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Bear-sex billboard in downtown Spokane was a brief affair

UPDATED: Tue., May 1, 2018, 8:02 p.m.

A billboard for The Great PNW clothing company depicting two bears copulating was briefly displayed in downtown Spokane Monday before being removed. (Courtesy)
A billboard for The Great PNW clothing company depicting two bears copulating was briefly displayed in downtown Spokane Monday before being removed. (Courtesy)

Joel Barbour would like to clear one thing up.

His company’s billboard, which briefly graced downtown Spokane during Monday’s afternoon commute, was absolutely intended to depict two bears having sex.

“It’s not some, like, vulgar big bear orgy or something going on,” Barbour said. “I think it was very lighthearted, and people get that for the most part.”

Barbour is the owner of The Great PNW, a Spokane-based clothing company that sells shirts, hats and other merchandise in stores like Atticus, as well as online.

The billboard in question sits at the corner of First Avenue and Washington Street, and showed two bears copulating next to an evergreen tree, alongside the company’s logo.

Barbour didn’t expect the billboard to stay up long, but thought it might generate good publicity while giving people something to laugh at.

“Here’s an opportunity to lighten people’s day. Everything’s so serious,” he said.

It garnered attention on Reddit and Facebook before being featured in a KREM story Monday.

The billboard was removed by the billboard company, Lamar, sometime late Monday or early Tuesday, Barbour said. The company told him it’d seen it on the news and replaced it with a more tame PNW billboard.

Barbour thought it might be up longer but said he wasn’t upset.

“I was stoked that it even got approved and it got printed,” he said.

A handful of online commenters pointed out that the animals’ position seemed unlikely, so The Spokesman-Review consulted an expert.

Chris Servheen, a University of Montana wildlife conservation professor and the former grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the male bear would be bent over, leaning on the female’s back rather than standing behind her.

“He’s sometimes biting her neck and holding on to her with his paws,” he said.

Female grizzlies are fertile once every three years and typically mate in June. Males fight for females, he said, and a female may mate with multiple males during a season.

Here’s where it gets wild. Female bears carry around their fertilized eggs, or blastocysts, for months before they implant. If a female isn’t well-fed and healthy entering hibernation, the blastocyst won’t implant, saving a bear that may already have trouble surviving winter from having to feed more mouths.

If the bear is healthy, the blastocyst will implant and a cub will be born in the den.

Servheen chuckled as he discussed the billboard.

“I give them credit for putting up something interesting,” he said.

Barbour said he didn’t consider the position when approving the design.

“It’s not supposed to be overly educational,” he said.


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