Very close en­counter with a bear

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

OVER the years I have writ­ten about my many friends and con­tacts in the world of nat­u­ral his­tory, in­clud­ing writ­ers, re­searchers, re­serve war­dens, eco-tour guides, painters and pho­tog­ra­phers. Oh, and Sir David At­ten­bor­ough – sorry for the name­drop­ping, but what a lovely man.

The lat­est to hit these pages is pho­tog­ra­pher and tour leader Jari Pel­tomaki, director of Fin­na­ture in Fin­land, and his web­site at fin­na­ture. com is – to use an overused ad­jec­tive – awe­some.

One browse and I guar­an­tee you’ll stick it on your favourites.

He sent me some pic­tures this week which I felt hon­our-bound to share with you – es­pe­cially the brown bear shot seen here – which is enough to make you want to bin your cam­era gear. I’m not nor­mally into ‘cute’ when it comes to an­i­mal pho­tog­ra­phy, but read­ers can have a field-day in­vent­ing cap­tions for this one.

Best com­ment wins a work­shop and three­course lunch for two at the Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery.

Just email your best ef­forts to me – see de­tails at the end of this ar­ti­cle.

The brown bear (Ur­sus arc­tos) is the na­tional an­i­mal of Fin­land and the pop­u­la­tion is es­ti­mated at around 1,000 in­di­vid­u­als, but de­spite this low fig­ure it is still hunted.

With­out re­in­force­ments from be­hind the Rus­sian bor­der, Fin­nish bears would long since have been hunted to ex­tinc­tion.

Martin­selko­nen na­ture re­serve is si­t­u­ated in the Suo­mus­salmi mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the vicin­ity of the Rus­sian bor­der, and bears have been fed here for 10 years now, and on the best nights 15 to 20 different in­di­vid­ual bears have vis­ited the car­casses.

I have been to Fin­nish La­p­land my­self and, as usual, de­cided to wan­der off into the trees by my­self; I love that feel­ing of ex­pec­ta­tion, the sound of snow crack­ling un­der­foot, the rat-a-tat-tat of a wood­pecker, then si­lence, and then what?

Well, you just never know what will turn up, fly past or star­tle you, and you in­vari­ably see some­thing other than what you set out for, which proved true on this par­tic­u­lar ad­ven­ture.

I had been pointed in the di­rec­tion of a roost­ing and se­ri­ously moon-faced great grey owl, and al­though I was sure I heard his gruff and pri­mate-like call in the dis­tance, and in­deed had tried to call him by im­per­son­at­ing the sound, did not catch a glimpse of the bird.

At this stage I was com­pletely out of sight of any hu­man, hide, tele­graph pole or ve­hi­cle, and if you spun me around, it would only have been the sun which told me which way was back.

Af­ter another five min­utes I came upon a small boggy lake, which did not look deep, but as I de­lib­er­ated the de­ci­sion was made for me.

On the far side of the wa­ter, a sin­gle brown bear stopped in his tracks and looked at me, our eyes met for a cou­ple of sec­onds, be­fore he set off again, un­per­turbed.

‘Good lad,’ I whis­pered to the bear, and ‘Get in, Woody,’ to my­self.

For a chance of win­ning a work­shop and three-course lunch for two at the Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, sim­ply email your photo cap­tion for the pic­ture above to sean.wood@talk21. com.

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

●» A brown bear, snapped by Jari Pel­tomaki, director of Fin­na­ture in Fin­land

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