Yes, bears do play, and sometimes it's rather comical. Catching a bear playing is really quite hard. I myself have only seen the play come out once and that was in a two-year-old cub. My first encounter with bear play was our very first summer here. We had only just taken a look-see, paced off our property corners, and had the surveyor come out and put our property on the map. On our next visit we brought the weed-eater and a small one-gallon gas can and we brought back the chainsaw and I'm sure we had a machete or two; it was time to clear the yard and see what we could make of the place so we could start building.
I picked a spot that was more grass than anything else, but six-foot grass can take a bit to cut. What brush we found fell to the machete, and small trees met the chainsaw. We decided to call it quits when we ran out of gas. We were all pooped anyway, even though the afternoon was barely half over.
Not wanting to carry all our tools back and forth every day, we found a place in a tree where we could hang the weed-eater and chainsaw, but there just wasn't anyplace to hang the gas can and we hadn't brought any rope. Maybe we could have thought of something, but really who's going to bother a gas can? So we stuck it in the fork of the tree.
Now, as I've recounted in a previous post, I live roughly half a mile from the river, so when we returned the next day we had the dubious pleasure of carrying a full sized can of gas. I'm sorry, carrying five gallons of anything is heavy lifting as well as awkward. Don carried it sometimes, but he also carried the gun and I'd rather he be able to use that, so I carried the gas. The boys were still young though my oldest could help too.
When we got to our tree, everything was just as we left it - everything except the gas can was gone, and not only move but totally not in sight. Well, we had to get on with our work and we had gas so we didn't spend much time looking for that little can. In truth, I can't remember when we found that gas can. As my yard stands now, it was clear across the front of the yard and down in a tiny cleft in the ground, totally out of my present keep-the-grass-cut yard but not far. The boys found it when they were playing, and if they were playing here, we had already moved here, though I think the house hadn't been built yet.
They came running up to us. "Hey mom, look what we found." They presented us with the little red gas can, but the poor thing would never hold another drop of gas. It had a multitude of holes in it all over, most of them quite small but ranging in size from toothpick size to a couple big enough for me to stick my little finger in at least up to my first knuckle. Considering all the holes and how far it was away from its starting point, at least one bear had a blast playing with it. I wish I could have seen it. My mind fills in all manner of details, rolling and kicking it up into the air, tossing it, shaking it, tackling it and rolling. Maybe there was two cubs and they wrestled over it. There's no way of telling.
I remembered this story because I now have another gas can that was similarly played with. Last fall it was down on the gas barrels and one day I found it on the other side of the trail. I didn't think anything of it and I didn't look very close. Planning to use it this winter, my husband wanted me to bring it to the house. Only when we were going to fill it did I see the holes. Something must have interrupted the play this time. And now, thanks to the receding show, it has become visible again.
If you watch bears carefully, you will see dog behavior, cat behavior, and even people behavior. They are fascinating creatures, and yes, they do play.