An Unexpected Connection to Another Nursing (Non-Human) Mom

On Sunday morning I packed up the car and the kids and we drove to Gold Beach, a town on the southern Oregon Coast I’ve written about before where I’m doing research for two other articles.

James’s dad gave us his unused GPS. I followed its directions, and we ended up going over the windy twisty not-maintained-in-the-winter Bear Camp Road.

This route is famous for the wrong reasons. A few years ago a mom, her two kids, and her husband traveled on it and got stuck because the road was impassable. A snowstorm kept them inside their vehicle and they were running out of food after six days of waiting for help. The husband, James Kim, left to get help and died of hypothermia. The mom, Kati Kim, nursed her baby and 4-year-old daughter and they managed, miraculously, to survive.

I drove extra cautiously, thinking about the Kims the whole time. We found snow at a look-out point where you can see the Siskiyou Mountain range for miles. The kids slid in the snow and threw snowballs. The baby squeezed it in her hands. The snow was a cold treat on an otherwise sweaty ride, since our air conditioning is broken.

Then yesterday, on a boat tour down the Rogue River, we saw a mama bear. She had two fluffy cubs with her and they were foraging at the river bank. She and her cubs started up the hill away from the river when Leone, who’s seven months old, started to fuss. The mama bear stopped stock still and turned around. She had heard the call of a baby in distress and was turning to find her. I shushed the baby and the bear and her cubs moved on. Again Leone cried out. Again the bear stopped and turned towards us to see what was the matter.

She could have been interested because Leone is edible. I’m afraid of running into a bear or a cougar when I’m hiking with my kids because the kids look so small and juicy from a predator’s-eye-view. But this bear wasn’t thinking about eating my daughter. She was responding, as any nursing mother would, to the call of a baby who needs help.

The mama bear and her two cubs (they are about 4 months old) foraging on the hillside

The mama bear and her two cubs (they are about 4 months old) foraging on the hillside

The mama bear looking back intently after hearing Baby Leone cry

The mama bear looking back intently after hearing Baby Leone cry


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