I’ve been here since I was eight months old. I can remember mom saying the men on her side of the family lived for twenty six or twenty seven years. The bears here make it to twenty, they say it’s a hard life, hard on the bones with these cold stone floors. I know what that means now. I feel tired all the time, aches and pains everywhere.

When they brought me here what really struck me was the smell, disgusting toilet stench mixed with rotten meat. I got used to it, sometimes I hardly think about it. I have dreams about walking among the pine trees, the sweet air, soft ground, it’s a different world. I wonder if it’s still there.

They say I was captured in the wild but that’s not the whole picture. Sure, we lived in the woods, but we had a place, I had my own bedroom. I played in the yard while Mom and Dad searched for food, other bears would visit. We knew that if we ever had contact with humans we would have to move, all the animals talked about it. When the people start poking around it’s bad news, just get as far away as you can.

One day we got our breakfast ready and went off into the woods to take a dump. When we got back we found this blond girl asleep in mom’s bed. She woke up and panicked. We didn’t hurt her, she ran out of the house. They say that people are just as scared of us as we are of them, or is that spiders? I don’t know, anyway after she went Dad said we all had to leave, get out quick. Mom was all upset and crying, I didn’t know what was going on. It didn’t seem long enough but suddenly a whole bunch of people appeared from nowhere.

We were surrounded, so dad lashed out. That’s the bit they always show on “When Bears Attack”. It’s so unfair, for years this guy sits around minding his own business raising his family and then a bunch of people come around with guns and it’s all our fault. Dad was shot, I think mom was too, I couldn’t tell, there was so much blood. I assume dad died on the spot, mom was sobbing and poking at him. That’s my last memory of my parents, I haven’t seen them since. I’ve been stuck in this prison zoo. People staring at me, I know they’re thinking that’s the one from When Bears Attack, but what did I do? I was a cub. The blond girl should be the one in jail, she caused all the trouble.

They call me Boo-Boo, like the sound a baby makes. I suppose I was a baby when I came in, it’s just embarrassing now. Fozzy ribs me all the time, Betty Boo-Boo, Boo-Boop-Be-Doo happy birthday Mr President, he’s just joking around. It’s a defence mechanism. They caught him raiding bins behind a 7-11 in Beaver Creek, Montana. He was 4 years old, been here 11 years. He says anything’s better than life in Montana, people hide in bushes and shoot at you from miles away, for sport. You don’t stand a chance, out there I would have been dead by now, they did me a favour here. I think he just says that, he misses the open air more than me but he’s afraid of those high-powered rifles. He could make it, he’s lived out there for real and he’s still strong. Stronger than me.

I share this cell and exercise yard with Yogi – dumb name for a bear, but he’s as happy as a clam. He was born in here, it’s all he knows. He loves hearing about salmon fishing and pine forests, poor kid, real life is a fairy story to him. I’ve tried to be more positive like him, but every time I go to sleep I’m walking in the forest with the fresh mountain breeze. Then I wake up on this concrete floor. Fozzy and Yogi do tricks to get extra food from the visitors, mostly swaying their heads and yawning, we’re not supposed to do that. One time Yogi freaked out and had to be sedated when someone gave him the wrong sort of mushrooms. They do it on purpose. A wild bear would’ve known not to eat those. Fozzy should have told him, but he had dropped his guard. You get in the habit of eating whatever people throw. Everything they say sounds the same, we can’t tell what we’re supposed to do and what we’re getting punished for. The voices have the same warbling quality of a turkey. I wonder if turkeys and humans can talk to each other, I had an uncle who said he could talk to racoons, no-one believed him.

I know I’ll die here. I’ll never see our house again. I don’t know if I want to, unless mom’s there. I often wonder why? Why did she come to our house? You don’t do that do you? Just walk into someone’s house and take stuff, we could have had a normal life. Sometimes I wish they’d shot me too on that day, but then I think about mom, she might be alive somewhere. I wish I could just see her once. She would still call me Baby Bear, and not in that stupid embarrassing way.

I heard the guards shot a lion, he attacked them because he just couldn’t take it anymore. I could do that, but I won’t give them the satisfaction. All those people that come to stare, they want me to attack a guard and get shot so they can take pictures. Not me, I’ll just sit here and wait, they won’t take any more from me.


30 September 2021