Home Letters Bears in my Lifetime:  by Ed Donnelly

Bears in my Lifetime:  by Ed Donnelly


I do not ever remember seeing any bears around the farm growing up or hearing of any around until one time the neighbors who lived close by, were in the bush cutting wood in the winter. The bush was the Minesing swamp off the 12 concession of Vespra. They found a den in the spring of the year and shot the mother thinking that it was a male I guess, anyway there was 2 small cubs left as orphans. The newspaper came out and did a story on this and took pictures and they got reprimanded and warned not to do that again. The wife of one of the neighbors took care of the cubs, but one died and the other was raised as far as I remember. That would have been around 1953.


Across from central collegiate in Barrie in 1956 was a zoo that kept a bear, he was full size.


There was always a bear out at Springwater park in Midhurst that we would go and see him come out of hibernation each spring. I would take him a honey sandwich each visit.

Algonquin Park.

The next time I seen a bear was in Algonquin Park in 1970. This one was in the wild and had 2 cubs with her. The story starts like this. Eight of us went on a fishing trip and we only had 3 canoes, so two stayed in camp each day to drop off and pick up the other six. My partner on this trip was Tom Cairns. At the prearranged time we would drive down this deserted logging road very slow to pick up our buddies. Tom was riding in the passenger seat. We came around this corner, a mother bear and two cubs crossed in front not 20’ away. We were so close that the one cub climbed a small cedar tree when I blew the horn. The tree would only be 4-5” diameter and 15’high. Tom said stop Ed, I want to catch that cub and have it for a pet. I watched in horror as he climbed up the tree and reached to grab the cub.

I told him if the mother returns I am not getting out rescuing you so come down now before this occurs. He keeps on trying to grab the cub until, the cub turned around when he grabbed his hind leg and showed his teeth to Tom and was also squealing for its mom. Tom then came to his senses and got back in the car.

Shining Tree

I travelled between Caperol and Shining Tree one time on my dirt bike. It was about 100 miles by road, but I was travelling through the bush to catch up with my biker friends. On the sandy trail beside the Opeongo River I could see these rather large bear tracks. I did not want to see or hear or have any part of them there, because I was alone.

Canmore Alberta

Another time on my way out west in the foothills of the Rockies I camped out in my tent in this abandoned campground beside a lake on the old highway. There were no other tents or people present I thought. During the night I was awakened by this very loud and close by growl. I knew it was a bear although I had never heard a real one before. I froze and reached for my hatchet that was beside me and lay still and listened. Nothing more came of that, but in the morning, I walked down this old trail to where I thought the noise came from and just around the corner was another tent. It was torn to pieces and I seen cans of food with teeth holes through them the size of your thumb. I moved along that day to another site.

The Farm

The beekeeper who kept hives on the farm at the back said he got more honey from this yard than all the other six yards he had. Then one day he arrived and found the bear must have noticed the quantity also, because he had torn up the hives pretty good. So the beekeeper put an electric fence around the yard and went away, to return again in a few days. Well the trees being about 10 feet high or so were all bent & broken and the ground was dug up where he tried to get under the fence. It must have been a sight, seeing the bear clawing and pawing squealing from the electric charge, but he never got in.


My latest sighting was in Killarney Ontario on the shore of Georgian Bay between Parry Sound & Sudbury. On a drive over from the highway for World Famous Fish & Chips, we drove around this small settlement and seen a smaller size bear eating lush clover in the storage yard. He was not concerned about me watching and I even got up pretty close and took pictures maybe 15’ away. We drove on further and here was a full sized black bear beside the road in town under the apple tree and another full sized one back further and still another cub was present there. Wow four bears in town on people’s lawn, kind of scary for me. I think about the danger being outside in the garden or cutting grass or walking home and for certain the children.