Saturday, May 06, 2006

Grizzly Heart: Living Without Fear Among the Brown Bears of Kamchatka - Charlie Russell

The Basics: Grizzly Heart: Living Without Fear Among the Brown Bears of Kamchatka, Charlie Russell and Maureen Enns, 2003, 357 pages, paperback, (Russell and Enns' bear project website).

How I found it: It was recommended in a book review by a poster on the Vancouver hiking forum Clubtread.

What's it about?: Russell and his partner travel to Kamchatka (in Eastern Russia near the Bering Sea) to live among Grizzly bears and to test their controversial theory that man and grizzlies can co-exist without fear of each other. Despite his lack of scientific credentials, Russell ends up adopting and raising orphaned cubs and successfully releasing them back into the wild.

Did I like it?: Definitely. I had seen Werner Herzog's documentary Grizzly Man about Timothy Treadwell, a man who attempted to live among grizzlies in Alaska and was ultimately eaten. Grizzly Heart is a nice counter-balance to that story. Russell's theories on human-bear coexistence seem much more rational and though-out than those of Treadwell, although they are still quite unconventional. (For example, he recommends feeding bears after they come out of the den as a way to keep them from seeking food from garbage dumps, etc.) Russell is by no means an experienced or talented author, but he gets his story across well.

Will you like it?: I think so. Again, it reads like a novel if you require plot. It is a bit unfinished in its ending, but that is merely because Russell was not finished his study when he stopped writing the book. As well, it has some great bear photography and some really cute stories about the bear cubs. (If you are interested in bear photography, Russell's and Enns have also put out a book of photographs taken during their study called Grizzly Seasons.) Even if you are not interested in the bears, it is an interesting adventure and survival story.

But don't take my word for it: Some real people reviews and editorial reviews.

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