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Goldilocks and the Sleeping Butterball

Updated: Jun 28

The other day while looking for a Christmas tree in the narrow strip of woods between our alfalfa fields, Eden found something she was not expecting.

The woodlot

The little woodlot is a frequent playground for our kids and they know most of its trails and hiding places well. A tree twenty or thirty feet from the clearing had fallen who knows how long ago and then had been cut, leaving a stump perched lopsided atop a large mat of roots and upended earth, leaving underneath it a space big enough for…well, it was a large space.


Eden, spotting the gap and thinking she had found the perfect cubbyhole from which to evade detection during games of hide and seek, scurried down to the stump and crouched down to look inside. What she saw — in a strange twist of the old story — was that someone had been sleeping in the bed she had intended for herself, and he was still there!

What Eden found

Fortunately for Eden, she saw it before attempting to crawl into the den with it, and the bear apparently did not consider the commotion at close quarters outside its winter home as requiring much of its attention.


Also fortunately for Eden, it wasn’t a big bear. Nor a very old bear. And by all appearances, was a very sleepy and docile bear. But it was a bear, nonetheless.


We know this for certain because Eden and the other children came running to me with this wild and unlikely story and asked that I confirm its authenticity — which I promptly did.


Recounting what followed risks the approbation of park rangers everywhere, but with me posted close to the entrance, all five children and then Rebecca and even Nana made there way one at a time down the slope to peak at the bear’s nose and then go back up to the trail.


Because I was posted near the mouth of the den, I was able to watch him for several minutes. He looked up at the light I was shining down on him but never appeared the least agitated. Once he even yawned, as if to punctuate his indifference.

We think that this is the same small bear that I saw several times in September. He’s a small, jolly, fat little fellow who is probably a year and a half old and has been feasting on our neighbour’s corn. He’s about as big as Heidi, our St. Bernard. At the time I named him Butterball.


Butterball coming back down after sitting near the top for half an hour

He might be one of the cubs of the mother bear with twins Rebecca and the kids stumbled across the same time in September of last year.


All of our human inquisitiveness does not, of course, change the fact that Butterball is a wild animal and would have likely let Eden know this if she had gotten just a little further into his living quarters.


It’s exciting and sometimes disconcerting: All the animals of various sizes and descriptions with which we share our environment both knowingly and unknowingly.

Within a couple of miles of our home, we’ve seen dozens of species:


Birds: Quail, Pheasant, Grouse, Bald Eagle, Barn Owl, Trumpeter Swan, Great Blue Heron, Canada Geese (of course), Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, and many varieties of sparrows and songbirds.


Hoofed: Mule Deer, Whitetail Deer, and Moose. Our neighbours have seen elk, although we’ve never gotten a glimpse.


Predators: Black Bear and Coyote. We’ve seen cougar tracks, and have heard that wolf and grizzly have been spotted north of town.


And that’s just the neighbourhood.


As far as I know, Butterball is still in his den under the tree stump and will, I guess, stay there until Spring unless something — hopefully not another little blond girl — disturbs him


As for us, we found a Christmas tree, headed back to our own den, and found that it was just right.




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