Each winter, the bears at Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, New Hampshire, build up thick, woolly coats just like their wild kin. Come spring, however, Clark’s bears enjoy something that their feral relatives don’t: a baby-shampoo bath and a good brushing from trainer Maureen Clark, whose family has held bear shows at the Post, May to October, since 1949.
Seven of Clark’s eight ursine charges, ranging in age from 5 to 27 (their birthdays are all in January), will let themselves be distracted — one raisin (or unsalted peanut) at a time — for varying degrees of grooming. The oldest, Spooky, a male, will have none of it, while the most hirsute, 18-year-old Victoria, doesn’t mind the help in shedding some two and a half pounds of fur per season. “As you can imagine,” Clark quips, “a pound of bear hair is a lot of hair.”
Clark sends the bear hair — a combination of the short, coarse, brown undercoat and the longer, shinier, black outer guard hairs — to Fiber Dreams of Temple, New Hampshire, where it’s washed and formed into loose ropes. Shirley Walker of Lee, New Hampshire, then spins them into fuzzy single- and double-ply yarns. Maureen’s sister, Nola Grant, and Maxine Tyler, a longtime Clark employee, then knit it into hats, sweaters, mittens, booties, and teddy bears, each bearing two labels: one for the knitter and one for the bear. Unfortunately, the plush items aren’t for sale, but are raffled off for charitable causes or given as gifts to folks who help care for the bears.
Clark’s Trading Post, Rte. 3, Lincoln, NH. Call or visit Web site for schedule. 603-745-8913; clarkstradingpost.com