Sep 28, 2018

Breaking Bad News Bears

Today, a challenge: bear with us.

We decided to shake things up at the show so we threw our staff a curveball, Walter Matthau-style. In two weeks time we told our producers to pitch, report, and produce stories about breaking news….or bears. What emerged was a sort of love letter for our honey-loving friends and a discovery that they embody so much more than we could have imagined: a town’s symbol for hope, a celebrity, a foe, and a clue to future ways we’ll deal with our changing environment. 

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler, Molly Webster, Bethel Habte, Pat Walters, Matt Kielty, Rachael Cusick, Annie McEwen and Latif Nasser.

Special thanks to Wendy Card, Marlene Zuk, Karyn Rode, Barbara Nielsen and Steven Amstrup at Polar Bears International, Jimmy Thomson, Adam Kudlak, Greg Durner, Todd Atwood, and Dawn Curtis and the Environment and Natural Resources Department of Northwest Territories.

And thanks to composer Anthony Plog for allowing us to use the Fourth Movement of his "Fantasy Movement," "Very Fast and Manic," performed by Eufonix Quartet off of their album Nuclear Breakfast, available from Potenza Music

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Speaker 1:          Oh, wait, you're list- (laughs)


Speaker 2:          Okay.


Speaker 1:          All right.


Speaker 2:          Okay.


Speaker 1:          All right.


Speaker 2:          You are list-


Speaker 1:          Listening-


Speaker 2:          To Radiolab.


Speaker 1:          Radiolab.


Speaker 2:          From-


Speaker 1:          WNY-


Speaker 2:          C. C?


Speaker 1:          Yeah


Speaker 2:          C (laughing).


Soren:              Ooh... I mean, I, I don't have a real good game plan for, for how we start the show. But in the, in the, in the spirit of the show, maybe we should just drop into the, that Radiolab staff meeting that we had.


Robert Krulwich:    Yeah, sure.


Jad:                Yeah. I, I remember it. It was a very, uh, it was a, people would be like, "Um, what..."


Speaker 6:          James, Could you put this next to the speaker?


Jad:                Okay, to set it up, recently we came up with this-


Soren:              Challenge.


Jad:                Challenge, yeah, for the Radiolab staff. Uh, we got everyone together. (laughter)


Soren:              In an inappropriately stodgy conference room.


Jad:                There is Soren dialing in.


Robert Krulwich:    From Wisconsin.


Soren:              All right. We're good to go?


Speaker 6:          Yeah.


Soren:              The big reveal. Everybody take a deep breath.


Soren:              I had warned them ahead of time that something big was coming.


Soren:              And it's nothing, uh, it's nothing bad, obviously. Um-


Speaker 6:          Is it obvious? (laughter)


Soren:              Anyway after, uh, we got over that little, um, bump in the road, uh, I just, I basically outlined this, this challenge.


Soren:              We came up with a little, uh, a little plan to... Which basically boils down to this. On September 27th...


Soren:              I hope. (laughter)


Soren:              We're going to release a story, or a set of stories really. Um, and between today and that date, you will have to pitch, report, record, produce said story. You will have that much time to do it, and we will be putting it up no matter what.


Soren:              In other words, we're giving them like a week to pitch this story, and then a week to make it.


Soren:              And you will have to do a story either about breaking news, so something that just happened. Or you can do a story about bears. (laughter) So I'm calling the new thing, uh, Bad News Bears.


Jad:                (laughs) I just-


Robert Krulwich:    Because you had bears sort of in the, in the room. So long-


Jad:                Yes, and, and you know, I remember the, I remember the, I... in my memory, Soren, tell me if I'm right. This happened over text.


Soren:              It was a text, yeah.


Jad:                This is, this is one of those like, you know, how you talk about Princess and the Pea. Like there's a pea 14 mattresses down.


Robert Krulwich:    Yeah.


Jad:                That just bothers you. Like, one of the peas that's been bothering me is, um, the length of time it takes us to make these stories. Sometimes that can take too burdensome, and we wanted to just, uh, do an experiment where we shortcut the hell out of that.


Robert Krulwich:    This story, it was just the strange juxtaposition, "All right, I want you guys to go out now and find something that is hot, new, sudden, and just breaking, like a real reporter or bears." (laughter)


Jad:                Right.


Robert Krulwich:    It's such a weird, uh-


Jad:                That's exactly it.


Robert Krulwich:    It's like, and how are you gonna cook that dish?


Soren:              Here's, uh, here, let me explain how it's going to go then. So you're going to get paired up. I'll give you those pairings in a second. The story has to be under 10 minutes. The story must, at some point in it, include audio from the movie Bad News Bears, the original. The story must include at some point a recording from outside the office. Uh, any interrogation has to be done in conversation and has to be staring at somebody across the glass. You can not go in and track solo lines. Uh, before I do your teams, your pairings, are there any questions?


Pat:                How are we, how are we defining breaking news?


Soren:              Pat has a reasonable question.


Soren:              Uh, I would give you a little bit, like I would maybe be willing to accept something from last week. Otherwise, today forward.


Pat:                Wow.


Matt Kielty:        Yeah, um, why are we doing this? (laughter)


Jad:                Matt Kielty.


Soren:              It's going to be fun. It's going to be fun!


Speaker 6:          All right, we probably have to clear out of this room.


Soren:              All right!


Speaker 6:          Okay, thanks guys. [crosstalk 00:04:13]


Jad:                I'm Jad.


Robert Krulwich:    I'm Robert.


Jad:                Soren.


Robert Krulwich:    Soren.


Soren:              Uh, I'm, I'm Soren.


Jad:                (laughs) Okay. This is Radiolab. Today, uh, we are breaking bad news bears. Okay, so everybody went out from that meeting. And again, the task was, uh, to reiterate, the, um-


Robert Krulwich:    Breaking news story.


Jad:                Breaking news story.


Robert Krulwich:    Or bears.


Jad:                Or bears.


Robert Krulwich:    Week, one week to do everything.


Jad:                Yeah, you gotta go out, you gotta get the tape. You gotta come back, put it in the computer, cut it up.


Soren:              Add the music.


Jad:                Write the things.


Robert Krulwich:    And we have eight producers, so that-


Jad:                And fact check. Fact check.


Robert Krulwich:    Oh, fact check.


Jad:                You gotta fact check.


Robert Krulwich:    Eight producers means four teams, so that means we end up in the grand total of four stories.


Soren:              Yes.


Robert Krulwich:    Starting-


Jad:                Who are we starting with?


Soren:              Uh, how about Molly Webster and Simon Adler?


Robert Krulwich:    Ooh.


Jad:                Ooh.


Simon Adler:        Well, I will say that we have checked both boxes here. We have a story that is both about bears and breaking news.


Robert Krulwich:    You're kidding.


Molly Webster:      (laughter) Ding, ding, ding. Extra points.


Robert Krulwich:    Well that... You do get extra points.


Simon Adler:        So all right... You there, Matt?


Matt Montanye:      I am.


Simon Adler:        Great. Last week, we gave this guy a call.


Matt Montanye:      Uh, my name is Matt Montanye, and I am the director of public works for the city of New Bern.


Simon Adler:        And you've got quite the task ahead of you, huh?


Matt Montanye:      Uh, yeah.


Speaker 12:         Yeah, it's big. That could do some destruction.


Speaker 13:         Hurricane Florence is making landfall with devastating flooding and damaging winds.


Matt Montanye:      We had hurricane, um, Hurricane Florence come through last week.


Speaker 12:         One of the, uh, hardest hit areas is New Bern.


Speaker 13:         In New Bern.


Speaker 14:         New Bern, North Carolina. This is a live look at New Bern, as the water has really overtaken this.


Speaker 13:         There's relentless rain and wind. It's brought down trees.


Simon Adler:        If you've been watching the news at all over the past couple weeks, you've probably seen New Bern on TV.


Molly Webster:      As you just heard, it was one of the towns that was hardest hit by Hurricane Florence. Homes were destroyed. Tens of millions of dollars of destruction. Trees were knocked down.


Speaker 13:         And with those trees have come power lines. With the power lines down, the lights go out. Thousands of people are in the dark around here.


Matt Montanye:      Yeah, we talk about the flooding of New Bern, and we've got historic houses that were built in the 17-1800s that were pushed off their foundation.


Molly Webster:      Oh, wow. And as director of public works, it's Matt's job.


Matt Montanye:      Our department is, uh, in charge of the cleanup, you know, not only leaf and limb debris, the trees and the shrubs, but also the, you know, the construction debris from the houses that are being gutted. I'm actually at the disposal sight right now looking at, there's a line of about 30 tractor trailer trucks that are lined up, getting ready to roll out to start doing debris cleanup.


Simon Adler:        But, uh, what we called Matt about was the, uh, the cleanup of something far smaller.


Speaker 15:         Trust me, this bear is not supposed to be here.


Simon Adler:        Far less vital.


Speaker 15:         Right now, but I'm sure they'll get them back where they need to be soon.


Molly Webster:      But maybe just as important.


Matt Montanye:      Let me, let me step back here, and I'll give you a quick little history.


Simon Adler:        Great.


Matt Montanye:      Uh, the city of New Bern, um, was found in 1710.


Buddy:              Our, our downtown is a really beautiful, six, maybe eight square blocks. Where you see the beautiful porches.


Simon Adler:        This is local restaurant owner.


Buddy:              Buddy Bengel. And our town was settled from Swiss settlers.


Matt Montanye:      And if you look up the meaning of bern in Switzerland, bern means bear.


Simon Adler:        And so, over the next 300 years, they really ran with this.


Speaker 17:         Let's go bears!


Molly Webster:      The high school mascot's the bear.


Simon Adler:        They have a city flag that has a little black bear on it.


Molly Webster:      It's like a nod to their past, right, where they came from.


Simon Adler:        But it's also, they've got all these bears in the woods surrounding them.


Molly Webster:      Simon found out, a lot of bears in the woods.


Robert Krulwich:    Okay.


Simon Adler:        Largest black bear ever recorded, from Craven County, North Carolina.


Molly Webster:      And the way this bear sort of obsession, one of the ways its taken hold, is that they have bear statues all over town.


Matt Montanye:      They either stand up on their hind legs and are about six foot tall, or they're down on all fours and they're about three foot tall. Uh, and we're somewhere between 60 or 80 of them around town.


Speaker 17:         Go, let's go!


Matt Montanye:      So that being said, you know, bears are everywhere.


Simon Adler:        Including the morning of September 14th, 2018.


Matt Montanye:      You know, Hurricane, um, Hurricane Florence came in, and-


Buddy:              By about mid-day, water started to seriously start rising.


Molly Webster:      Again, Buddy Bengel.


Buddy:              We were up to seven feet by Thursday night. I mean, and, and it, it, it happened in some places just extremely quick.


Molly Webster:      And so Buddy and a few other locals-


Buddy:              Took it upon ourselves that we needed to go out and help people.


Molly Webster:      And they would go to areas outside of the downtown, and they were just banging on doors.


Buddy:              Say, "Look, guys. In the next six to eight hours, this water is going to be over your head and flood your apartment. You need to get out now and get to a shelter."


Simon Adler:        Meanwhile, back in the downtown with, with the waters continuing to rise...


Matt Montanye:      As close as we are to the river, we received about eight to ten feet in our downtown area.


Simon Adler:        This strange thing started to happen. Those giant bear statues that had for years just been looking out over the town. The, the rising flood water actually managed to pick them up.


Matt Montanye:      You know, they all sit on concrete slabs, but, you know, with the amount of water we received, uh, a lot of them floated.


Simon Adler:        Many of them were lifted, cement and all, and, and were just floating there, standing upright, bobbing gently along.


Matt Montanye:      Yeah. A lot of them, a lot of them in that flooded area, they just, they, they moved.


Simon Adler:        Down the downtown, through the alleyways.


Matt Montanye:      Um, some of them floated just down the street.


Simon Adler:        Others floated on for blocks.


Robert Krulwich:    Oh, my god. Just close your eyes, and hear the hurricane, see the water, and then astonishingly, watch the bears go by.


Simon Adler:        And then as the water recedes, they're gently set down and left there in the still slightly flooded waters of the downtown.


Speaker 17:         Wow. That's a whole new view for him.


Molly Webster:      Photos of these bears started showing up, sort of, virally.


Speaker 17:         That bear over there... He decided to travel all the way-


Molly Webster:      Local residents started posting to social media, and then...


Buddy:              So it was-


Molly Webster:      Saturday morning.


Buddy:              You know, it was the first day that the winds had really subsided, and I was getting up to assess the damage of everything that was outside.


Molly Webster:      Buddy's at home. He wakes up in the morning. He goes down the door of his apartment building. He opens it up, and it's just like...


Buddy:              My god, this town has just been destroyed. I got branches everywhere.


Simon Adler:        The rain is still lashing.


Buddy:              And there was a lot of debris flying, and-


Molly Webster:      When he looks just right in front of him, right outside the doorway, right there.


Buddy:              On its side, in kind of a little bit of a puddle of water, is a bear.


Molly Webster:      One of those floating bear statues had ended up at his apartment.


Jad:                Whoa.


Molly Webster:      And he immediately recognizes it as the city hall bear.


Buddy:              So you have on there, a lot of the colors and scenes from the city of New Bern. You have on there, obviously-


Molly Webster:      The back of the bear is painted yellow, like the New Bern flag. The middle of the bear is painted with the North Carolina state flag, and then the shoulders and head of the bear are red, white, and blue.


Buddy:              And that bear represents our entire city.


Molly Webster:      And there it was.


Buddy:              Right in front of my door step. And a gentleman happened to just be walking by in the street, uh, who was living about a block, block and a half away from me. So he helped me pick the bear up...


Simon Adler:        He grabs the back legs. The other guy grabs the front legs. Front, back, whichever they grab. They march it across this, I presume to be probably still six inches of water, sort of, washing through the street.


Molly Webster:      And, and Florence is like, not done, right? Because it sat over the coast for a while, so the winds have gone down. But like, the rains were still torrential, and there was like, I mean, flood watches a week out.


Buddy:              You know, we were trying to figure out what to do with it, and there was a bush right behind city hall with a little bit of an alley way in between the bush and the building. So we put the bear in between there, because we knew it'd be hidden enough.


Matt Montanye:      Yeah, Buddy Bengels, he took the bear back across city hall and put it behind some bushes. And then, uh-


Molly Webster:      A few days later, they're actually getting ready for, um, President Trump was going. And so Matt Montanye-


Matt Montanye:      I was the director-


Molly Webster:      The head of public works, um, goes down to city hall to, like, prepare it.


Matt Montanye:      I was asked to go down there and make sure we had a flag at city hall, make sure it was flying high. And while we were down there, we took a couple extra-


Simon Adler:        He and his team, they spot the bear, go over to it.


Matt Montanye:      So two of us go and pick it up very easily.


Simon Adler:        They pick up the bear. They march it to the platform.


Matt Montanye:      Uh, set it back on the concrete pedestal like it was, and then, uh, bolt or screw one side of it into the bear's foot, and then put the other side into the concrete slab. And we actually did that on all four of the legs.


Simon Adler:        And they step back, and take a, take a breath for a moment.


Molly Webster:      And then they raise a new American flag, and they move on.


Robert Krulwich:    Wow.


Molly Webster:      Is that you wiping a tear away?


Robert Krulwich:    No, I just have an itchy eye. But I could. No, it's nice when you, when you have something that represents your heart, as odd as it may be. It could be a painted plasticine bear image, but still, that's called [inaudible 00:14:06]. We aren't over, or to quote Frances Scott Key, "You're still there."


Matt Montanye:      When you look at the grand scheme of it, the bears, you know, it, it's not that important, but you know, it kind of symbolizes that we're putting New Bern back together. We need, you need a symbol to get behind, and our symbol in this city are the bears.


Robert Krulwich:    Huh.


Speaker 18:         Well that's one bird down and eleven to go.


Jad:                Wow, all right, so what's-


Robert Krulwich:    No, bears.


Soren:              Bears.


Jad:                Bears. So what's, what's, uh, that was number one.


Soren:              Uh-huh (affirmative).


Robert Krulwich:    Story number one.


Jad:                So who's next? What's next.


Soren:              Uh, yeah, well... Who is Pat Walters and Bethel Habte. And, uh, well, remain, remains to be seen.


Robert Krulwich:    Let me, let me do this.


Soren:              Sure.


Pat:                Should we, should we talk about this thing?


Robert Krulwich:    Yes, talk about the thing.


Pat:                Okay, yeah. So this is a story about...


Pat:                Right, park right here, right behind his Bobcat.


Bethel Habte:       His Bobcat.


Pat:                This guy named Rob.


Pat:                Hi.


Rob Dubbin:         Hello.


Bethel Habte:       Hi, really nice to meet you.


Pat:                Nice to meet you.


Bethel Habte:       I'm Bethel.


Pat:                I'm Pat.


Rob Dubbin:         Hey Pat, I'm Rob. Uh-


Robert Krulwich:    And Rob is... who exactly?


Bethel Habte:       Uh, Rob Devon, he's a comedy writer. He worked in the city for a really long time. Like, 10 years, plus. Working for the Colbert Report.


Jad:                Oh, wow.


Bethel Habte:       Just basically, like, a high-rise living city guy.


Pat:                Yeah, but about a year and a half ago, he and his spouse-


Bethel Habte:       Sandy.


Pat:                Moved upstate.


Pat:                Yeah this is great.


Rob Dubbin:         Oh, thank you, its been raining the last couple days but, uh, stuff is happening.


Pat:                Yeah.


Bethel Habte:       They'd bought a little white house with a big yard and this beautiful mountain ridge in the distance.


Rob Dubbin:         But when it gets really rainy, then it gets super foggy. And then it, sort of, disappears.


Bethel Habte:       Yeah.


Rob Dubbin:         The way that sometimes, like, a building would in Manhattan.


Bethel Habte:       You're relating things to buildings still?


Rob Dubbin:         That's all I got (laughs)


Pat:                And pretty quickly, after they get there, they realize there's all this food growing in their yard. They have apple trees and then they find a pear tree.


Bethel Habte:       Squash and kale and pumpkins.


Pat:                And pumpkins and hops.


Jad:                Wow, it's, like, Garden of Eden.


Bethel Habte:       Yeah.


Pat:                Had you ever had trees that grew fruit or food before?


Rob Dubbin:         No, no.


Bethel Habte:       And right in the center of this yard is the peach tree.


Rob Dubbin:         And we had so many peaches, I think we pulled, like, 200 off this tree. We made jam and pie and... Sandy's an amazing pie baker. And so we had a ton of pie, crumble-


Bethel Habte:       And so the next, the next year rolls around and, and Rob is, like, rubbing his hands together, like, "Yes, it's peach time."


Rob Dubbin:         You know that they're ready because they come off when you gently tug at them. And if they're not coming off yet, they're not ready yet. So it was in the part where we were, like, waiting and ready for it to start to happen.


Pat:                When he hears Sandy yell from the back of the house, "Ah, it's a bear." So he jumps up, goes to the back window and, and sees-


Rob Dubbin:         It was a bear. It was a, it was a, I mean, I, hm, you can't mistake it.


Bethel Habte:       Just sitting there.


Rob Dubbin:         Sitting like Winnie the Pooh, on its butt, and it was just reaching up and all lazy, to the tree, and it was pulling off a peach. And it would, like, look at it and it would put it in its mouth then it would drop a pit and it would reach up for another one. It was just having the time of its life. And I love that it's sitting. Not only was it sitting, its back was to me, which I found also very upsetting in ways that I couldn't totally articulate at the time. I was like, "You need to be more aware of the fact that you've come to someone's house, taking their food."


Bethel Habte:       And so he jumps up, he grabs this tambourine that he uses to punish his cat.


Rob Dubbin:         So I grabbed it and I ran outside. And I started shaking it.


Pat:                One, one of them took a video of it.


Bethel Habte:       And then Sandy, his spouse, is, like, by the house, woofing like a dog.


Sandy:              Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof.


Rob Dubbin:         Ah! Ah!


Bethel Habte:       And, like-


Rob Dubbin:         The bear immediately was like, "Oh no."


Pat:                The bear totally freaks out.


Rob Dubbin:         Then it booked it back into the woods that way.


Bethel Habte:       So you walk up to the peach tree and...


Pat:                Peach tree has been, like, massacred.


Rob Dubbin:         The parts of this tree that are six feet or below, were pretty much stripped of peaches.


Bethel Habte:       And there's just all these peach pits and, like, half eaten peaches scattered around and every one of those is, like, a peach that they're not going to have. Like a pie crumble that they're going to have.


Pat:                What was the feeling that you had?


Rob Dubbin:         Just loss and, and, and determination. I was like, "No. I can't, I don't want this to keep happening." At this point, I see the peaches that are left and I would like them to be ours. I think the bear has had its fill. And this has to stop now.


Bethel Habte:       So they go back inside and Rob immediately googles, like, how to deter bears.


Pat:                And then at some point they come across a website that says one thing that bears are very afraid of is human voices.


Rob Dubbin:         Yeah, so, I was like, "I think that what I need to do is make a giant playlist of podcasts and play it.


Jad:                A podcast?


Bethel Habte:       Yeah, and so he takes this old iPhone with a broken screen and he-


Pat:                Then begins to build this bear deterring podcast device.


Rob Dubbin:         I have a telescope, it has a mechanical mount. And then I have one of those little power banks that you can get to charge your phone when you travel and stuff. And I have a Bluetooth speaker, that I connected directly to the phone.


Bethel Habte:       And he covers that whole thing with a recycling bin on top of these logs. So he hooks the whole thing up and he loads it with the entire catalog of Reply All.


PJ Vogt:            From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I'm PJ Vogt.


Alex Goldman:       And I'm Alex Goldman.


Robert Krulwich:    Reply All. This is, uh, a show about the internet.


Bethel Habte:       Yes.


Jad:                Oh my goodness, it's, like, the two most citified Brooklyn kids.


Bethel Habte:       Yeah, so Reply All is this podcast by these two guys, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman.


Jad:                And a whole bunch of amazing producers.


Bethel Habte:       Absolutely, an entire team of incredible people who produce the show. But anyway, yeah, Rob just happens to like Reply All.


Rob Dubbin:         It was, it was something that we were comfortable with.


PJ Vogt:            So Alex...


Alex Goldman:       Yes?


PJ Vogt:            You've been mostly out sick this week.


Jad:                I love imagining PJ and Alex just talking to no one in the garden.


Pat:                So, uh, mainly I'm just curious what you thought about your podcast being used a scarecrow.


PJ Vogt:            How do you feel about that, Alex?


Alex Goldman:       I think, I thought it was great. Like, I thought the only, I thought that there were very limited ranges of application for this show. I'd like for our shows to be, like, the duct tape of podcasts. You can do all kinds of stuff with it.


PJ Vogt:            Yeah.


Alex Goldman:       So far we've only figured out the two, listen to it and scare bears.


Pat:                But he also thought, like, there's, there's one aspect of Reply All that, um, might be particular effective at scaring away a bear.


PJ Vogt:            (laughs)


Jad:                It's the laugh?


Pat:                It's the laugh. PJ's laugh.


Rob Dubbin:         I'm just imagining a bear that's, like, "Mm, I don't think it's people, I'm going to walk a little closer, I'm going to approach this tree." And then its, like (laughs) that might be a little extra pop.


Alex Goldman:       Yes.


PJ Vogt:            (laughs)


PJ Vogt:            I do have the, like, I do mostly feel, like, I feel like I'm supposed to feel bad about it, but I mostly feel good about it. Like, I mostly feel good that it's just, like, useful, even if its useful in a very stupid way.


Alex Goldman:       Right, I'd for-


Robert Krulwich:    Well the terrible irony is, here's this city boy who escapes the city, learns to love the peace and quiet and then has his peace and quiet invaded and turns it back into a city.


Pat:                Yeah, I mean, they're, they're, they're, its like Brooklyn, kind of, followed him up there.


Robert Krulwich:    Some guy with a, with a radio going on too loud in his convertible.


Bethel Habte:       I'm sure though it, it kind of felt reassuring to have that, like, going in the background. You know that your bear deterring machine is doing its job.


Rob Dubbin:         It was an instinctual choice that I felt, like, continually revealed itself to be the right one.


Pat:                Yeah, so he goes out, he checks that first morning, the peaches are all safe. Goes out in the evening, Reply All's continuing to play.


PJ Vogt:            Hey Gene.


Alex Goldman:       Hey Gene.


PJ Vogt:            Gene, how are you?


Bethel Habte:       Next day, he goes out and there's no sign of any bears and he gets, like, ten peaches off the tree. And then the next day, no bears again.


Alex Goldman:       I can explain this tweet but I don't feel the tweet in my bones the way you, you, you might.


Bethel Habte:       PJ and Alex are still talking about the internet and there's, like, 20 peaches off the tree.


Robert Krulwich:    So over the days, how many peaches did he capture from the bear?


Bethel Habte:       Well-


Pat:                He had counted that the bear had eaten about 40 peaches.


Bethel Habte:       Based on the, the pits, yeah, yeah, yeah.


Pat:                Yeah, yeah, so they've kind of counted in his rage, you know, as he was cleaning up this, the mess. How many peaches that the bear had taken from him.


Rob Dubbin:         The way it shook out, I got, we got about as many peaches as the bear did.


Bethel Habte:       He thinks that he and Sandy got 40 peaches, too. So, like, by the end of peach season, he's thinking, "I win. Or at least I didn't lose. We, we tied." And so anyway he, he ends up writing this entire story on Twitter.


Rob Dubbin:         Put it up on Twitter, and I was, like, this is a story about what's happening in my yard right now. And it, it got a big response. And I was a little surprised, I think, at the number of people who took the bear's side (laughs) but it was like, "What's the problem, why can't the bear have some? Not enough peaches for you? Like..."


PJ Vogt:            Really? There's bear apologists?


Pat:                Yeah.


Alex Goldman:       Do they understand that there are other food sources than the one peach tree in Rob Dubbin's yard? Like-


Pat:                Clearly not, no.


PJ Vogt:            (laughs)


Alex Goldman:       The way I see it is, like, if Rob had domesticated the bear, raised it to only understand that food came from that tree and then sent it out into the woods, they would be justified. But other than that, that's ridiculous.


PJ Vogt:            I'm not taking the bear's side.


Alex Goldman:       No, no.


PJ Vogt:            I wouldn't even, its not even about, like, the morality of it. Its just, the bear like Reply All, Rob does like Reply All. That's, like, very straight forward for me. Rob gets the peaches.


Pat:                Do you think on any level the bear, like, got something out of listening to the show?


Alex Goldman:       No.


PJ Vogt:            No (laughs) I don't know, we just don't design it with bears in mind.


Alex Goldman:       What would a show with bears in mind sound like?


PJ Vogt:            Mm, Radiolab (laughs).


Jad:                Oh my god, it's our next spinoff. Radiolab presents-


Robert Krulwich:    Radiolab for bears.


Jad:                For bears.


Robert Krulwich:    Yes, we've been under, sort of, estimating the size of our bear audience.


Jad:                Listen, real talk here, okay, the, we, we like bears. We like-


Robert Krulwich:    We do.


Jad:                We could do many more episodes about bears.


Soren:              No, in particular, we've run across so many and, and they, our staff has run across so many things about bears that we've got, we've got, uh, a whole bear season worth of-


Jad:                We could do a whole season.


Robert Krulwich:    Or we could leave-


Jad:                Honestly, we could do that. We could just decide that right now.


Robert Krulwich:    We, we could.


Jad:                We could make-


Robert Krulwich:    Or we could try again, see if there's anybody in the house who's going to do a non-bear story.


Soren:              Yes, we are still, we have two more. And, and so next up, um, is Matt Kielty and Rachael Cusick.


Jad:                With breaking news, I hope.


Robert Krulwich:    We'll see.


Matt Kielty:        All right, you just want us to go barrel in, into this or something?


Soren:              Mm-hmm (affirmative) yeah, yeah and go.


Matt Kielty:        Okay well if we start all the way at the tiptop. We drove out to, um, Oak Ridge, New Jersey.


Rachael Cusick:     Yep.


Matt Kielty:        Which is about an hour and a half west of the city here.


Pat:                Okay.


Matt Kielty:        Drove out for a story about a, a bear.


Rachael Cusick:     Surprisingly.


Matt Kielty:        Who would have thunk it?


Matt Kielty:        I've definitely heard dogs barking in the video. Oh that's a dog.


Matt Kielty:        But not just any bear, a famous bear.


Rachael Cusick:     The most famous bear, you could say.


Matt Kielty:        Yeah.


Matt Kielty:        Hi, hey, how's it going? My name's Matt.


Rachael Cusick:     I'm Rachael.


Matt Kielty:        Uh, we're reporters, uh-


Matt Kielty:        So we, um, we showed up totally unannounced to this house, uh, a woman answers the door, uh, a little suspicious, we explain who we are.


Marissa:            Hi Matt, I'm Marissa. Hi Rachael, I'm Marissa.


Matt Kielty:        Eventually we get her name, its, uh, Marissa, Marissa McGowen.


Marissa:            Hi.


Matt Kielty:        We meet her husband, Greg, who had just gotten home from work.


Greg:               Rachael?


Rachael Cusick:     Yes, hi, nice to meet you.


Greg:               Matt?


Matt Kielty:        Matt.


Greg:               Nice to meet you as well.


Matt Kielty:        Nice to meet you.


Matt Kielty:        So Greg walked us around to the back yard.


Rachael Cusick:     This is really beautiful.


Matt Kielty:        Where there's this huge forest.


Matt Kielty:        Yeah this is gorgeous.


Matt Kielty:        And then-


Greg:               All right we can try this, the kids are playing here.


Matt Kielty:        Thanks so much.


Matt Kielty:        Let us into his basement.


Greg:               Let's go in there. Well shut the door and try to [inaudible 00:26:37]


Rachael Cusick:     Oh this sounds great.


Greg:               They'll start screaming in two minutes.


Matt Kielty:        Um, yeah I guess, uh, we were just curious, like, I mean, Marissa was telling us a little bit about the first time she saw the bear. Like, when, when did you, did she tell you about that? When did you first-


Greg:               Yeah, my wife saw him the first time. Uh, I caught a, just a glimpse of him. But, uh, the time I videotaped was actually the third time I saw him.


Rachael Cusick:     So, it's the summer of 2014.


Greg:               It was, uh, it was a weekday. It was the nighttime. It was about 6 o'clock at night or so. And I was hanging out on my deck.


Rachael Cusick:     When he sees this bear.


Greg:               Coming from the woods, up towards the street.


Rachael Cusick:     A black bear.


Greg:               So I ran out, I grab my cell phone and just started videotaping with an old, uh, Samsung Note 3.


Matt Kielty:        It's, like, a shaky video. Right, sort of, just, like, panning the, the phone all over the place.


Greg:               To try to find it with the phone.


Matt Kielty:        Marissa's outside.


Marissa:            Greg?


Greg:               Yeah.


Marissa:            It went to the front.


Greg:               She gets another video.


Matt Kielty:        Oh so she's taking the video too?


Greg:               She's got a video of me taking a video of the bear.


Greg:               I don't see it.


Marissa:            Just keep your eye on it [inaudible 00:27:37]


Matt Kielty:        So he starts walking up his front yard. He's going down his driveway and he's looking, he's still looking for this bear. And, really, like, you just see a little picturesque, like, slice of suburban America. Its just, like, some, you see some trees, uh, uh, a road.


Rachael Cusick:     Green grass everywhere.


Matt Kielty:        And then-


Greg:               There it is. There it is.


Matt Kielty:        All of a sudden Greg zooms in on this, like, blurry blob that is moving across, uh, his neighbor's driveway.


Rachael Cusick:     And, and its grainy. But what you see is this black bear.


Greg:               That is a bipedal bear.


Rachael Cusick:     Walking on its hind legs.


Greg:               Walking across the street.


Rachael Cusick:     Like a human.


Jad:                Oh my god. Wait, that's the bear?


Matt Kielty:        That's the bear.


Jad:                So the bear is just straight up walking on two feet. It could totally be, like, a kid in a bear suit, like, its, like-


Rachael Cusick:     Yeah, yeah, actually the first time I saw it, I was, like, that is what my dad looks like when he stumbles out of the hallway in the middle of the night without his glasses on, but still motoring.


Jad:                Yeah, its motoring and also, sort of, puttering.


Rachael Cusick:     Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Jad:                But puttering with purpose.


Matt Kielty:        Okay so Greg [inaudible 00:28:48] Oh yeah, okay so Greg's filming this whole thing.


Greg:               Yeah, I'm over in the front yard of my house.


Matt Kielty:        Watching this walking bear.


Greg:               That's when I see him walk up my neighbors driveway, into the street.


Greg:               Walking towards me, I am walking backwards.


Matt Kielty:        Then the bear, so the bear ends up crossing the street over into another neighbor's front yard.


Greg:               He's walking through the front yard right now.


Marissa:            Oh I see it.


Matt Kielty:        And, um, somewhere off-camera [inaudible 00:29:15] you hear their neighbor-


Marissa:            Does she know that's a bear?


Greg:               You know that's a bear, right?


Marissa:            Bear, lady.


Speaker 27:         I know.


Marissa:            Okay. Just look out, man.


Speaker 27:         He's walking through my house on his hind legs.


Marissa:            Through your house?


Speaker 27:         Through the yard.


Marissa:            Oh okay. Just look out. Don't get hurt.


Speaker 27:         I'm fine. He's just hysterical, he's walking like a person.


Rachael Cusick:     The, the video lasts for about three minutes and then-


Greg:               Yep.


Rachael Cusick:     Greg stops recording.


Greg:               So we got the video, we watch it go through the woods and stuff. I go inside, I start giving the kids baths and stuff. And I just take it and I want to share it with some people so I throw it on YouTube. You know, and a half hour later, after it uploads, I go and send out a couple emails.


Matt Kielty:        To, like, some friends and family, just be, like, hey I saw this weird, wild bear walking, um, like, check it out.


Greg:               And that's it. Go to bed, and then the next day...


Rachael Cusick:     Greg checks his phone.


Greg:               And I start seeing my emails popping up again and again and again and again. And its people from viral media companies, its family members. Somebody put it on Facebook and it was spreading on Facebook. And I was blown away.


Rachael Cusick:     But then, all these other people start putting up videos. Because this bear is being spotted all over town.


Matt Kielty:        Some of the videos are, like, of the bear-


Greg:               Awesome.


Matt Kielty:        Coming out at, like, nighttime or, like, dinnertime. Uh, like, walking in or out of the woods.


Greg:               Think he walks better than you, Don.


Matt Kielty:        But there's also videos of this bear just, like, strolling down neighborhood streets.


Rachael Cusick:     Popping his head into garbage cans.


Matt Kielty:        Going through people's backyards.


Speaker 27:         It was like-


Matt Kielty:        Underneath this woman's deck.


Speaker 27:         It was amazing. He would come, like, right there. You know, right there and-


Matt Kielty:        The two of them were, like, 20 feet away.


Speaker 27:         He looked up at me.


Matt Kielty:        They made eye contact. Then the bear kept strolling.


Speaker 28:         Um, there's a pear tree over there.


Rachael Cusick:     Showed up across the street from this woman's house.


Speaker 28:         And we saw him one time there, getting the pears out of the tree. It was great to see him, you know, because he's so famous.


Speaker 29:         This bear is amazing everyone, he walks on two legs.


Rachael Cusick:     Eventually folks in town give him the name Pedals.


Speaker 29:         Pedals, from the word bipedal.


Rachael Cusick:     He hit, like, Good Morning America.


Speaker 29:         Finally today, walking tall-


Rachael Cusick:     And, like, all the national news.


Speaker 29:         A black bear walking on it's hind legs


Speaker 30:         He walks on his hind legs


Speaker 29:         With the agility and ease of any human.


Speaker 30:         Completely upright like a human.


Matt Kielty:        Everybody's just kind of like, "Oh my gosh, what a fun cute adorable animal doing something that looks like a human that's so fun!"


Rachael Cusick:     Well sort of everyone.


Matt Kielty:        Which is...


Rachael Cusick:     Where we get to Lisa.


Rachael Cusick:     Hi I'm Rachel. [inaudible 00:31:57]


Rachael Cusick:     So basically we heard about Lisa she was like a big player with this whole love affair with Pedals. So we go inside and we sit down at her dining room table. Okay.


Matt Kielty:        Where, when did you first learn of the bear?


Lisa:               Um, I don't remember the exact date. And I'm even having a hard time with years. I think it was in 2014 that-


Rachael Cusick:     She was on Facebook.


Lisa:               I saw a post about this bear in a video walking by. And I was like, "Oh my God this is so sad."


Rachael Cusick:     You didn't think the video was funny?


Lisa:               No I thought it was sad


Soren:              Why does the video make her sad?


Matt Kielty:        Well, so Lisa actually works in animal rescue and she explained that, you know, rather than being, like-


Lisa:               Just in awe of it, like wow.


Matt Kielty:        For her, when she watched the video, what she saw was a bear that was injured.


Lisa:               Yeah.


Rachael Cusick:     So, the thing is that if you look at some screen shots of Pedals close up you will see


Lisa:               He really has no hands. One was, like, amputated


Rachael Cusick:     It was like a stub, it was like pretty much missing.


Lisa:               And the other one was just broken.


Rachael Cusick:     Mangled.


Matt Kielty:        And Lisa said that's why-


Lisa:               He walked on his hind legs. I mean, I'm sure he ate whatever berries whatever he could get.


Matt Kielty:        But Lisa said that because he couldn't use his paws is why he was walking around these neighborhoods.


Lisa:               Because he was starving and he couldn't feed himself.


Matt Kielty:        And so her first thought was.


Lisa:               We have to help this bear.


Rachael Cusick:     So she gets in touch with a couple women, they start a GoFundMe campaign.


Matt Kielty:        Help save Pedals


Lisa:               Raised $25,000 in, like, four days.


Rachael Cusick:     To basically guard him, transport him and house him at this place called the Wildlife Orphanage.


Lisa:               There's a couple other wild bears there, a couple of team, like, retired circus bears there, if you will.


Rachael Cusick:     There's a pond a lot of trees.


Lisa:               And it's private, you know, it's not a zoo.


Matt Kielty:        So the very last thing they had to do was petition the state of New Jersey to just, you know, like, do it.


Lisa:               Because that's against the law for us just dart a bear and put him in a trunk and take him.


Matt Kielty:        So they get this petition going and it ends up going, like, around the world.


Lisa:               Like 400,000 signatures.


Matt Kielty:        400,000?


Lisa:               Yeah.


Matt Kielty:        They send it off to the state.


Lisa:               We're all ready to go, everything was in place.


Matt Kielty:        And the state says...


Lisa:               No.


Matt Kielty:        We're not doing that.


Jad:                Really?


Matt Kielty:        Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Jad:                Why?


Rachael Cusick:     Well, so I got in touch with the press people at NJDEP, which was, like, the environmental department of New Jersey. And basically they said, "We have no interest in commenting on this."


Jad:                Wait, why would they not even comment?


Rachael Cusick:     Well, I think you can understand that, if you know the rest of the story of Pedals.


Matt Kielty:        Yeah there's a lot more to this story that you don't know.


Jad:                All right let's hear the rest then.


Jon Mooallem:       Um, okay well what you basically have is the collision of two ideas about black bears, and what they are and what they need.


Rachael Cusick:     Okay so that's Jon Mooallem.


Jon Mooallem:       I'm a writer at large with the New York Times Magazine.


Rachael Cusick:     Long time Pedals fan.


Jon Mooallem:       Yeah more, I knew more about his earlier work, like, before he got famous.


Rachael Cusick:     He's written a lot about animals including Pedals and, and Jon explained to us that what you had was this divide, where on the one side you had people like Lisa who, when they looked at the bear they thought-


Jon Mooallem:       That the bear needed help.


Rachael Cusick:     It's injured


Jon Mooallem:       Seems to be struggling


Rachael Cusick:     We gotta get it out of there, but on the other side you had the state of New Jersey.


Jon Mooallem:       And they came at it from a completely different view point where they, uh, you know, were just as interested in "helping" the bear and making sure the bear could, you know, uh, live it's, I don't know, best life, I suppose you'd say. And, uh, but they wanted to go about in a very different way. As far as they were concerned it wasn't, it was a wild animal, uh, and you, you don't take a wild animal out of the wild unless absolutely necessary.


Rachael Cusick:     And the fact that you saw this bear walking on two legs.


Jon Mooallem:       They basically saw the bipedal bear is a real survivor.


Rachael Cusick:     This is a feat of evolution, like, this bear evolved to survive, we should just let him do his thing.


Jon Mooallem:       It was still out there being a bear.


Matt Kielty:        So we're going to leave the bear there.


Rachael Cusick:     It's the right thing to do.


Matt Kielty:        So this is, uh, this is the part of the story about Pedals that we, we haven't told you yet. Um, so Pedals was first found in 2014, first showed up.


Rachael Cusick:     Yeah showed up again the next summer. And then-


Matt Kielty:        Showed up in 2016


Rachael Cusick:     Yeah, even early 2016 there were videos of Pedals and then nothing. And then-


Speaker 30:         A bear that had become a national sensation is dead.


Speaker 27:         The bear known as Pedals-


Rachael Cusick:     So in October of 2016, news broke that Pedals had been killed.


Speaker 27:         Was killed during a bear hunt on Monday, we told you about this-


Rachael Cusick:     In the annual bear hunt that takes place in New Jersey.


Matt Kielty:        And pretty quick, a familiar story played out.


Speaker 30:         Growing outrageous this morning over the apparent killing of the famed black bear-


Matt Kielty:        There was anger, protests...


Speaker 27:         Death threats against whoever may have killed the bear.


Speaker 29:         This fucking hick piece of shit.


Matt Kielty:        Death threats against an innocent hunter.


Speaker 28:         Against himself, his family, people have actually threatened to burn down his business-


Matt Kielty:        People posted photos of his home.


Rachael Cusick:     His wife's name.


Matt Kielty:        And in the midst of all this.


Speaker 29:         I think everybody out there should be going after the state of New Jersey.


Matt Kielty:        People were angry at the state.


Speaker 29:         The state of New Jersey did nothing about the bear.


Speaker 30:         Where was the DEP when the people reported this bear being injured for years?


Rachael Cusick:     That this was their fault.


Speaker 30:         Where were they then?


Lisa:               Phew, that was so rough. Yeah, I've had my moment, you know, but people have sent me bear things. You know, like, I have, I have, like, the little... See the bear on top of the radio. And Sabrina got me a picture that looks just like Pedals from a beautiful, um, artist that doesn't even know Pedals but made this picture of a bear that looks just like him. It's just cool so she just me one of those, you know, it's just nice. People thought, you know, they saw how hard we fought. Yeah, but the book is the best, it really is, and what's the writer's name?


Matt Kielty:        Jon Mooallem.


Lisa:               Yeah I talked to him, he was nice.


Matt Kielty:        He's a really nice guy


Lisa:               I remember being like, "You wanna what?"


Matt Kielty:        So Jon actually wrote an obituary of Pedals.


Rachael Cusick:     Do you have a copy of the, the magazine? That was cool.


Lisa:               Let's just look really quick, and then you guys can-.


Matt Kielty:        For the New York Times Magazine's annual Lives They Lived issue.


Rachael Cusick:     You got it?


Jon Mooallem:       I just thought, you know, the way I've always, you know, I've always thought of The Lives They Lived-


Matt Kielty:        There's the Bowie picture...


Jon Mooallem:       You know it's about these people's lives.


Lisa:               So many people.


Jon Mooallem:       But it's a lot just another interesting way to talk about the world we live in.


Matt Kielty:        Janet Reno


Lisa:               Pedals the Bear


Matt Kielty:        There's Pedals


Jon Mooallem:       One reason why I find conversations about animals so interesting is because the animals always have no comment, right? That they're, you basically have groups of human beings-


Matt Kielty:        Oh, it's [inaudible 00:39:00] Pedals.


Jon Mooallem:       Standing around this-


Rachael Cusick:     It's like a little screenshot.


Jon Mooallem:       Object-


Rachael Cusick:     Of Pedals standing.


Matt Kielty:        Yeah.


Jon Mooallem:       Uh, trying to, uh, figure out what to do with it.


Matt Kielty:        Walking towards the mailbox, just fetching the mail.


Lisa:               Yeah, and this is actually the picture that I used on his, our version of, like, rest in peace, Pedals.


Matt Kielty:        For like a memorial page?


Lisa:               Yeah.


Jon Mooallem:       Um, yeah. Do you, do you wanna, I felt, like, do you want me to, just, to read the end of the piece? But-


Matt Kielty:        Yeah, yeah, yeah that'd be great.


Jon Mooallem:       Okay. It was impossible to know the circumstances whether the hunter knew the bears' identity before he or she fired, whether Pedals, who did spend some time on all fours, had been distinguishable from an ordinary bear, whether he had been standing upright in the wilderness looking preposterous and conspicuous, and conspicuously like himself. That is the bears' posture, the very proof of his resilience, might have marked him for death. It was never clear what we owed Pedals, exactly. You could argue that allowing Pedals to live in the woods and be hunted, like any other bear, was act of respect. A validation of his wildness. You could also argue that it was a gruesome lapse of human compassion. Pedals stood for something. We may never agree what it was.


Soren:              So wait do you guys even have, did you... there wasn't a clip in there, there wasn't a clip from the movie?


Jon Mooallem:       Well, a matter of fact we do.


Matt Kielty:        Uh, yeah we've got a clip in there. Where does this, where did you send that thing again?


Jon Mooallem:       It's the [inaudible 00:40:34].


Matt Kielty:        Oh okay fine. Uh, we, um, We call, uh-


Speaker 18:         Bullshit.


Matt Kielty:        On your stupid rules. You want to play it again?


Speaker 18:         Bullshit


Jad:                And yet, in doing, so you followed it.


Rachael Cusick:     That's right, that's the beauty of it.


Soren:              Yeah, all right, you know what we're gonna do? We're gonna take a little break and we're gonna clear the air, we're gonna come back with a couple of producers who, uh, who have a little bit more respect for the rules. More in a moment.


Jason:              Hi, this is Jason Stutstill, calling in from Seattle, Washington. Radiolab is recorded in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, enhancing public understanding of science and technology in the modern world. More information about Sloan at


Ilya:               Hello it's Ilya Marritz co-host of Trump Inc. Donald Trump is the only recent president to not release his tax returns. The only president you can pay directly by booking a room at his hotel. He shreds rules, sometimes literally.


Speaker 36:         He doesn't care about what records was. He tore up memos or things and just threw them in the trash. So it took somebody from the White House staff to tell him, like, "Look you can't do that."


Ilya:               Trump Inc, an open investigation into the business of Trump from ProPublica and WNYC. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


Jad:                Jad.


Robert Krulwich:    Robert.


Jad:                Radiolab.


Soren:              Breaking Bad News Bears and, uh, we've got three bear stories so far and maybe, I, you know, maybe this is the moment I should admit that everybody broke for bears.


Jad:                Yeah that was, I could see that coming.


Robert Krulwich:    If you had a choice, you know, and you woke up in the morning filled with vim, vigor and excitement, would you do the hard news or would right away go-


Soren:              And these days, would you do that bad news? [crosstalk 00:42:25] What I was hoping actually and, uh, was that, I mean, admittedly Molly and Simon's had a little bit of, like, the hurricane that just come in. But what I was really hoping was that somebody was gonna get a solid, rock solid breaking news about bears kind of thing.


Soren:              And I actually had one in my sights that I was just sitting on, waiting to see if anybody got it so, uh, something that the Trump administration did, though most people don't know actually, the seeds that were planted during the Obama administration, was that the grizzly bear came off the endangered species... they were delisted.


Soren:              And in the wake of that, there was about to be, for the first time, in almost fifty years, a hunt around Yellowstone. Because the grizzlies have gone from, like, you know, whatever was 100 left, now around 700. They've also started encroaching on hikers, campers, hunters and ranchers, and so the idea is that once you delist them, which should be a success, hey they came back we can delist them now. But also at the same time that means that we can start-


Robert Krulwich:    Cull them, or shoot them.


Soren:              Yeah, so the ranchers are geared up to get their licenses and head out there and have this hunt. And at the last moment, uh, there was a court case and a judge said, "No, no not time to do the hunt." And that happened a couple weeks ago and then that-


Robert Krulwich:    That was just at hunting season.


Soren:              It was days before the hunt or whatever it was.


Jad:                What was the reason from the judge?


Soren:              Uh, I mean, I think, uh, clearly some activist had come to them and said, "They're not yet ready, this will damage the population." And so, yeah, the judge had, kind of, like, that maybe that the administration hadn't shown enough recovery to warrant hunting. And, but that was just two days ago that, that ruling got, sort of, like, either confirmed or upheld, or whatever it is. And now that functionally means that the grizzly is not delisted.


Soren:              That it is still on the endangered species list, and there is even some among bear concerned folk that you talk to, they're not quite sure what to think. Because if you're going to have an endangered species list, you need to occasionally have an animal come off of it.


Jad:                You need a win.


Soren:              You need a win, otherwise you just lose the political will to even-


Robert Krulwich:    Right.


Jad:                Yeah totally.


Soren:              Do it. Or, or you just show that doing it is pointless and you're going to lose them eventually.


Robert Krulwich:    And that once you get on it, you never get off of it.


Soren:              No, you need someone to get off. And I guess, you know, you could probably go back and forth for a lot about whether it's time for the Yellowstone grizzlies to be off or not.


Soren:              So nobody got to that but, um, but still we have one more, um, story. And it comes from Annie McEwen and Latif Nasser. Of course, it's about bears.


Latif Nasser:       I think in some ways, both.


Annie McEwen:       Both.


Jad:                Really? This is another-


Annie McEwen:       Yes, Soren.


Latif Nasser:       It's not breaking news in the sense that it's recent but it's breaking news in that we're saying stuff that is true about the world that has not been reported before.


Jad:                Oh so it's breaking news about bears.


Latif Nasser:       Yeah


Annie McEwen:       I think so.


Jad:                Okay where, where do you start?


Latif Nasser:       We start in the far north, in the Arctic islands, in Canada, the coldest, wintriest place you can imagine. With an Inuit hunter


David Kotana:       All right.


Latif Nasser:       Named David Kotana.


David Kotana:       I was born in [inaudible 00:45:19] in igloo in April 13th '59. And I live in a small community of 400 and something people, and everybody knows and everyone pretty, all related.


Latif Nasser:       Anyway, he told us this story of a hunt that he was on that was unlike any hunt he had ever been on before, where he caught a bear that was unlike any bear he had ever seen before.


Jad:                Wow, what happened?


David Kotana:       Well-


Annie McEwen:       April, uh, 2010.


David Kotana:       Me and my wife go hunting, it was a nice morning. Soft snow on top, nice weather.


Annie McEwen:       He and his wife set out on their Ski-doos, um, into-


Jad:                What's Ski-doo?


Annie McEwen:       Ski-doo is a snow mobile, it's just what they're called up there, yeah, just sort of like the snow machines that you can-


Jad:                This is a mechanical device.


Annie McEwen:       Yeah, um, they hop on their Ski-doos out across the sea ice, um, and, and they're heading towards this island that they are planing on camping in this empty cabin.


David Kotana:       And we got to that cabin and we were going to camp there but the cabin was damaged by some bears.


Jad:                Wow they knew that immediately.


Annie McEwen:       Yeah and then they decide let's go back to another cabin.


David Kotana:       After we had tea and filled up and everything, we start heading back about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. And as we were following the coast, getting close to our cabin, there was a hill and you could see some tracks coming down, down to the cabins.


Annie McEwen:       Fresh bear tracks around this cabin.


David Kotana:       They were not there before when we were going forward and when we are were coming back, they were there.


Annie McEwen:       And as they approach it, they see that this cabin has been ransacked. The bear has gone in-


David Kotana:       Pulled out the mattress, it broke the window.


Annie McEwen:       Okay, well we'll continue on.


David Kotana:       And we run into another cabin.


Annie McEwen:       So this is a third cabin they pass.


Jad:                Wow.


David Kotana:       Broke the door open made a mess inside.


Annie McEwen:       Is it normal for a polar bear to go into cabins and throw mattresses out?


David Kotana:       No, no, polar bear doesn't really do that. So we started tracking it again, we could see the tracks all the way.


Annie McEwen:       And this point, they started getting a little worried, cause these tracks-


David Kotana:       They was coming towards the community, to [inaudible 00:47:16]. So we started going faster.


Annie McEwen:       A fourth cabin ransacked. And a fifth.


Jad:                Jesus.


Annie McEwen:       Also been through. And right next to the fifth, there was a sixth cabin


David Kotana:       I had noticed it was not opened, so I better not get too close to this cabin.


Jad:                Oh so this is presumably the next destination for the bear.


Annie McEwen:       Right.


David Kotana:       So I went a little further and started going around it. And sure enough, this bear was hiding behind the cabin. He had his head sticked out, he shooked his body and started running.


David Kotana:       So I started chasing it. I got kind of close to it, I stopped my Ski-doo, [inaudible 00:47:56] on the sleds. Back of my hair was literally just standing up you know.


Annie McEwen:       And why were, why were you afraid?


David Kotana:       I don't know. I just never ran into that kind of bear before.


Annie McEwen:       He was used to polar bears but this bear... He just had this feeling that it was different. Something was off.


David Kotana:       Then I take a shot at it. I hit it.


Jad:                He kills the bear?


Annie McEwen:       He does.


Jad:                Okay.


David Kotana:       And then we run to it.


Annie McEwen:       They approach it on their Ski-doos they get off, this bear looks strange.


Jad:                Hmm.


David Kotana:       It's a, a blonde bear. I just thought it was just an ordinary grizzly bear because I never once caught a grizzly bear before and that was my first time. And the legs are dark, just like it got boots on or got socks on or whatever.


Annie McEwen:       It also had dark circles around its eyes.


Jad:                Wow, interesting.


Latif Nasser:       So he takes in back to town and he checks in with this government officer. And this guy takes a look at it he's like-


David Kotana:       David, I think this might not be a polar bear, it might not be a grizzly bear. It might be a hybrid bear.


Jad:                A hybrid bear?


Latif Nasser:       Yeah.


Jad:                Like a little bit of both?


Latif Nasser:       A little bit of both. And David had never even heard of that before.


Jad:                I never actually heard that.


Latif Nasser:       It's not a common thing that happens but a few years before David's bear-


Speaker 30:         An extremely rare creature shot and killed in the Canadian Arctic.


Latif Nasser:       The first one ever was caught in the wild.


Speaker 30:         You ever heard of a grolar, a grizzly polar bear hybrid?


Latif Nasser:       And the media-


David Attenboro:    Grizzly bears.


Latif Nasser:       David Attenborough included.


David Attenboro:    The result of polar bears and brown bears interbreeding-


Latif Nasser:       Got really excited about it. So we've known for a while that it's happening out there.


Jad:                Wow.


Latif Nasser:       And even David has encountered a few more out there in the wild.


David Kotana:       I ran into a mother polar bear with 2 little teddy bear cubs that are hybrid so cute.


Jad:                So this is some kind of cross-breeding between these two species.


Latif Nasser:       But the crazy twist was when, when this guy, David Kotana, uh, shot this thing, uh, this particular pizzly bear he sent it off for genetic testing.


David Kotana:       They told me it's called the first second generation bear. The mother was half polar bear, half grizzly and the father was a fully grizzly.


Annie McEwen:       This bear that David shot is the first indication that these bears are fertile.


Jad:                No way.


Annie McEwen:       Which is something that you wouldn't think if a horse and donkey say would, would breed together and make a mule. Those mules can't then have offspring.


Jad:                Wait, wait I thought that two different species, 'cause you have different species right?


Latif Nasser:       These are different species they branch off evolutionarily like hundreds of thousands of years ago.


Annie McEwen:       Pretty much the same time we that we broke off from the neanderthals, and so it would be like us meeting a neanderthal at the Crown Heights bar, or something, going home with that person and creating, creating an offspring.


Latif Nasser:       That's very specific it sounds like you've had,


Annie McEwen:       Franklin Ave, April 10th, call me! Just kidding.


Jad:                Wow, that's... So they branched, the polars and the grizzlies branched at the same time as us and the neanderthals?


Latif Nasser:       Around, of ball park I mean all, all these are ranges.


Annie McEwen:       That just goes to show how far apart they actually are.


Jad:                Wow, so, okay so, well I thought that, that's not, that doesn't work.


Latif Nasser:       Well it kinda shouldn't work. But wildlife Marsha Branigan says, "It sort of does."


Marsha Branigan:    That's kind against the biological terminology that we use for species.


Annie McEwen:       Oh, they're breaking the rules.


Marsha Branigan:    Yeah they're breaking the rules, but the rules we made right?


Speaker 28:         The number of polar bear and grizzly bear hybrids has been growing over the last few years.


Speaker 29:         It's evolution in action we are seeing take place before our eyes.


Speaker 30:         The polar bear may not be considered a rare creature for too long.


Annie McEwen:       And the sort of general idea about this whole new species is that it's linked to the changing climate.


Latif Nasser:       Because now these two species are overlapping.


Speaker 28:         Hotter temperatures are moving Alaska and Canada's grizzly bears North, while polar bears are losing much of their ice and spending more time on land.


Latif Nasser:       So for instance polar bears have hair covering the bottom of their feet, grizzly bears do not.


Jad:                They have pads.


Latif Nasser:       They, they have pads, yeah. But then the grolar bears have partial hair covering. So, like, maybe you get the best of both worlds. You can grip, or whatever, but also, uh, you're warm.


Robert Krulwich:    Oh, so it's a good thing to be one of these half-


Latif Nasser:       Yeah, right hybrid vigor, best of both worlds, kind of thing.


Robert Krulwich:    This is the new bear in town.


Latif Nasser:       Yeah.


David Attenboro:    So, Pizzly bears are not the bizarre Frankenstein-like creatures. They're valuable new hybrids. They may become increasingly common.


Latif Nasser:       So that's, kind of, like, and that's the story we got interested in and that's the story that is being reported, but then last year this paper came out and it kind of completely changes the story.


Jad:                Are we at the place where the, um, the bears become breaking news?


Latif Nasser:       Yup.


Annie McEwen:       Yes this is it.


Latif Nasser:       I actually think it, it's even more interesting than that first story.


Annie McEwen:       It's way, way weirder.


Latif Nasser:       It could more dramatically play out on like an HBO mini series.


Annie McEwen:       Yes.


Jad:                Okay lay it on me.


Latif Nasser:       So, last year a paper came out.


Annie McEwen:       And that scientist we talked to, Marsha Branigan-


Marsha Branigan:    Yup.


Annie McEwen:       Is one of its co-authors.


Latif Nasser:       And what they did is they basically just made a big giant list of every sighting of a hybrid bear and of all the genetic analysis of, like, every time we've seen this happen in the wild. And all of the information we could possibly gleam from that. And what she found was that every single one of these hybrids can be traced back to-


Marsha Branigan:    One female polar bear.


Latif Nasser:       One single bear.


Robert Krulwich:    Really?


Latif Nasser:       Named bear 10960.


Jad:                Only a scientist would name a bear that.


Latif Nasser:       She is, she is literally mother of all hybrid bears in the wild.


Jad:                Wow.


Robert Krulwich:    So there's something about this polar bear that seems to attract grizzly gentleman?


Annie McEwen:       Or she was just interested in grizzly gentleman.


Robert Krulwich:    Whoa.


Annie McEwen:       We mostly just have kind of guesses of how it went down since there were no witnesses.


Latif Nasser:       This is Alisa McCall, she's staff scientist for Polar Bears International.


Alisa McCall:       But what we think could have happened is that there was this female polar bear and maybe she did have some, you know, interesting personal preference for brown bears or maybe it was simply that she was in estrus and-


Annie McEwen:       That means she was in heat or something?


Alisa McCall:       Yeah, she was basically I heat, so she was giving off a scent that she wants to mate.


Annie McEwen:       Okay.


Alisa McCall:       They leave these stinky foot trails and so males will follow them on the ice.


Annie McEwen:       What do those smell like?


Alisa McCall:       Oh my gosh, you know, I've never smelled them but I know to a male polar bear they smell good.


Annie McEwen:       Really?


Alisa McCall:       That's all I know, um, but as the female puts down these smelly footprints the males are like, "Oh yeah." And they'll follow her for you know days and its cute they'll actually put their feet in the footprints, as they follow her.


Annie McEwen:       Oh no way.


Alisa McCall:       Yeah so maybe there was this just this really aggressive grizzly bear brown bear male who-


Latif Nasser:       Followed the female tracks, and-


Alisa McCall:       Could've fought off other polar bear males.


Jad:                Maybe this is a case of, of like, non-consensual-


Latif Nasser:       But if you look at sort of at like the genetic analysis it looks like-


Marsha Branigan:    She mated with two different grizzly bears.


Latif Nasser:       She had babies with two different grizzly bears and with one of them she had babies years apart.


Jad:                Oh, so she's had three litters with different-


Latif Nasser:       With two different grizzly bears.


Jad:                Interesting.


Marsha Branigan:    And all the offspring are from those three non-hybrid bears.


Annie McEwen:       So, this is narrowing in scope really quickly.


Jad:                Interesting.


Latif Nasser:       Yeah it's not, like, oh this is this, yeah this, like, species-wide, you know, new adaptation. It's just like here's this one lady who has this one kink.


Alisa McCall:       Has a strange taste in men I guess that's-


Latif Nasser:       Also there is a possibility those were just the only dudes around.


Annie McEwen:       But I was thinking like, "Oh my god, maybe this bear is a genius." And she's seeing like this ice change around her and she's saying, like, "I need to save my DNA and the best way to do it is do it with a grizzly cause they're doing better than I am."


Alisa McCall:       That's hilarious. I, I mean, yeah, imagine that there's, bears though that way, that would be pretty good. Unfortunately, the hybrids were kind of a mess to be honest.


Annie McEwen:       Really?


Alisa McCall:       They weren't really well suited for land or for ice, they were such an in-between bear, um, that they really just weren't that fit.


Annie McEwen:       Really?


Alisa McCall:       Grizzly bears are so well adapted to life on land and finding food. They've got the big hump, they've got the big wide head, they've got these long claws for digging-


Annie McEwen:       Right.


Alisa McCall:       They don't have fur on the pads of their feet because they don't need it.


Annie McEwen:       Right.


Alisa McCall:       Polar bears are so well adapted for the ice they've got a much smoother, sleeker head that helps them get in and out of seal holes-


Annie McEwen:       Oh.


Alisa McCall:       They've got thicker sharper claws to grab seals and help them walk on the ice-


Annie McEwen:       Okay.


Alisa McCall:       Their fur is hollow, which helps trap warm air against their bodies. And the hybrid, they're, like, this weird in-between. So their head is, kind of, like, not really sleek but not really boxy, kind of this weird in-between. They don't really blend in that well with the ice, or with the land, because they're kind of this creamy color.


Annie McEwen:       Right.


Alisa McCall:       And then their fur itself is, depending on where the fur is on the body, is like a mix of hollow but not hollow-


Annie McEwen:       Oh.


Alisa McCall:       Like so yeah, like, it backfired on her if that was her thought, but I like that idea.


Annie McEwen:       So these pizzly bears are just probably not the new horizon of the bear that will be, uh, and actually on top of that.


Latif Nasser:       So, so okay so imagine a family tree right? So there's a mama polar bear, uh, with these two grizzly bears at different times right?


Jad:                Okay.


Latif Nasser:       So there's the dad and the step dad, one of the kids, a daughter, and she's the only one whose had kids herself, so the third generation came from her. But it turns out that all this third generation bears, including the bear that David Kotana shot, um, that bear, the, the daughter bear-


Marsha Branigan:    She mated with her father.


Annie McEwen:       Right there's some sort of inset part to this?


Marsha Branigan:    Yeah.


Annie McEwen:       That's so weird.


Marsha Branigan:    I know [inaudible 00:57:57] she also mated with the other bear that-


Latif Nasser:       Kind of like dated the stepdad sort of thing?


Marsha Branigan:    Yeah sort of.


Annie McEwen:       She slept with the same two dudes that her mom did.


Robert Krulwich:    Oh my gosh.


Jad:                Whoa, now it we're going from like HBO to, like, Shakespeare.


Annie McEwen:       Yeah, or like Greek tragedy or something.


Jad:                Yeah, that's a weird family tree.


Latif Nasser:       So now all of a sudden it looks less like a species-wide movement for life will find a way and looks a little more like this is one crazy interbred family.


Annie McEwen:       Mm-hmm (affirmative)


Jad:                Wow.


Robert Krulwich:    So what do you make of that?


Annie McEwen:       Maybe this one like crazy inbred family is the first, you know, quite awkward attempt at what may become, like, you know, might be, like, evolution striving forward, making shaky step after shaky step.


Latif Nasser:       Cause nature is raunchy it's not, like, pretty the way you expect it. It's raunchy because, like, sex, like, like, animals try things. It's, like, this could, maybe this is gonna keep going but, but only time will tell. There's no way for us to know.


Annie McEwen:       And one last thing, uh, which is kind of an after thought but, but maybe not, uh, because while it's not clear whether our polar bear family is, is an awkward evolutionary step forward or just plain freaky. What we do know is that nature isn't exactly shy when it comes to being sexually creative. Is this 7th Ave?


Speaker 28:         Yes.


Annie McEwen:       So it turns out at the Museum of Sex they have this exhibit called the Sex Lives of Animals. And my brother was coming into town.


Speaker 43:         People aren't shy with the horns.


Latif Nasser:       And we thought incest was on theme, so let's send both of them.


Jad:                I'm glad you went there cause my mind went there and I was, like, "Whoa."


Annie McEwen:       I, sort of, organized this before I learned about the incest thing but just so you know it just made it that more uncomfortable.


Annie McEwen:       But okay, let's go in.


Latif Nasser:       He also did know about any of this going in, so poor guy.


Speaker 43:         Why are we here? I mean, really.


Annie McEwen:       But we, we got into that room and a very nice woman named Stephanie Spicer showed us around and we learned just, like, nature is trying some crazy stuff.


Jad:                Give me, give me, like, uh, like, a listicle.


Annie McEwen:       Uh, dolphins have sex through their blowholes.


Jad:                Whoa!


Speaker 43:         I guess why not?


Annie McEwen:       Tortoises have a crazy tongue penis. That come out of nowhere.


Speaker 43:         That looks like something from Alien.


Annie McEwen:       Um, ducks have sex with each other when they're dead somehow.


Jad:                Oh, wow.


Annie McEwen:       Deer have threesomes, um, there's all kind of butt stuff.


Speaker 43:         What is that? Is that-


Annie McEwen:       I don't know. Actually at one point, we were sort of surrounded by clitorises and other things.


Speaker 43:         I'm starting to feel like I've been in here a while and I'm feeling a little queasy.


Annie McEwen:       And then we were like, "They need like an abstinence room for brother, sisters." Like we just need a minute, can we just have a minute? Where's the celibate space? And then we got free passes to the booby bouncy castle, and I was, like, "Jim, we've gotta do it." And so we did it and he's like, "Okay." And I just sent pictures to my parents and they were just like, "What is happening?"


Jad:                Come back to Canada right away.


Annie McEwen:       Yeah, like, this is too much.


Jad:                That's wonderful.


Soren:              That's how you end a bear show, right there. Every bear show ends in a sex museum, I think.


Jad:                I, uh, I did not expect that coming. Annie McEwen, Latif Nasser and Annie's brother, Jim? Is it Jim?


Robert Krulwich:    Yes.


Jad:                Jim.


Soren:              Real quick special thanks, um, thanks to Wendy Carr.


Jad:                And thanks also to composer Anthony Cloag and the Fourth Movement from his Fantasy Movements entitled Very Fast and Manic performed by the Euphonics Tuba Euphonium Quartet after off their album titled Nuclear Breakfast available from Potenza Music.


Soren:              And Stephanie Spicer at the Museum of Sex and also, of course, bear 10960.


Robert Krulwich:    And thank you Soren for this whole idea into the opera and come with the, with what we came out with. It was kind of crazy.


Jad:                Yeah.


Robert Krulwich:    We should go.


Soren:              Yeah, I'm going to go hibernate.


Robert Krulwich:    You go hibernate and we'll say goodbye.


Jad:                I'm Jad Abumrad.


Robert Krulwich:    I'm Robert Krulwich.


Jad:                Soren?


Soren:              Uh, and I'm Soren Wheeler.


Jad:                Thanks for listening.


Soren:              To play the message press 2. Start of message. End of message.

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