but I saw all that traffic on the Sagamore Bridge and said, "Funk that."

Excuse my profanity, but I was quoting myself directly.

S: Since you can kill me with an offhand paw swipe, I'll let that one slide. How are you enjoying Cape Cod so far?

D: It's a bit slow in the winter, but things are looking up now. I'm psyched for Bear Week in Provincetown.

S: Do you plan to fight the Great White Shark in Chatham?

D: Oh, hell yeah. There's only room for one apex predator on Cape Cod, and I need those pic-a-nic baskets. All the cool sharks are in San Francisco anyhow. I'd beat his monkey ass.

S: What plans do you have for your Cape Cod summer?

D: I have to do the Barnstable County Fair, and I plan to bum-rush the Buzzards Bay Scallop Festival at the end of the summer. From there, I'll go to Carver and fatten up on cranberries before the Long Winter's Nap.

S: Do you resent Yogi Bear's fame?

D: As far as that goes, I'm an I Don't Care Bear. I'll whip his ass, too.

S: Sounds like you have a busy summer planned. I hope you enjoy your time here.

D: Than you, Stacey... I'll try to pop by and visit you in Duxbury on my way back to the mainland.

CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.