Raised by Bears
Words by Jon Baty Art by James Kenison
On Elizabeth Bardo’s 5th birthday, her parents, Ron and Sheila Bardo, took young “Liz” into the Alaskan wilderness to find an appropriate bear family to raise their daughter. Their plan was, upon her sixteenth birthday, they would return for her and integrate her back into the human populace.
“We wanted her to understand the values of providing for herself and learn the ways of the bear world,” Mr. Bardo said. “In today’s climate, having the background of being raised by bears, she will have the knowledge and skill set that will allow her to stand unafraid when she is faced with any challenge.”
For three days, the Bardos hiked treacherous trails, dragging a cooler filled with fresh salmon, berries, and other various accoutrements they would use to help influence the bear’s decision to accept a human child into their sleuth. They also included a small suitcase with outfits that Liz could wear throughout the years.
“Originally the bears were, as one could guess, apprehensive,” remarked Mr. Bardo. “They had no understanding of our decision to have them raise our daughter. Finally, after seeing our peace offering of food, the bears reluctantly took Liz with them.”
Mr. Bardo told the bears that they would return to the same spot in 11 years, to collect their daughter.
10 years and 364 days later, Mr. and Mrs. Bardo are trekking through the same Alaskan trail to retrieve their daughter.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Mrs. Bardo said. “Initially, there were nights that I would pass by her room to see if she needed anything, forgetting that she wasn’t there. She was 300 miles away, in the mountains, being raised by bears.”
The following day, the Bardos awaited the arrival of their daughter. Suddenly, from the heavy thrush, appeared a wild looking 16-year-old Liz Bardo, accompanied by two young adult bears. “We thanked them for their help.” Mr. Bardo said. “Lizzie was quite hesitant to rejoin us, but Sheila eventually coerced her to come back.”
Liz, now 21 years old, has somewhat adjusted back into the “hind-leg walking” world. She no longer goes by her bear name, Grrr Sniff Growl Grr (roughly translated, “The Hell is this?”), and currently works for a public relations firm in San Francisco.
“Initially, it was hard not wanting to kill my human parents for their flesh,” admitted the young Ms. Bardo. “The only thing that kept me from mauling them was the promise I had made to my bear father, Growl Growl Grooooowl, to not consume them. ‘They are idiots,’ he said. ‘Eating them would only make you stupider.’”