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Activist in bear suit trails visiting Prince Charles

WASHINGTON—A man in a black bear costume tracked Prince Charles at every stop on his capital tour Wednesday, urging him to replace the tall bearskin hats worn by England's palace guards with fake fur.

"Hopefully, he'll talk to his mom and tell her to stop putting bears on her palace guards' heads," said Matt Rice, 30, a campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the in-your-face fur foes.

"The palace guards would look the same with faux fur, without the cruelty to bears," Rice said.

Matt Huff, 29, who played the bear, put down his "God Save the Bears" sign, doffed his bear mask and said of his hot role: "It's worth the price if he changes his mind."

Rice and Huff, an office administrator at PETA's Norfolk, Va., headquarters, were well out of range of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as the royals lunched on watercress soup and lemon sole at the White House on Wednesday.

The prince's hecklers had better luck later in the day when the royal couple toured a local charter school.

"We were about 10 feet from him when he drove by in a limousine," Rice said. "I think he saw our sign. We're getting our message out."

The palace guards' bear pelt hats commemorate England's 1815 victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo, a contest in which some elite French combatants wore bearskins to look more fearsome.

Some in England's military contend that there's no substitute for bear fur when it comes to repelling rain and keeping guards warm on their four-hour shifts.

Keith Warnke, a big-game specialist for the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin, where bear-hunting season ended last month, was unimpressed by the animal rights group's effort.

"For thousands of years people have used animal parts," he said.

The PETA pair, who've dogged Charles and Camilla since their arrival in New York on Tuesday, plan to follow the couple to San Francisco, the last stop on the royals' U.S. visit.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): ROYALVISIT

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