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Review: A book worth bearing with
Book Review

Review: A book worth bearing with

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“The Bear Doesn’t Know: Life and Wonder in Bear Country” by Paul Schullery, University of Nebraska Press, 248 pages, $21.95 (paperback).

“Lions and tigers and bears, Oh, my!” became a memorable line from the reviewer’s earliest childhood. With a mother named Dorothy who came from Kansas, that reminder from the “Wizard of Oz” symbolized the frightening creatures which could populate my youthful dreams.

Fortunately, during the 1940s and 50s, “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” became the introductory song of a favorite Saturday morning radio show, “Big Jon and Sparkie,” providing a more warm and fuzzy image of the ursine species.

Much later, the Will Geer character “Bear Claw” in the movie “Jeremiah Johnson” and his lifelong pursuit of “Griz” became my model for human-bear interaction.

Paul Schullery is a septuagenarian naturalist, wildlife historian and author of over 40 books on outdoor subjects such as fly fishing and his experiences as a park ranger at Yellowstone.

He presently resides in Bozeman, Montana, and is professor at both Montana State and Wyoming universities. His latest book, ”The Bear Doesn’t Know,” presents a more realistic appraisal, allowing him to indulge in his favorite lifetime passion, understanding bears.

His short and charming book serves as both a memoir and a tribute to the fearsome and unpredictable beast, which is inexplicably perceived as amiable by some Americans. The author has devoted a considerable portion of his life trying to observe wild bears in their natural habitat. Fortunately, his book does not lapse into a simple polemic about preserving our resources and protecting our country’s largest predator.

The book contains short passages which have been appropriately updated from past publications as well as new material and is written in a conversational tone with personal anecdotes and touches of humor. It contains both recent scientific information as well as practical advice regarding inadvertent contact between bears and humans.

Both real and fictional bears are featured, and a remarkable bibliographic review of “bear literature” is provided for those who wish to delve deeper into the subject. The book’s generous helping of black and white photos includes one of a human mother nursing both her baby and a bear cub at the same time.

The historical figures Grizzly Adams and Teddy Roosevelt, the story behind Winnie the Pooh’s origin and the ferocious bear in the movie “Revenant” also receive mention.

Intermingled with tips on how to behave when meeting wild bears to avoid being eaten are some little-known facts such as Western black bears being brown and why no pregnant bears were discovered prior to the 20th century.

In summary, this book is ideal for those who wish a more realistic glimpse of this wonderous creature rather than those comical clips of bears falling onto trampolines or prowling into kitchens which television likes to feature at the end of newscasts.

J. Kemper Campbell, M.D., is a retired Lincoln ophthalmologist who plans to let his bear encounters remain on the printed page.


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