Black bear drinking in kids swimming pool.

The Bear’s Swimming Pool

We live on a mountain on the edge of a wilderness area. This summer it was very hot and dry. Every little spring of water and creek had dried up. This made me start thinking how hard it must be for all the wild animals to get a drink. I think about the water limitations in the summer for our basic living, such as watering our garden, showers, laundry, but I never have to worry about getting enough water just for a drink. With no water on the mountain the animals and birds would have to go all the way down to the valley bottom to get to the river, just to have a drink. They would need to do this every day. 

In August there are a lot more people out and about, so not only do the animals have a long walk, but it would be even more stressful for them never knowing who they might bump into. They have to be careful because they never know how people will react to them. 

My solution for helping the animals that live on the mountain above our home was to take some water to them. I got Jeff, my understanding hubby, to help me take up enough water to fill a small plastic swimming pool. This would a least help a few of my animal friends. It would shorten their journey for a drink and there are no unexpected people on our land so they could get to water stress free.  

I was helping the animals and helping myself, because I was feeling happy and uplifted at the thought of who might come and visit the pool. On this note, Jeff and I decided to put a motion sensor camera on a nearby tree. It would film a minute of video every time someone went around the swimming pool. Jeff gave me the camera as one of my presents for our wedding anniversary because he knew how excited I was about the project.

We left the pool and camera in place for two weeks before we went back to get the memory card from the camera so we could check to see if we had had any visitors. The first good sign was that the water had to be topped up. I knew that animals were using it, but not which ones or how many.

As Jeff and I down loaded the images onto our computer we couldn’t be more pleased. At first a Northern goshawk came to the water. It walked all around the pool being very inquisitive and careful. He knew it was something different but he was very interested and seemed to know it held water. Finally after being satisfied that it wasn’t something to fear he jumped into the water. He splashed around and had the best bath. He seemed absolutely delighted and dipped up and down, getting water throughout his feathers. This was a whole new version of ‘forest bathing’.

The next animal to appear at the pool was a red squirrel. It hung over the edge and enjoyed a good drink. The squirrel came back many times. A weasel came one night for some water. A family of four robins came several times and bathed and drank. Another visitor was a mother deer and her fawn. They showed up on the images both during the day and the night. They seemed so peaceful walking quietly through the forest.    

The animal that has come the most and thoroughly loves the water is a gorgeous black bear. He would spend great lengths of time sitting beside the swimming pool and inside the swimming pool. He played in the water like a child, delighted in the refreshing coolness of a swim on a hot summer’s day. 

As I watched the footage I laughed and squealed in joy at seeing the animals so loving the little gift we had given them. We will keep bringing water until it gets below freezing this winter. I felt good knowing we had helped to make our mountain neighbour’s lives a little easier and better during the hot, dry summer months.

It reminds me that there is a lot we can do to help our animal neighbours in living their lives.  Putting out bird feeders, bird baths, and planting flowers and shrubs for butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Overall the most helpful thing is giving wild animals the space they need when they are getting to water and finding food, such as bears eating berries, so we don’t disturb them in their important business of making a living.   

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