By CLARK MOORMAN/Montana State News

Grizzly bears have always inspired fear and awe and their management in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem has been the subject of much local debate. In late April, Bozeman will have the chance to meet with an expert on the subject.

Naturalist, author and bear expert Charlie Russell will be speaking about our negative image of grizzly bears – and why he feels it is undeserved – on Friday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at the Museum of the Rockies. The free event is open to the public and is being put on by the Montana Outdoor Science School (MOSS).

“[Russell] thinks we’ve been interacting with bears wrong,” said Steve Esbaugh, director of MOSS. “He’s a big advocate of a new understanding of bear/human interactions.”

Russell has spent the last 50 years studying bears in their habitat and  in captivity in Russia and Canada, and has had multiple books published, in addition to being featured in bear documentaries for the BBC and PBS.

According to Russell, bears are not as unpredictable and dangerous as we commonly believe. He writes on his website, “My experiences told me that bears were extremely intelligent, peace-loving animals who wanted to get along with humans if we would let them.”

According to the outdoor recreation website Backpacker.com, there were 27 fatal bear attacks in all of North America between 2000 and 2010. Ten of these attacks were from grizzlies, and the majority of the attacks took place in Canada.

These numbers appear to be decreasing. Last November, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that increased awareness of proper safety precautions has led to a decrease in human-grizzly encounters.

That same month, the Chronicle also reported that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun to take steps to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list, noting that Yellowstone’s grizzly population has been increasing since 2001.

More information can be found on Russell and his work at charlierussellbears.com.

– Edited by Danielle Martin

 

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