"The Man Who Lives With
The Man Who Lives With Bears, the story of Charlie Vandergraw
Response From Ann
I can't speak as anyone with this much or this type of
experience with bears, but I do know from working with film crews that
too often we do not have final control over the ultimate message that
comes across when a piece is completed and aired.
It is unfortunate that the 'Dangerous Beast' card was
played throughout (makes a piece so much more sensational for certain
viewers, although certainly not for us) and I have a feeling that
Charlie...don't know him, though... may not have been a willing
participant or too pleased with the way the narrator repeatedly
emphasized that nonsense.
I'm curious to know if he was given a chance to
preview before it aired. I've been very disappointed numerous times with
what the editing staff does with a piece that was filmed with a crew who
I let into my little Bear World. I tell the producers when they first
call that I am not interested in filming with anyone who is going to
demonize or sensationalize my bears or use them to promote fear. They
always promise me they won't and we tend to develop a trusting
relationship as we work in the field with the bears. But then! I see
what airs and too often it leaves me reeling or aghast at the final
Steve, remember that horrible piece from Good Morning
America last summer? I was furious over that!
Another time I worked with a crew sent from NY (Dan
Rather) and they seemed to 'get it' and when we finished I felt
confident that my main message (bears are not dangerous man-eating
monsters) would be coming through loud and clear.
Instead, much to my dismay, they had spoken to a fish
and game biologist as they were putting the piece together and he
completely countered everything I had told them. He even told them that
numerous people had been killed in both Nevada and California by black
bears, a total outright lie, as no one has ever been killed by a black
bear in either state...ever!
I had told the crew that fact and he said just the
opposite but rather than look it up they went with what he said because
he's a biologist who wears a uniform and I'm not. So my thoughts are
that whoever filmed and edited this particular show on Charlie decided
they had to add some of the propaganda from that bear biologist who said
it was pretty much just a matter of time before the bears kill him.
But I don't know anything for sure, this is just what ran through my
mind as I was watching it, could be all off.
But, thanks, Brenden for finding and sharing it. It
was fascinating to see the blacks and grizzlies interacting.
Reply by Steve Stringham
Ann is, of course, right in suspecting that the tone
of the "film" was quite different than had been promised by the film
maker Jon Alwen, who is on the list of people who receive these emails.
So you might ask him how it became so distorted. (I
was there during the last two days of filming and was filmed giving my
assessment of Charlie Vandergaw's relationship with the bears. He is
extremely careful and disciplined.)
Someone saying that "Its only a matter of time" until
one of the bears mauls Charlie makes no more sense than saying that
"It's only a matter of time" until each and every one of us dies. The
only justification for emphasizing danger is to discourage John and Jane
Doe from trying to duplicate what Charlie has done.
Each of us who works closely with bears -- including
Ann -- realizes all too well the care that is necessary. It's not
something to jump into blindly. But neither are most bears looking for
trouble. The problem is not that the average bear is ferocious, but that
a tiny fraction of bears (and people) are.
Those of us who have years of experience in close
contact with bears become adept at reading even subtle signals of
pending danger with even one of those rare bears so that we have a good
chance of steering clear.
People who think that they can just step out of an
airplane or a car or boat and do what we do are as silly as kids who
think they can jump into an airplane and fly it without prior training
or practice. And even pilots who learn to fly under calm conditions may
not be able to cope with stormy conditions. The weather isn't out to get
you. But it can. 99% of the bears aren't out to get anyone. But, a few
times a year, one does. The odds of it happening to any given person
aren't zero; but they are say one in 10,000 for fools, one in a million
for careful people, and one in tens of millions for skilled individuals.
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