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The Black Bear

by Isaac McLellan

(Ursus Americanus)

The great black bear hath wide-extended range
O'er every region in these banded States;
In North, in South, in East and Western realms,
It feeds, it prowls, in Winter hibernates.
He that would hunt their numbers infinite
Must cross Missouri, scale the Rocky Mounts,
And riot there in sports beyond compare,
Amid those craggy glooms and pouring founts;
For nowhere in the world is nobler game
To crown his efforts with a hunter's fame.

In all areas 'tween that mountain chain
And the far waters of Pacific shore,
All game indigenous to this Continent
Abounds and ranges the wide region o'er.
The grizzly, cinnamon and dusky bear,
Wolves, cougars, foxes and fleet-footed deer
Are there to tempt the ardent hunter's search,
To dare, to vanish from his bold career.
He must evade the mountain fastnesses,
Explore dense forests and far-spreading plains,
The treeless plateaus and the caverns grim,
For each a world of faunal life contains;
Unrival'd in their plenitude of game,
Save in thick jungles of the India's land,
Or sunless forests of the Afric world,
Swept by great rivers, crown'd with mountains grand.

The black bear is of sluggish, solitary mood,
Prowls in the densest cloisters of each space,
Dozing and sleeping at his slothful ease,
Harmless to man and the wild creature race.
Its food it seeks where shrubberies grow profuse,
Wild berries, grapes and fruits of luscious taste;
Where trampled bush and leaf-stripp'd twigs betray
The haunts of those gr1m creatures of the waste.
Wild animals of size they ne'er attack,
Save when by hungry torments they are press'd,
Content on honies, and wild berries fare,
Content to slumber in untroubled rest.
In Southern States where they innumerous roam,
In great plantations where they so abound,
A bear-hunt is a gala festival,
Pursued by mounted riders and the hounds,
'Tis like a wolf-drive over Russian steppes,
Or boar-hunt in the forests of Ardennes,
Where the bold horsemen, arm'd with gun and spear,
Surround their victims in the woods and fens.
Great packs of hounds the hunters oft employ,
Hounds lithe and active and of dauntless race,
Endow'd with scent acute and tireless speed,
Tracking and yelping in unerring chase.
For, keen of scent, and Watchful in the ear,
The bear alarm'd is wary of pursuit,
And long ere hunter and the hounds draw near,
It vanishes from sight on hurrying foot.