By Charlie Russell
(Vintage Canada, Paperback, 9780679311959, 368pp.)
Publication Date: May 27, 2003
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An absorbing first-hand account of living with bears, from the acclaimed author of The Spirit Bear.
To many people, grizzlies are symbols of power and ferocity -- creatures to be feared and, too often, killed. But Charlie Russell, who has had a forty-year relationship with bears, holds the controversial belief that it is possible to live with and truly understand bears in the wild. And for five years now, Russell and his partner, artist and photographer Maureen Enns, have spent summers on the Kamchatka peninsula, located on the northeast coast of Russia, and home of the densest population of brown bears in the world.
Grizzly Heart tells the remarkable story of how Russell and Enns have defied the preconceptions of wildlife officials and the general public by living unthreatened -- and respected -- among the grizzlies of Kamchatka. In an honest and immediate style, Russell tells of the trials and successes of their years in the field, from convincing Russian officials to allow them to study, to adopting three bear cubs left orphaned when their mother was killed by a hunter (and teaching these cubs how to survive in the wild), to raising environmental awareness through art.
Through a combination of careful study and personal dedication, Russell and Enns are persuading people to reconsider the age-old image of the grizzly bear as a ferocious man-eater and perpetual threat. Through their actions, they demonstrate that it is possible to forge a mutually respectful relationship with these majestic giants, and provide compelling reasons for altering our culture.
"We have been able to live beautifully with these animals, with no serious threat, because of what we've learned. Hopefully, sharing what we learn will help people -- and be a big help to our bears, too."
Renowned naturalist, writer and photographer Charlie Russell has extensive experience working with grizzly bears in Canada, and is the author of The Spirit Bear. With his partner, artist and photographer Maureen Enns, Russell has lived among the bears of the Kamchatka Peninsula each of the past five years. In 1997, their work was the subject of the documentary Walking With Giants. When not cohabiting with bears, Russell and Enns live in Cochrane, Alberta.
"An absolutely remarkable and well-documented account of close encounters with grizzlies. This book is a truly fascinating adventure in nature with an invaluable wealth of insider information on both bear and human behaviour."
“It’s not often that a few individuals set out to overthrow an entire body of beliefs, but we have only to consider the history of animals such as the gorilla and the killer whale, and the relatively new view humanity holds of those animals as engaging social creatures, to see that Russell and Enns’s work may do the same for bears as well.”
—The Globe and Mail
“A joy to read.... smooth and compelling.”
—The Province (Vancouver)
“It’s a compelling read about their effort to prove a peaceful coexistence isn’t reserved for fairy tales.”
—The Edmonton Sun
“Rich in detail and insight.”
—Winnipeg Free Press / Victoria Times-Colonist
“With clear respect for the many bears that surround them, Russell and Enns offer deep insights into the bear psyche and eventually prove that it is possible for humans and bears to live together, even to trust one another. More an adventure narrative than a scientific study, the thrilling events of their story should not diminish the importance of what Russell and Enns have shown: humans are the aggressors here, not bears. Their message is strong, at times shocking, and eloquently told.”
—Quill & Quire
“But the value of his work is clear. During their time in Kamchatka, Russell pitted his instincts and beliefs about grizzly behaviour against the views of the “experts,” and emerged enlightened. Through hundreds of encounters with grizzlies and the experience of raising three orphaned cubs, he and Enns paint a picture of bears as intelligent, emotional, reasonable and predictable, yet forever on the receiving end of all things nasty in human-bear encounters gone wrong…. Grizzly Heart shines a light on what’s possible.”
—The Calgary Herald