Nation Needs A Panda Moment

From mass shootings to debates about mask mandates there has been little to truly smile about in the headlines. But then I read something that did that very thing for me. The smile simply needs to be shared.

President Richard Nixon will always be remembered for the opening to China, an enormous international relations success that truly changed the world. One of the offshoots of that policy move was when First Lady Pat Nixon made what she surely thought was a light-hearted conversation.

She was sitting beside Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai at a banquet in Beijing. As dinner began, she noticed at her place a small tin of Chinese cigarettes bearing the logo of two giant pandas.

“Aren’t they cute?” she said as she picked up the tin. “I love them.”

Zhou replied: “I’ll give you some.”

“Cigarettes?” she asked.

“No,” Zhou said. “Pandas.”

Thus began, on Feb. 21, 1972, what would become the 50-year love affair between Washington and the giant panda.

Giant pandas Mei Xiang, left and her cub Xiao Qi Ji eat a fruitsicle cake in celebration of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The “cake” was made from frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots and sugar cane and it lasted about 15 minutes once giant panda mama Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji got hold of it.

The National Zoo’s most famous tenants had an enthusiastic breakfast Saturday in front of adoring crowds as the zoo celebrated 50 years of its iconic panda exchange agreement with the Chinese government.

Xiao Qi Ji’s father Tian Tian largely sat out the morning festivities, munching bamboo in a neighboring enclosure with the sounds of his chomping clearly audible during a statement by Chinese ambassador Qin Gang. The ambassador praised the bears as “a symbol of the friendship” between the nations.

Pandas are almost entirely solitary by nature, and in the wild Tian Tian would probably never even meet his child. He received a similar cake for lunch.

With the absolutely dreadful news coming from Ukraine due to Russian aggression and savagery there must be moments of uplift and tranquility. The amazing and beautiful panda bears have supplied not only diplomatic purposes but also smiles at the times we need them most.

Like now.

And so it goes.

Great News For Grizzly Bears And Ethically-Minded People

With all the news that blew up last week over the Supreme Court nominee it allowed for less time to take note of items which truly need to applauded.

Such as this one.

A Montana federal judge returned Yellowstone-area grizzly bears to Endangered Species Act protection Monday, permanently blocking hunting seasons in two states.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ruled to reverse a United States Fish and Wildlife Service decision to remove the protections and canceled the first grizzly bear hunt in the continental United States since 1991.

That is simply the best news possible about this whole sad episode.

I read and heard that there was such outrage over the proposed hunt that grizzly enthusiasts applied for the tags in places like Wyoming to help protect the bears.  One of the tags was obtained by a wildlife photographer who stated the only thing he was going to shoot of the bear would come from the lens of his camera.

Grizzly bear numbers in and around Yellowstone have improved since the animals were protected in 1975. But they are still threatened by isolation from other grizzly populations, loss of key food sources, and human-caused moralities.

It would have been monstrous if the proposed trophy hunting would have been allowed to proceed.  Overall grizzly bears occupy less than 4 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states.

Hunters never care about such facts.  They only like to shed blood of innocent animals.

Well, not this time Bubba.



Margaret Thatcher And The Panda Bear

There is so much to enjoy in Britain’s National Archives!

Mrs. Thatcher reacted to a letter asking to fly a panda in the back of her Concorde in 1981. CreditCrown copyright, via National Archives UK

I’m not taking a panda with me,” Mrs. Thatcher scribbled on a memo about the financial struggles of London Zoo. “Pandas and politicians are not happy omens!”

The note came after the president of the zoo, Lord Zuckerman, contacted Mrs. Thatcher through a cabinet minister with a plea for financial help. Lord Zuckerman proposed that Mrs. Thatcher take a panda “in the back of her Concorde” on her first visit with President Ronald Reagan.

The trip would have been a chance for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington to borrow London’s male panda to mate with its female panda. But Mrs. Thatcher was having none of it.

Grizzly Bears Under Attack From Trump Administration

I have never had a pet, other than the goldfish I won as a kid at the Waushara County Fair.  But I have a caring spot for animals large and small.  There is no other animal, however, I truly love more than the bear populations–with the grizzlies at the top of that list.  So the news over the past weeks of the Trump Administration targeting these grand animals has been very concerning to me.

Today the Center for Biological Diversity delivered more than 55,000 postcards from across the country today urging the Trump administration not to remove Endangered Species Act protections from Yellowstone’s grizzly bears.

The Center had originally planned to deliver the postcards to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but the Department of the Interior refused to accept them or communicate with the Center’s organizers. So instead today they were delivered to the headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Grizzly bear numbers in and around Yellowstone have improved since the animals were protected in 1975. But they are still threatened by isolation from other grizzly populations, loss of key food sources, human-caused mortalities and, of most concern, proposed trophy hunting by the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming if protections are removed. Overall grizzly bears occupy less than 4 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states.

In addition the revolting news that congress voted to allow trapping, baiting, and aerial shooting of wildlife such as grizzly bears on Alaska’s refuges is simply numbing.  How lost, soulless, and filled with bile must one be to kill a grizzly at any time–let alone from a plane?

This nation is in a most sorry place.

Hungry Bears Circle Russian Town, Locals Not Amused

I think this would be a sight to see, but then that is just me.

I love bears, and while many across Wisconsin and elsewhere have seen a bear rather up close in the wild I have not. Lord knows I have tried.   On my trek to Alaska I only was only able to see one at a great distance, and that did not count.  It was too far away to share the sugar cubes I had placed in my pocket for such a sighting.   (James would say at this moment “If only Gregory was kidding!”)

Anyway, I think the fear of bears is over-played.  They do need to be respected for the power and purpose they have when protecting their young and when hungry.  But they also want to be wary of us as most of us want to be with them.

So it was with great interest I read today about a Russian town that seems paralyzed with fear about many bears that have come in search of food.

Dozens of hungry bears have besieged a small town in Russia’s far east, roaming the streets and attacking residents.

In the past month, more than 30 bears have entered inhabited areas in Russia’s Primorsky region, located between China, North Korea and the Sea of Japan. Local authorities have had to shoot at least two animals.

Luchegorsk, a town of 21,000 on the river Kontrovod near the Chinese border, has been particularly affected. Two large bears – a brown bear and a Himalayan bear – are now “ruling over” Luchegorsk, wandering the streets and scaring local people, the Primorskaya newspaper reported. Asian black bears have also been seen, and a further three dozen bears are circling the town, according to other reports.

Local people say they are afraid to leave their homes and that the streets are filled with the sounds of sirens and loudspeakers telling citizens not to go outside for their own safety, VladNews reported. In one case, bears reportedly ransacked bee hives kept by locals. Kindergartens have kept children inside.


Bear Hunters In Maine Have Underwear Bunched Over Ballot Measure

There are many ballot measures that various states will consider when voters head to the polls next week for the mid-term elections.  Among the ones I am watching, and perhaps the top one on my list, concerns bear hunting in Maine.

I have always had a deep love of bears and find the way they are hunted in places like Maine to be simply nauseating.

In Maine, a bear hunter where the most permissive rules exist in any of the 32 states where these beautiful animals are allowed to be hunted, can use bait and dogs long with traps to do their dirty deed.  I am not sure what moral compass guides these types of hunters but I am glad I do not need to take their conscience with me when I close my eyes at night.

If you want to be upset over the morals of this type of killing consider that using bait for a bear, that is often on the prowl for food, consists of using typically sugary human food such as doughnuts.   Where is the internal guidance system that says it is OK to lure a bear with something delicious so an animal can be slaughtered?   How is this fun?  More importantly how is this legal?

With some hard work over the past months it is hoped that voters in Maine will ban all of these methods of killing bear.  There is simply no sport–if you wish to use that term–by using these methods when hunting bears.   While the path to victory is uphill as this is after all one of those issues where gun owners and hunters will throw all sorts of money to defeat it–while decrying needing to pay more for schools–we will watch to see what the final numbers are to gauge how to undertake similar measures in other states.

And make no mistake about it–that is what makes hunting groups sweat.

Who Does Not Love A Polar Bear Story?

I do love my polar bears.  Black and brown bears, too.   So when I read this story there was no doubt it had to be posted.

In an ultra ‘Only in Canada’ story, outside trick-or-treating has been banned in a Nunavut town for fear of polar bears, yes, polar bears.

According to the Nunatsiaq News agency, children in Arviat will be trick-or-treating indoors this year to avoid the possibility of running into polar bears on their town’s streets.

The local news source explains that the small town has grown a reputation as the polar bear capital of Nunavut. A point that is particularly true in October, when bears begin to make their fall migration North.

Even this summer, according to Nunatsiaq News, the small town had to issue a rare July warning after polar bears were spotted eating at the local dump and wandering through the community of about 2,300 residents.

First Teddy Bear Goes On Sale 111 Years Ago Today, Feb. 15, 1903


A grouping of Teddy bears at our home, including one with spectacles, a book, and a nightlight.  The large bear wears my Dad’s hat. The fire marshal is seated on the far left, being camera shy.


Toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom placed two stuffed bears in his shop window on February 15, 1903, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy.  The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution.

It is rather ironic that the inspiration of the Teddy bear came as a result of Theodore Roosevelt given his hunting expeditions that might be better termed pure slaughters. Legend has it that TR came upon an old injured black bear that his guides had tied to a tree.   Why it was tied to a tree is just horrible in and of itself.  While some reports claim Roosevelt shot the bear out of pity for his suffering, others insist he set the bear free. Political cartoonists later portrayed the bear as a cub, implying that under the tough, outdoorsy and macho image of Roosevelt lay a much softer, more sensitive interior.