A troupe of sweet, rescued bears are unknowingly doing their own fundraising. For the past several years, the bears have allowed their trusted keeper to brush their dense fur; the collected fur is spun into yarn to make adorable knitted teddy bears that are then sold at a Christmas auction.
Susan Kowalczik founded Orphaned Wildlife Center (OWC) in Otisville, New York, with her husband, Jim, in 2015. The animal caregiver has worked with their resident rescued bears throughout their lives and has been brushing their fur for years.
The process of collecting fur begins in the spring when the bears start to shed.
“There is fur everywhere,” Susan, 63, told The Epoch Times. “Some of the bears enjoy being brushed, and that is the best and fastest way to gather it ... the shedding season lasts a couple of weeks and they are brushed as often as possible.”
Susan said that bears have a reputation for being “fierce and strong-willed,” and while OWC’s bears are accustomed to human contact, staffers still make sure to use a “bear-friendly” brush to avoid any unwanted hair-pulling.
After the fur is gathered, Susan combs it through (to remove any debris), cleans the fur, and sends it to Jamieson Fiber Arts where maker, Laurel Jamieson, spins the wool into yarn and knits the teddy bears. For the 2022 holiday season, another maker named Susan, from The Grumpy Goat, and a number of her friends and clients, have volunteered to knit the popular bears. Some of them are toy-sized, while others are tiny and can be hung on a Christmas tree.
Susan describes the three bears as “truly wonderful.”
“When I hung my phone on the fence to film them getting brushed, one by one they came over to see what I was up to ... they love attention, and are always happy to get involved with whatever is going on,” she said.
Thick-furred Jenny is Susan’s favorite, and she suspects the feeling is mutual. Amy is “the smartest of the three,” and after she spotted her keeper’s covert recording device, Susan was surprised she didn’t turn the camera off “as she usually does.”
Sonya is the sweetest and most playful. She loves pond time and is “probably the prettiest of the three” with her big white collar.
Sharing more about OWC, Susan said that their mission is twofold: “First is to provide sanctuary to our eight permanent resident bears; giving them a secure future is our main goal ... we also take in local wildlife that is either orphaned or injured and, when they are ready, return them to the wild. Through our efforts, we hope to encourage people to respect and enjoy our native wildlife.”