Locations: Red Lodge, MT
I love the holidays! Sure it’s hectic, but it’s also a time to enjoy family and friends, eat good food, give gifts and decorate the Christmas tree, but first, I’ve got to get one. Cutting a Christmas tree is one of those time-honored traditions that make the holidays special. I love tromping around in the snow, looking for the perfect spruce or fir. And I don’t have to worry about the bears!
I’m not paranoid about grizzly bears, just cognizant. Where I spend Christmas in the northern Rockies, there is always a threat of a grizzly bear attack when a person wanders in the woods during spring, summer and fall, but in winter, the big beasts hibernate. Ursus arctos horribilis, the latin name for this subspecies of brown bear, is appropriate. The largest grizzly bear on record was killed in Alaska, a goliath measuring 12 ½ feet tall and weighing 1,600 pounds, who ate a couple of humans before being slain by a forest ranger. That big boy was double the average grizzly, but even at 800 pounds, I wouldn’t want to face one down in the forest.
The omnivorous grizzly bear is certainly a powerful top-of-the-food-chain predator. It sprints up to 35 miles per hour and can take down a moose for dinner; however the majority of its diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, the odd rodent, and fish from which it craves the oils and fats needed for its long winter nap.
Interestingly, its common name, “grizzly bear” does not relate to the condition of its prey. It’s named for the tips of its fur, which can appear “grizzled” (gray or white), but I appreciate the double entendre. An aggressive grizzly can be truly horibilis. On my quest for a Christmas tree, I’m glad the local bears are asleep under the snow.