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Making room for new cubs at Clark's

The female bear cub taking up residence at Clark's Trading Post in Lincoln has a white blaze on her chest. Lorna Colquhoun. (click for larger version)
April 28, 2010
LINCOLN—If Echo and Pemi, the last two bears to take up residence at Clark's Trading Post, were in elementary school, they'd be wrapping up second grade.

They're 7-years-old now. They grow up so fast.

Now there are two new cubs at the summer attraction and the Cute-O-Meter is in overdrive. The as-yet-named cubs, a male and a female, are making themselves at home after arriving about two weeks ago. Born within a week of each other in January, the female cub now weighs in at 13 pounds, while the male is a strapping lad at 20 pounds.

Rambunctious and roly-poly, they are little balls of fluff that will grow up to weigh several hundred pounds.

Already, said Murray Clark, who, with his sister, Maureen, train the bears, the cubs are getting familiar with a prop or two before their public debut.

"It takes a village to raise two bear cubs," Maureen said recently while overseeing a romp of the baby bears, after they consumed a total of eight bottles of formula.

These are the first bear cubs at the trading post since Echo and Pemi arrived in 2003, less than a month before the fall of the Old Man. Later that spring, by a vote of the public, those cubs were named in honor of Franconia Notch landmarks, Echo Lake and the Pemigewasset River.

The new cubs, which were born in captivity in Illinois and Minnesota, will likely take on Abenaki monikers, as Nita and Kuruk did when they arrived in 1999.

Bear shows have been a part of the tourist attraction since 1940, when brothers Murray and Edward began the tradition. Both men have died since the anniversary was marked last year; Edward in September and Murray in January.

"My father used to say of bear cubs, 'Short rounded ears, needle sharp teeth and the shortest temper of record,'" Murray the son said. "That description fits them all."

For the first time in 80 years, none of the bears passed the winter at the trading post, now that there is a bear sanctuary across the street at the Clark family homestead. This is where Ursula, 23; Moxie, 25; and Spooky, 29, are spending their retirement. Pemi, Echo, Victoria, Nita and Kuruk spend their summers at the trading post.

The new cubs have already begun their training and will eventually take their place in the shows.

At feeding time, they already know to take a seat in little "cubby" chairs, where they consume bottles of formula, made from ingredients that include jars of baby food, powdered supplements and soy milk.

"He knows his side and she knows where to go on the chair, too," Maureen said.

They'll both be introduced to audiences this summer. Clark's Trading Post is open weekends only from May 29 to June 13 and opens daily June 18.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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