If You Go out in the Woods Today…

August 16, 2004 — Washington State campground officials find a bear passed out in the common area and discover that it had guzzled three dozen cans of beer.

October 20, 2004 — Police in New Brunswick find that a bear had raided a stash of stolen beer and slurped down six cans.

Yes, dear readers, this is, I believe, the start of a Disturbing Trend. There are now at least two known incidents of bruin burglary, and I suspect there are many others that have gone unreported — because few people have the beer guts to say their suds have been swiped.

No one knows why bears are suddenly boozing it up, but I have several theories. (C'mon, you knew I would.)

1. Beer drinking does not involve sticking your sensitive nose into a bee hive and getting stung 300 times.

2. Beer is easy to come by. All you need to do is show up at the nearest camp site, and wait until everyone stops shouting “B-b-b-ear! Argh!” and runs away.

3. Bears can easily perform those drunk/macho stunts like crushing beer cans against a forehead. Possibly yours, if you don't get away from the camp site fast enough.

4. Fresh caught salmon tastes really good cooked in beer.

5. Bears have heard all the latest studies that suggest the occasional pint is good for you.

6. Who's going to tell them they're getting a beer belly?

7. The A&W Root Beer Bear has been swigging the soda for years, so it was only a matter of time before they switched to the hard stuff.

Go ahead and laugh, but I suspect that beery bears are going to be a serious problem in the future. For instance, how many cubs can we expect to come from broken caves because mommy bear got fed up with daddy bear coming home in a drunken rage every night? (Although I admit this begs the question as to how she'd know a drunken rage from an ordinary bear fit).

And what about teen bears? There's not a great deal to do in the woods on the weekends, apart from scaring the tourists. I can just see it now — bear benders. A whole weekend of drinking and terrorizing camp site after camp site; and when that got old, they'd start in on each other. You know — bear baiting followed by bear knuckle fighting. And heaven help us if they find a hunting camp full of guns — it would give a whole new meaning to the right to bear arms. Even if campground authorities managed to keep the trouble down to a bear minimum, the trend may still affect popular culture. The story about Goldilocks might have to be rewritten to have Papa Bear say, “Who's been into my six-pack?” (Or in the British version, Mama Bear would have to complain about the beer being too cold.)

Possibly the scariest issue associated with this trend can be summed up in three words: bear beer breath. Or even worse: bear beer barf. Of course it won't just be restricted to bears. Other animals will start getting into the act sooner or later. Squirrels will discover that a half walnut shell filled with mulled wine is just the ticket for getting through a long, cold winter. Birds will be arrested by the flock for flying under the influence. (Although come to think of it, birds crash into my living room window fairly frequently, so perhaps they're already into the sauce, as it were.)

Mice will have wine and cheese parties. Snakes will start talking funny.

Yes folks, if you go out in the woods today, just like the “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” song says … “you're sure of a big surprise.”

To read more of Chandra's work, visit www.ChandraKClarke.com.

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