"The Man Who Lives With
The Man Who Lives With Bears, the story of Charlie Vandergraw
Response By Lynn
Thanks for sending the link above showing the whole TV
program about Charlie Vandergaw. That was terrific. All real. No dubbed
Although they kept saying the bears were
unpredictable, the bears acted as one would expect. The tree slap and
jaw-popping by the black bear Charlie was teasing near the end just
showed the bear was frustrated and then scared. Very predictable. That
all passed when Charlie behaved as expected again.
The program sends a realistic message about bears:
that bears are powerful and competitive among themselves, but not nearly
the ferocious animals toward people that most people think. The bears
must have been very hungry to show as much aggression toward one another
as was shown at the beginning of the program.
I suspect the bite to Charlie’s hand by Cookie the
grizzly was because she was very hungry and Charlie was not behaving as
expected. Not behaving as expected makes bears nervous, and when you
make bears nervous right next to them, you can get bit.
I noticed Charlie has the sensitivity and experience
to recognize bears’ moods. Many people have that sensitivity. I see that
in many of the people who take the field courses here at the Wildlife
Research Institute (www.bearstudy.org).
In response to people saying Charlie is an accident
waiting to happen, if Charlie continues to behave as shown in the
program, he may get bit or slapped occasionally but he won’t get killed
or seriously injured, and he will continue to learn a lot about bear
behavior. An especially interesting thing was the interactions between
grizzlies and blacks.
Charlie differs from Tim Treadwell in that Charlie is
not a Samurai, as Tim described himself, chasing grizzlies out of camp
(which got Tim killed), and he doesn’t seem to believe the bears love
him. In my experience, many bears have trusted me but only one bear ever
really liked me, and that one had spent a couple months in captivity
bonding with people.
What we see walking with bears here is that the bears
have their own agendas, full lives, with fulltime jobs avoiding danger
and making a living, and they are not going to bond with a human.
What keeps us going here, just like Charlie, is the
fascination of learning how bears live. What makes us feel privileged is
being ignored. We spend hours walking with bears, videotaping and
recording data, and we scarcely get a look from the bear that is right
there, often within touching distance. The bears are busy checking so
many things in their environment that they hardly take time to look at
the inconsequential human with them.
They don’t regard us as friends or foes, not as
competitors nor food-givers, we are just there, trusted, and what they
show us about their daily lives is fantastic.
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