A variety of didgeridoos. Photo/Wikimedia Commons
It might not pass the sniff test, as it were, but anecdotal evidence suggests our bears like music.
Not all music, though.
As it turns out, the thing that really sends them is the didgeridoo—a long, largely monotonal instrument invented by and played by the indigenous peoples of Australia.
This peculiar bit of evidence came last week from Steve Searles, Mammoth’s wildlife specialist, who at no point ever allows himself to think that he’s seen it all in the bear world.
Searles said he received a 911 call at 6:30 a.m. last Tuesday. The dispatcher said someone had reported a bear problem in Mammoth.
Searles jumped into his pickup, raced to the scene and witnessed something he’d never seen before.
“There were two gentlemen, still in their, um, sleeping gear, on their deck playing didgeridoos,” he said.
In front of them, on the grass, was a passive bear, who seemed to be enjoying the impromptu concert.
“Did you call this to 911?” Searles asked, his incredulity on the rise.
No, they said, it was one of their wives, who is prone to panic and familiar with placing 911 calls.
Searles said he mulled that over for about a half-second, then asked them what they were doing out there on the deck, at 6:30 a.m., playing didgeridoos.
One of the men shrugged.
“The bears seem to like it,” Searles said one of the men replied.
The didgeridoo (also known as a didjeridu or didge) is a wind instrument developed by Indigenous Australians of northern Australia around 1,500 years ago and is still in widespread use today, both in Australia and around the world.
It is sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or “drone pipe.” Musicologists classify it as a brass aerophone.
A modern didgeridoo is usually cylindrical or conical, and can measure anywhere from three to 10 feet long. Generally, the longer the instrument, the lower the pitch or key of the instrument.
Searles, who has a million bear stories tucked in his back pocket, told the story Wednesday evening in front of the Town Council.
Members of the council seemed to be amused, but not as much as Searles himself.
“With bears,” he said, “if it can happen, it will.”