Thursday, March 29, 2012

A New Addition at the Camp

Camp Mascot
Spring 1944

Wildlife had always been abundant in the area surrounding the small labour camp in Riding Mountain National Park and encounters with elk, moose, deer, wolves, and bears were not uncommon for the prisoners wishing to explore the area. However, in the spring of 1944, the prisoners and the staff were about to come much closer to the wildlife than they had expected.

The bear with a guard and camp staff member
Forty prisoners were hiking along the northwestern shore of Whitewater Lake on a nice spring day in 1944. The hike however was interrupted by the presence of a large black bear with two small cubs. The prisoners managed to scare off the mother bear and one of her cubs while the remaining cub was left to fend for itself. Jumping on the opportunity to adopt a new "pet", the prisoners quickly picked up the cub and brought it to the camp.

Despite the disapproval of some of the staff, especially the park warden, the bear was allowed to remain at the camp. The bear quickly grew on the prisoners as well as the guards and staff. A cage was built in between one of the bunkhouses and prisoners often took the bear for walks, on a leash, with the camp dogs.

The bear would remain at the camp until the next year but that is a story for another day!

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