Q: I recently saw a commercial on TV where two young boys were being chased by a bear: One decided to go up a tree, and the other boy decided to swim to safety in a small lake. The boy who had taken refuge in the water advised the boy in the tree that bears can swiftly climb trees, but they are not very good swimmers. Is this true? —Christopher Rowe, via email
A: They always say you shouldn’t believe everything you see on TV, and here’s another example of why. In fact, if televised depictions of me are to be believed, I also might wear a tie or love snuggling in freshly-laundered blankets.
The truth is, I’m a very good swimmer—perhaps not terribly fast or agile, but certainly comfortable in water. While polar bears are the clear Michael Phelps of my genus (regularly swimming tens or even hundreds of miles between ice floes), grizzly bears have been observed bobbing in Denali’s Wonder Lake searching for a meal, and I’ve personally run into blacks bathing leisurely in Olympic National Park.
As an avoidance strategy, swimming is little better than climbing a tree: Bears have been known to chase prey by swimming. On top of that, in most places where you’d find a bear, you won’t last long in a chilly lake. Meanwhile, I have pretty decent wetsuit built-in to my fur—and I’m not afraid to use it.
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