Stanley Is Chillin’!
Here in central Florida, there is a marvelous wildlife sanctuary, called Elmira’s, filled with all kinds of animals that were rescued from various situations. I volunteer my time to help them out whenever I can and that includes making catnip toys for the tigers and delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the bears.
Elmira’s (actually named for their first rescued bear) has two Florida black bears, Cinnamon and Ambear, and one gigantic Grizzly named Stanley. Oh my, that was a wonderful thing the first time I brought them treats. There I was standing in front of Stanley, tearing off pieces of PB&J to push through the fence into his open mouth.
If I don’t move fast enough for him, he curls his tongue around his lips and makes this wacky suckling sound. He is a silly bear, and, I just love him.
You might be wondering, what in the heck is a Grizzly bear doing in Florida! It’s not like he came down here on holiday to enjoy the beaches. Grizzlies are cold-weather critters and live in Alaska, northwestern Montana, northern Idaho, and northern Canada. Lots of “north” there.
Stanley was actually born here in Florida. The people who had him took him away from his mother when he was a little baby to travel around and let people hold him in exchange for money. Sadly, these events occur a lot with baby bears, tigers, and lions. It does not fare well for the animals at all. They are usually killed when they reach about 12 weeks old because they are getting too large and aggressive.
Elmira’s was contacted to see if they could take Stanley after he was rescued and placed in a shelter that was not set up to house a Grizzly. For five years now he has called Elmira’s home, and, it is a lovely place for him.
He has a large area to live in, that is actually going to expand now that he is full grown. Stanley is around 300+ pounds. To keep him happy and healthy, the staff at the sanctuary (all volunteers by the way) provide him with toys, activities, and enrichment items to keep him engaged and active.
One of his favorite things to do is painting. Not to worry. None of the materials used are toxic in any way.
Back to that situation though, of a big ol’ Grizzly bear living in Florida. These animals have incredibly heavy coats of fur and are surrounded by layers of fat. He cannot be released into the wild because he had been born in captivity and has only known human beings his whole life.
To try to keep him more comfortable, the staff feed him excellent food that is high in nutrition but designed to help keep him slim and trim for the hot summer months. They also make sure his pool is filled with fresh water so he can sit in there and play or cool off. He is so big now though, I was feeling bad for the guy, so, I got an idea.
I contacted a local air conditioning company, actually, the people who service the unit at my house. When I told them on the phone I wanted to know if they could install an air conditioner for a Grizzly bear, you could almost imagine the looks on their faces.
“A what? A bear? Seriously?”
“Yes. A Grizzly bear. Gets hot here in the summer, so, this might make him feel better with some cool air.”
“Ummm OK, yeah, can we come out and take a look?”
I got for Stanley an air conditioner that would normally sit in a window. Doug Loggins, the owner of the AC company came out and with a heavy-duty drill and after 2 days of work, cut an opening into the side of Stanley’s den box.
That was the hard part of the project, and, once that was done, it only took a few minutes to push the AC into the hole and anchor it securely into the cement cinder blocks, so Stanley could not pull it out.
As soon as they turned it on, cool air started to blow into the den box. That soft humming noise really caught Stanley’s attention. He had been kept in a separate area of his home, so he could not interfere with the work being done, but had been able to watch them and was fascinated with what they were doing.
Doug checked the air conditioner which was working perfectly, so, now it was time for the tough test! What would Stanley think of this?
We backed away from his home so he could explore without feeling like he was being watched so closely. The section he had been closed into was opened up, and, we watched from a distance to see what he would do.
Intrigued by the humming sound coming from his den, he slowly walked up to the doorway and stood there, head lowered, nose out in front sniffing away. What could it be? What was in there making that noise?
And then we knew he got it. I’ll never forget seeing him close his eyes and just stand there while cool air washed over his face. I have to admit, I came close to crying. This idea had come to fruition, and, it looked like the big ol’ bear was going to enjoy it.
He sleeps in his den box at night, laying on his back with his feet sticking up, and, his head right below where the cool air blows down. Occasionally, during the day, he will stand by the opening to enjoy the air and cool off.
A couple of weeks ago, I was back at Elmira’s, helping to paint a mural for them. Of course, as I always do whenever I am there, I went to visit with Stanley.
He walked to the opening of his den box then stopped and looked over at me. After a few moments he did the same thing again – closed his eyes and took a step inside his den, then backed out and looked at me.
Stanley did that like 3 or 4 times, and I swear, in his Grizzly bear way, he was thanking me for the cool air. You are welcome Stanley my love! Any time!
More info: elmiraswildlife.org