An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

A Rare Privilege

4-6-18 four black bears 636-RecoveredThe hours I spent with this ursine family were some of the most special hours of my life.  It’s possible, and probably likely, that because they lived relatively close to human habitation, they were cognizant of the fact that I meant them no harm.  Regardless, they allowed me to observe their natural behavior, and that is a priceless gift to anyone, particularly a naturalist.

Black Bears are not  the monsters Goldilocks would have you believe. Offensive attacks are very rare — aggressive displays are much more an expression of their fear than anything else.  Chattering of jaws, false charges and the like are just that — bravado. Even when it comes to defending their young, they are very reluctant to be aggressive — that is much more likely with Grizzly Bears, which are not found in the Northeast. If not encouraged to become a nuisance by the presence and easy access of human lures such as garbage and bird seed, Black Bears can coexist with humans with little to no conflict.

If you’ve enjoyed the photographs of this family of bears, you (or your very young friends) might enjoy my recently-released children’s book, Yodel the Yearling, in which many of these photos plus others appear .

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32 responses

  1. Marshall, Jennifer

    Wow how lucky you are!

    April 6, 2018 at 8:05 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    What a beautiful photograph of Momma Bear and her Triplets…thank you so much for sharing, Mary!

    April 6, 2018 at 8:07 am

  3. Virginia Cazort

    People who love bears should of course do whatever we can to take care of our own but should we not also know that at least 15,000 bears are kept in crush cages in China? Animals Asia is trying to save them. Google “Cages of Shame” on Animals Asia website and think about how you can help these tortured animals kept for their bile to make medicine that can just as well be made chemically to cure hangovers and other liver threatened ailments in humans. If you watch “Cages of Shame” you will not believe the extent of human cruelty toward these bears. Follow this on Animals Asia.

    April 6, 2018 at 8:12 am

  4. Dianne Wright

    I can barely believe this – you can’t even get humans all together to look at the camera !! WOWZA !

    Sent from my iPad


    April 6, 2018 at 8:15 am

  5. Reuben


    I totally love your photos! I have shared your blog with many family and friends. With three young grandkids (in Manhattan no less), I’ll be buying some of your books soon.

    Keep up the good work!

    Living on the Androscoggin River in Gorham, NH, we regularly see turkey’s, bald eagles, lots of birds, squirrels, raccoons, otter, deer, bobcats, etc.


    April 6, 2018 at 8:17 am

  6. John Mullane

    Thank you, Mary, for this amazing series of photos and taking us along on your wonderful adventure!
    From my seat in New Orleans I feel like I’m there in Vermont!

    April 6, 2018 at 8:17 am

  7. Thank you for sharing this wonderful, amazing encounter with this lovely black bear family. I can’t even imagine how it must have felt to be in their presence. That they welcomed you and allowed you to share their time is an experience very few of us will ever enjoy!!

    April 6, 2018 at 8:21 am

  8. Gordon W. Gribble

    What a wonderful experience for you (and us)!!

    April 6, 2018 at 8:28 am

  9. JOan Thompson

    What a WONDERFUL family portrait! Your blog is the high point of the day.

    April 6, 2018 at 8:36 am

  10. Mary, thank you for sharing these remarkable images and the experience. In no small part, your respect and love for these animals is mirrored by their acceptance and responsiveness to your presence. They know a kindred spirit when they cross paths with one.

    April 6, 2018 at 8:40 am

  11. linda shelvey

    Mary, I have enjoyed your magical time with the bear family! A wonderful gift from nature to you and us!

    April 6, 2018 at 8:50 am

  12. nangalland

    What a beautiful life’s work you have chosen Mary – and what a wonderful, well-deserved reward Mother Nature has given you in this story! xox – Nan


    April 6, 2018 at 8:57 am

  13. janice gendreau

    The visit with the black bear family was such a treat and, as you said, a rare privilege. thank you so much!

    April 6, 2018 at 8:59 am

  14. Susan

    A unique family portrait – indeed, a privilege to see. Thank you for sharing these posts and for the joy they have brought to your readers.

    April 6, 2018 at 8:59 am

  15. Bill On The Hill...

    Nice family portrait Mary… Not sure I would have the fortitude to get that close to Mama bear & her cubs!.
    I can see how you will forevermore have lasting memories from the bear family encounter…
    …Thank you for sharing the experience.
    Bill Farr…

    April 6, 2018 at 8:59 am

  16. Susan Bittermann

    This is such a beautiful photo – reminding all of us that love is universal. Thank you, Mary!

    April 6, 2018 at 9:08 am

  17. Treah

    I just learned yesterday from a VT game warden that bears’ favorite food coming out of hibernation is skunk cabbage, something I never knew before. Because this plant is becoming rarer, bears need to seek out alternative feed, which is partly why they come to the feeders in our yards. We need to protect the skunk cabbage!

    April 6, 2018 at 9:15 am

  18. Dean Grover


    Your words about black bears responding out of fear certainly rang true to me.

    I was walking down a dirt road between Kennicott and McCarthy Alaska years ago when I encountered a large black bear coming directly up the road. Having just read about the best strategies when meeting either grizzly or black bears, I knew I should not run nor should I yell at the bear. I opened my arms and spoke quietly as best I could with my heart beating like mad. However, the bear kept coming towards me, sniffing the air, moaning, and conducting three or four false charges that really sent my heartbeat into the stratosphere.

    Finally a pair of cubs popped out of the high fireweed growth about 15 feet to my left and I knew immediately that this mother bear was reacting out of fear for her children. Despite what I had read, I turned around and fled ( watching carefully behind me). As soon as I got out of range of the cubs all was well.

    Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful photos and descriptions of the family that you got to know.


    On Fri, Apr 6, 2018, 8:02 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “The hours I spent with this ursine family were some > of the most special hours of my life. It’s possible, and probably likely, > that because they lived relatively close to human habitation, they were > cognizant of the fact that I meant them no harm. Regard” >

    April 6, 2018 at 9:24 am

  19. Cindy

    What a rare privilege to enjoy these postings of such an exciting and amazing adventure you had with this precious bear family. Absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing!

    April 6, 2018 at 9:35 am

  20. Alan Keitt

    These are wonderful pictures. They have supported much of what I learned from reading Ben Kilham’s work. I think it takes a special kind of knowledge/discipline to stand fast before a charging mama bear.

    April 6, 2018 at 10:00 am

  21. Sandie Sabaka

    These have been wonderful and I am so jealous Mary. I was fortunate the season I worked in the southern end of Baxter SP on the AT to see a family of bears with triplets too. But certainly not this close or intimate. They were my first wild bears in Maine and I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and in the woods!

    Between Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood large mammals get a bad undeserved rep!

    Thanks, Sandie

    Sent from my iPhone

    April 6, 2018 at 10:47 am

  22. Kathryn

    What a wonderful adventure you’ve shared with us. And the picture you posted today – amazing.

    April 6, 2018 at 10:47 am

  23. Barbara Holmes

    I have followed your blog from the beginning and have enjoyed every one of your postings, but this series on the bears is the best of all. Mama, her yearling and the two cubs are just amazingly photographed by you and all of us appreciate your attention to detail. I’m sure it took many hours of patience on your part.
    Since relocating to SC 8 years ago I have learned about bears here, believe it or not. About 1,000 in number half up in the foothills and the other half surprisinly near Myrtle Beach in the swamps.
    Thank you again, Mary! The pictures are superb!

    April 6, 2018 at 11:30 am

  24. Dianne Rochford

    Oh, Mary…….Your posts about the Black Bears are such TREASURES……..Thank you for who you are and for all you care for.

    In deep appreciation,

    Dianne >

    April 6, 2018 at 11:47 am

  25. Jodie Moriarty

    Sadly a friend just had to give up his three goats. A black bear attacked them in the Fall. DEP guaranteed he will be back. Very sad. The goats lived but were terrorized.

    Sent from my iPhone


    April 6, 2018 at 12:57 pm

  26. Jamie

    I missed the post which explained how you were able to get so close. Are you shooting from a blind, inside, a house or on foot? The pictures are amazing.

    April 6, 2018 at 1:26 pm

  27. I have thoroughly enjoyed your posts about the bear family. You have had quite a privilege to observe this family. Thank you for sharing.

    April 6, 2018 at 3:19 pm

  28. Lisa H

    What a rare and special gift.
    Thank you Mary!

    April 6, 2018 at 4:23 pm

  29. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. I’ve read Ben kilham’s “In the Company of Bears” where he documents working / studying bear behavior. Because he started with orphaned cubs I expected he had a special opportunity to be close to bears. I am so pleased you found this similar opportunity. I recommend Ben’s books.

    April 6, 2018 at 6:02 pm

  30. judilindsey


    That is a priceless family portrait. Thank you!



    April 7, 2018 at 8:57 am

  31. Jean Quattrocchi

    OMG. Priceless!

    🐥Happy Easter, tomorrow. 🐰🐣🌷

    Sent from my iPhone

    April 7, 2018 at 9:15 pm

  32. I was actually nipped between the eyes by a black bear and lived to tell about it. He just wanted to play…

    July 3, 2018 at 9:02 pm

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