The American Chestnut used to be the preferred source of hard mast (nut) crops that helped bears and other wildlife to fatten up in the fall. Chestnuts were nutritious, loaded with the important protein and fat all critters need as they prepare for winter.  “Used to be” are the operative words here.  Chestnuts were lost due to a blight more than 100 years ago, leaving a void in the forests and in the fall diet of wildlife.   Research has been done to try and bring back the all-important chestnut tree, and there is hope that a resistant tree will finally be developed.  In the meantime, acorns have taken the place of chestnuts as the food of choice in the fall.

Curator Coy did manage to obtain some chestnuts, and he wondered if the cubs would like them.  To test their reaction, he threw the chestnuts into the enclosure before he threw the bulk of their dinner.  The chestnuts were an “appetizer,” so to speak.  Apparently the cubs have an innate knowledge that chestnuts are good to eat.  Here are some pictures that show how they responded to the unfamiliar new food.

Andy

Andy Bear heard something and he smelled the chestnuts.

Eliza

Eliza Bear smelled the new food, too.

Finnegan

Finnegan Bear smells the chestnuts and goes to find some.

Andy and Finn

Andy and Finn find chestnuts.

Finn

Finn uses the back of his paw as a plate from which to eat a chestnut.

Andy

Andy eats chestnuts from his “paw plate.”

Three cubs

All three of the cubs gobbled the new food.

It is too bad that the cubs can’t have more than a few chestnuts.  Hopefully, sometime in the future there will be chestnut trees in the forest again.  We certainly hope so.