Maine Black Bears | Yankee Classic
It takes more than three hours to sedate Rudolphene. Because she has lost a lot of weight, and because her cubs give Hugie his first chance to study a generation of bears, he decides he will haul a deer carcass or two to her den in the spring. When he returns to camp, he paces the floor. If he had placed the cubs in the wrong position, Rudolphene in her stupor could suffocate them. When he first began his bear studies in the spring of 1975 three of his first nine bears died of a drug overdose. He pulled in his traps. He found another drug. Since then he has not had even a close call with a research-caused injury, but he frets nevertheless. It is dark when he decides to return to the den. He grasps a flashlight because the snowmobile is still without lights. He returns two hours later. His face is ribboned with scratches from branches snapping in the dark, and a welt swells on his forehead. He does not speak as he moves around the room, and his companions fear the worst. Hugie sighs. Then his face creases into a smile. He has enjoyed his joke. “They’re fine,” he says.The “big Honcho” bear around Spectacle Pond is a five-year-old male named Bart, trapped on Bartlett Mountain. Hugie is certain he is the father of the cubs. Bart is in his second den of the winter, having left his first after Hugie worked him over.
Hugie’s wife, Jan, and another woman accompany him. Jan still suffers from feet frostbitten a few weeks earlier when she stood for hours waiting with Roy for a bear to leave the den. When he approaches the old den the pulsing in his earphones is insistent. Bart did not move far. Suddenly Hugie’s face changes expression. The pulsing grows dimmer. Bart, on his guard, has heard them. He has left again.
Few people see bear prints in deep snow. These prints begin only 30 yards from where Hugie was standing. The inside of the den is unusually well groomed for a male, lined with evergreen boughs. Hugie is concerned with what he hears in his earphones. The pulsing is irregular. He holds the antenna in front of him chest-high and turns slowly in a circle.
“We should leave,” he says calmly. “Bart is circling.” It is a bad time to encounter Bart, displaced for the second time, lean and bad-tempered. They leave the woods with Bart still circling. They are Bart’s woods again. Roy Hugie would want it no other way.