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Bears Without Fear Paperback – May 13 2013
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Bears: Without Fear recognizes bears in their singularity, not as imaginary symbols, but as great creatures to be respected. Van Tighem's message is pragmatic and sound. At the root of it, he says that human beings have to properly sort out once and for all that we are not the centre of the universe, that our arrogance is destroying the very creatures that fascinate us and, ultimately, that our fetishization of animals forgets the alterity of these creatures. It forgets that bears have no clue at all that we think about them. They may have given up on us long ago, in fact.―Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Special to National Post(2013-06-21)
About the Author
Kevin Van Tighem, a former superintendent at Banff National Park, has written more than 200 articles, stories and essays on conservation and wildlife which have garnered him many awards, including Western Magazine Awards, Outdoor Writers of Canada book and magazine awards and the Journey Award for Fiction. He is the author of Bears Without Fear (RMB 2013), The Homeward Wolf (RMB 2013) and Heart Waters: Sources of the Bow River (RMB 2015). His next book (to be published by RMB in 2017) will be a series of essays that reflect on the ecology, conservation history, missed opportunities and emerging possibilities of Alberta, a place that could have been about so much more than oil. He lives with his wife, Gail, in Canmore, Alberta.
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Van Tighem combines excellent research with vignettes from his and others' encounters with bears. Basic bear information is summarized in short tables as a supplement to the smooth flow of the prose. Myths about bears are confronted with reality--these are real people, real stories, with photographs and locations. I was thrilled to learn about Charlie Russell's research in Russia (Grizzly Heart, 2003), to see references to the Vital Ground Foundation and other bear and big-habitat focused organizations. Kevin Van Tighem could not be better qualified to ask for a change of attitude toward bears--he was superintendent of Banff National Park in Canada, and able to compare Canadian and U.S. Fish and Wildlife policies toward bears. His sister was mauled by a grizzly (The Bear's Embrace, 2001). "Bears Without Fear" will hold your attention, whether you discover it through an existing interest in bears and wildlife policies or just want a good read and don't mind learning a few things about bears--and our reactions to them. For instance, after describing being with a guided group hike that encountered an old grizzly on the trail (and went home all-excited with close-call stories), Van Tighem summarizes: "But what had happened, really?'
"A bear had tried to walk up Lineham Creek valley and found the valley full of people. That's all.
"Finding herself in a stressful situation, the bear figured out a solution to it and went on with her life. All the fear, adrenalin, excitement and frightful possibilities had been created in the minds of the people involved. If the circumstances had been different--if the encounter had taken place outside the protection of a park, perhaps--somebody might well have shot that bear and the story would be retold again and again of their narrow escape. Probably after a few iterations, the bear would have evolved into a raging, foaming-mouthed killer.
"That's what we do to bears..."
Enjoy the book. It's good.
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