Bear Of The Month – Julie, The Mischievous One At Dachigam!

December 27, 2022 | By Neellohit Banerjee
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In order to know Julie’s story, we have to turn the clock back almost 15 years. Julie, an Asiatic Black bear was rescued in 2007 from Mattan in south Kashmir. She was left orphaned as a cub after her mother died in a retaliatory killing incident involving a mob. Wildlife SOS arrived at the location when the situation had begun to escalate, only to find young Julie stranded near a tree. The only wrong committed by this little cub and her mother? They strayed too close to human settlements.

Such a tragedy was the result of a complex anthropogenic setting that involved inhabiting and sharing the same land as wild bears. Back in 2007, Black bears were considered dangerous by the local people and almost every alternate day, a conflict case would arise. So much so that over 85% of the human-wildlife conflict cases involved Asiatic Black bears. The locals had developed an animosity toward this particular large mammal. As a result, tolerance toward bears was almost non-existent. Once our team got news of the incident, they travelled nearly 80 km to reach the location and intervened at the right time to secure the cub from the predatory eyes of human beings so that no harm could befall Julie. 

Asiatic black bear
Julie was rescued from a horrible past, where she had lost her mother to a mob attack. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

Julie was barely over a week old when she arrived at the Wildlife SOS Dachigam Bear Rescue Centre (DBRC). Cubs are known to undergo trauma when it involves the death of a parent. But because Julie was just over a week old when she lost her mother, she did not have any issues adjusting to the presence of her human caregivers who had to hand-rear her.

Hand-rearing involved providing milk, which went on for at least 10 weeks. This was followed by the provision of mashed food. Gradually, she was given more and more space inside the enclosure so she could attempt to explore it by herself. Rozy and Fancy – two more orphaned Black bear cubs – arrived within a gap of a month. Being hand-reared together, the three grew to become extremely friendly with each other. However, Julie is the one who grabs more eyeballs and tries to catch the attention of our staff at DBRC.

Julie shares a special bond with the caregivers, and certainly knows how to grab their attention. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

She is the most mischievous of the trio. Despite staying in the same enclosure with Rozy and Fancy, Julie mostly prefers to spend some time alone even though she interacts well with the other two females. Rozy and Julie can often be spotted under a tree where they have created a nest with the help of dry grass, which acts as ideal protection against the cold during the winter months.

Julie also has a more dominating personality. During the winters, if the caregivers place the apples inside their enclosure, Julie is definitely the one to take the majority of the share, to the point that she can even chase Rozy and Fancy away. Apple is her favourite fruit, and this is what contributes to this particular trait of hers.

Julie shares a special rapport with our caregivers. In fact, one specific behavioural aspect that is very unique to Julie is her habit of following the caregivers along the periphery of the enclosure whenever she sees one of them passing by. Even if an outsider or an unfamiliar human face comes for a visit, she appears to be equally enthralled. Julie is also the first one to come out whenever the bears’ dens are opened, and the most difficult one to convince to re-enter the den! Julie simply loves staying outside, and is often seen sitting on the platform created on a small tree.

Julie loves to spend time outside and the platform is one of her favourite spots inside the enclosure. [Photo (c) Wildlife SOS/Mradul Pathak]

All these activities are supplemented by a steady supply of nutritious food, beginning with dry fruits in the morning. Dates are scattered all over the enclosure for Julie to find and eat. This is usually followed by roti and honey, and one boiled egg. When the chill in winter increases, so does the quantity of eggs to help the bears develop a reasonably protective layer of fat. Fruits occupy a special place in the bears’ diet, with watermelons being available in summers, and autumn and fall kickstarting the apple season. The evenings are reserved for a warm bowl of porridge mixed with a generous amount of jaggery.

Even though Julie is active throughout the day, she would choose the evening time over any other. The reason being that bears usually don’t prefer sunlight and try to find areas with shade, as they don’t want to feel excessively warm due to their thick coat of fur. During summers, pools are therefore her preferred destination during the daytime. But she is not alone in this activity and loves to play with gunny sacks when she is inside the pool. On the other hand, her bushy coat helps her tremendously during winter and to equip her to better tackle the weather, we provide a fat and protein-rich diet.

From a timid and scared cub to an enthusiastic ball of energy, this transformation is a result of nearly 15 years of constant care and upkeep. Acknowledging her will to persevere, we honour Julie as our Bear of the Month. You too can help Julie in continuing this wonderful life by becoming a monthly donor for Wildlife SOS, and contribute toward her upkeep.

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