Thanks for your letter. It is not often that someone expresses concerns in ways that I understand. A lot of people like bears, but liking them is about as far as it goes. You seem to get it. Too many people don’t know how to turn their fascination and concerns into anything helpful for the bear and so things just go around in circles.
Except for Gay Bradshaw, I do not know what most scientist are doing and I have two bear biologist brothers. After all the studying they do, I do not even recognize the animal that they describe most of the time. And too many conservationists use the grizzly mostly just as a tool to protect or establish wilderness by insisting that to survive the bear needs empty, peopleless land (that humans have no use of), ignoring the fact that this is a disservice to the bear because what grizzlies really need is for people to just relax a bit and let them share some good productive land on their ranch or along a road, etc, and even in our parks, without their mere presence causing a huge commotion and if they happen to decide to not be afraid of people, this does not automatically lead to their death.
What we have never learned is to be nonchalant around bears and it is getting to be more unimaginable all the time that we can develop this. Bears in general are too much like celebrities to us except we are afraid of them. We can not just accept them and carry on what we are doing and let them do what they need to do, which might even be sitting on the deck with us, enjoying the same scenery that we enjoy…
From what I and Gay Bradshaw have decided about bears becoming predators, it is initially about the disrespect that we create in them, by what we do to them, that sets the scene for what they might do to us if they run out of food, rather than the loss of a food source itself. If they decide they like you, you are pretty safe, no matter what goes on in their year to year lives…………… and all this, so far, is about questions that you did not even ask, except maybe the one about whether I have any hope left.
I was back to Russia a lot after 2003, but without Maureen. I rescued 7 more orphaned cubs (10 all together). I would not have gone back if a producer who I have known for 20 years had not wanted to do a movie of Grizzly Heart. It never happened but in the end, a good documentary was made about my work there. I finally left for good in 2007 and I do not want to go back ever again. It was an amazing privilege to have been allowed to be in that one place with all those bears for 11 years, 7 of which not one person interfered with my exploration about bears and trust.
I never did resolve for sure what happened to Chico, but in the end I had a lot more unanswered questions than that one about various cubs. I very deliberately chose not to have radio collars on my bears so I kind of expected to have those kinds of puzzles to ponder about. Those were not the questions that I was asking.
A friend from Switzerland was back to my cabin (which was in fine disrepair) for 10 days in August 2010 and he reported that there were many bears. He has spent a couple months with me in 2004. He said that the salmon also seemed to be in good numbers. It was a nice report except that the Russian guide that he had was insanely afraid of the bears of the area. It seems that there is a residing idea that there still might be bears around, left over from my "misguided" work there, that might be unafraid of people and that was totally scary to him. Oh well. After 13 years in total, in the Far East, there were a few Russians who appreciated what I was doing.
A question to you would be: How did you get a look at the letter we wrote to Chas Cartwright? We wrote him in 09 shortly after the death of Old Man Lake female and her cub and re sent it last spring to the request for public comment on their bear policy. We have never heard one word of response in either case. It was as if they disappeared into the ether. It is difficult to feel relevant with this level of consideration, given the amount of effort that I have put into understanding what bears are capable of around getting along with humans, depending on how we respond to them.
Thanks for writing to me. I know very well that what I have learned about bears and the way I learned it is important, not just about bears, but even about ourselves. However, most people in a bear management capacity deliberately dismiss and then confuse what I have done into something inappropriate because it suggests that it is OK to be close to bears. They do this because what I am really suggesting is that they, as managers, might be creating dangerous bears by their very policies of being abusive to bears. Not being an abuser myself, the only way I could study this question was to be kind and see if that was a problem. I found they like people if they are allowed to and I did not beat them away from me. That resulted in us being close together and comfortable and safe. Because I found that profound trust was possible with grizzlies and black bear if you did not beat up on them, an important question arises. Why are bears becoming increasingly impatient and violent in our parks? Could it be that they are never rewarded for their efforts to get along with us and they are just getting sick of trying?
To wrap things up, a video from a documentary about Charlie showing the paw to hand interaction that he and Chico developed.