Beary Good, But Not For You

northern exposures

fall foliage-0056

My kids call this bearberry; they tell me bears eat them, but they are poisonous to us. However, I’ve looked the plant up and the descriptions do not match this plant. I suspect the kids are right about it being good for bears but not for people, only the name is wrong. If anybody knows what it is, please let me know.

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7 thoughts on “Beary Good, But Not For You

    1. Thank you for your comment, Rommel. I appreciate that very much. Common names are regional (the mountain lion goes by 40 names in the U.S., including puma and cougar). My kids are indeed an imaginative bunch, but I’m certain they have their facts right about the white berries being tasty for bears but poisonous to humans. Only the name they use for this plant seems to be a local term. We live in a wilderness area; among our neighbors, the Athabascans, this kind of lore is passed down from the elders to the children and solidly grounded in experience. Of the estimated 300,000 black bears in the U.S., 100,000 live in just one state, Alaska. They frequent our village and their hides hang outside cabins. You will find black bear in most freezers because it is an integral part of the subsistence diet among my friends, and quite tasty, I might add. Many of my 15-16 year olds are experienced hunters who have tracked and shot black bear. All this is to say that we live among a large population of the creatures and my students are quite knowledgeable about them. That is one of the marvelous things about living here. Where I grew up, woodlore was a forgotten branch of knowledge, but here it is alive and well among both adults and children. Thanks again for your comment – It keeps the lonelies away!

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