Ted - UPDATE October 31, 2023
Thinking of Ted on this first anniversary of his death at the age of 25, I wanted to write a tribute to him but could not think of better words than those his keeper Sharon Herrell recently posted:
"Ted bear January 1997- October 2022
Grief in losing a beloved animal/friend can be different to everyone. We miss Ted and think of him daily. His gentle greeting and huge presence left a void in our lives and to the thousands of people that knew and loved him. He was our teacher, friend, and one of our first ambassador bears. Today, the anniversary of his death, we acknowledge Ted, as a loved member of our bear family, is greatly missed. Ted was special. He will be missed by many. Each of us has his or her favorite memory of Ted. He showed how much he especially loved visits by children by making his welcoming ‘whoots’ as he made his way to the fence to greet them. He taught thousands of people each year the truth about black bears, and with his gentle personality and sweet vocalizations made himself a favorite while changing people’s attitudes about bears."
A volunteer made this nice music video: In Memory of Ted Bear - 1997-2022
I found him to have the warmest heart toward people of any bear I’ve ever known. I remember our first meeting on April 28, 2007 when his friends and owners from Wisconsin introduced him to the enclosure that would be his life-long home. His owners had raised him with love, and Ted showed it. As I approached the fence, he gave his welcoming whoots even though he had never seen me before. I greeted him like a bear, nose to nose, and he extended his tongue as black bears do to express friendship. Neither of us forgot that moment. I know I didn’t. For the rest of his life, when I offered him food, it seemed more important to him that we give each other that greeting.
Later that summer, he met little cub Lucky. Ted wanted to make friends. Lucky was afraid. Ted was persistent, but Lucky preferred the mother and son who provided his bottles day and night. Then the two left for school in September, and Lucky gradually became more receptive of Ted’s advances. On October 3, with a big log between them, Lucky let Ted touch noses with him. From there, they quickly became friends and this little cub was unafraid as they played vigorously with each other. To make things more even, Ted would often lie on his back and have Lucky get on him for some gentle batting back and forth.
One of my favorite pictures of Ted is the close-up showing his gentle eyes and hint of a smile when he was 18. With Ted like he was, I thoroughly trusted him and he me. Sometimes he would open his mouth and gently take my forehead into his mouth for a few moments, often as part of a bear hug.
The picture of me on my hands and knees was a situation a little like that on June 21, 2014. I was lying at the edge of the pond trying to get picture of him in the water from a low angle. He was 17 and I was 75. He saw an opportunity for closeness and came fast toward me. I only had time to turn over and get my hands and knees beneath me so I could breath if he squashed me under his weight. He held me with his head almost lying on my back in an experience that again showed me his warmth. A visitor up on the viewing deck took the picture that is a valued memory for me. Sharon heard what was happening, grabbed a treat Ted saw and ended that time of closeness.
There are so many memories from our 15 years of knowing each other. I never heard the crowds on the viewing deck so loud with enthusiasm as when they were watching Ted and Lucky play. We also liked seeing him enjoy rolling in cedar chips just outside the viewing windows.
I’ll never forget the sad day when I got a call from the Bear Center, crawled into his chalet with him, and found that Ted was paralyzed from the neck down—probably from myelopathy, which is the result of compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots caused by inflammation, arthritis, bone spurs and spinal degeneration due to aging. Ted was 25 years old, which is quite old for a black bear. He lived a loved and loving life that many people will not forget.
Also, more info here: https://bear.org/visit-us/our-bears-and-their-habitat/ted/
Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center