Bear Kinship

Bear Spirit


"The Man Who Lives With Bears" - Responses

RE: The Man Who Lives With Bears, the story of Charlie Vandergraw

Response By Lynn Rogers

Brenden, thanks!

Thanks for sending the link above showing the whole TV program about Charlie Vandergaw. That was terrific. All real. No dubbed in sounds.

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 (

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.

Lynn Rogers

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