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Bear cubs climb a tree close to a residence

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PHOTO: Gert Kallas

Gert Kallas, who lives in the largely uninhabited Maalasti nature preserve in Viljandi County, was doing construction work on his house when he suddenly heard a loud cry – three bear cubs had climbed a nearby tree.

“I had never seen anything like that in my life,” Kallas, who often comes into contact with wild animals as he lives in the middle of a forest on the banks of the Navesti river, admitted.

The noises initially reminded Kallas of a raccoon dog's bark or a billy goat's bleating. When the racket didn't stop, he decided to walk down to the river to investigate and discovered three bear cubs climbing a tree.

While the animals did not fear Kallas, he decided to retreat hastily. “I did not know whether mama bear was around. I am of course aware that finding yourself between her and her cubs is like to have tragic consequences,” Kallas said.

Keeping an eye on the cubs from a safe distance, Kallas soon realized the animals' mother was not around. He then took his phone, walked down to the river, and snapped a few shots of the bears.

When evening fell, Kallas started to suspect something had happened to the cubs' mother and wonder whether he should report the young bears after a few days' wait. Then he heard what sounded like a very loud throat sound from the direction of the river. With the help of his binoculars Kallas spotted a female bear who was at least three meters tall standing on her hind legs down by the river. The cubs were not answering their mother's call. They picked an even bigger tree and climbed to the top.

When the mother's patience ran out and she walked to thee three, one of the cubs came down straight away, while she had to go and get the other two herself.

“Their squabble echoed in the forest,” Kallas recalls.

Gert Kallas has come face to face with a bear before as the Maalasti preserve in Kõo parish is a preferred place of habitation for these large predators. Kallas keeps bees and has set up several new hives recently but is lucky in that bears have not discovered his apiary yet.

Kallas last met with a bear a few winters ago when he decided to go skiing on the frozen river. Skiing down the riverbed he noticed a bear to the side running away from him. This took the animal considerable time and effort as it fell through the snow with every step.

Investigating what the bear had been interested in, Kallas came across a roe who had fallen through the ice and couldn't get out of the cold water. The man pulled the animal to shore from where it walked to the forest after a brief rest.

“That roe was lucky thrice: first it looked at freezing to death, then it was almost eaten by a bear, and finally meeting a human being also tends to end badly for roe deer,” Kallas said.

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