Friday, November 8, 2013

Book Review - Bears Without Fear

In 2002, Charlie Russell made waves when his book Grizzly Heart postulated that bear aggression toward humans was often linked to human aggression toward bears...and presented solid evidence in support. In the decade since, a few others have picked up on the same connection but typically one would have to go outside the world of scientists and biologists (who often have their own interests to protect considering that many of them work for agencies who have adopted the "shoot 'em all and let God sort 'em out" mentality of wildlife management) to hear the idea expressed. With more and more researchers now risking careers to promote more and more "unorthodox" views about bears, this way of thinking may no longer be relegated to obscurity.

Biologist Kevin Van Tighem spent 40 years studying wild bears in western Canada and serving as the superintendent of Banff National Park in Alberta. In 1983, his sister was severely mauled by a grizzly and suffered debilitating PTSD until she committed suicide in 2005. Van Tighem barely even makes mention of this in the book, except to note that it set him on a path to better understand what makes bears tick rather than on a path of hatred and negativity. His findings are among the most common sense ever presented.

Throughout the book's roughly 300 page length, Van Tigham tears down the myths, legends, and monster imagery surrounding bears and shows the animal underneath. He goes into great detail about the lives, social structures, habits, and behaviors of black bears, polar bears, and grizzlies (along with stunning photos). In doing this he shows bears for what they really are, what they do, how they think, how they act, and systematically removes the paranoia that over-exaggerated danger warnings promote. He has been face-to-face with bears of many different temperaments and drew upon those experiences to conclude that trust is the critical piece missing in the puzzle of coexistence. In closing he states that "the most dangerous thing about a bear is not its claws, teeth, or disposition; it's how we react to it."

To see this coming from someone active in the scientific community, in defiance of the more accepted way of thinking, is refreshing and will hopefully bring the possibility of what a bear without fear can truly be into the mainstream consciousness. As far as I know, the book is only widely available in Canada so opt for Amazon rather than your local bookstore.


  1. I read your book "Where the Bear Walks" and enjoyed it. A ton of information.

    I will check out this one too.


  2. Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate the support!