This is a follow up to my previous post, “How I Got Hooked on Grizzlies.”
I was given a special gift after I graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a degree in Wildlife Biology and trained under legendary bear experts Derek Stonorov and Larry Aumiller while working as a researcher and ranger at the McNeil River Bear Sanctuary on the remote and wild Alaska Peninsula. Since then, I have worked as a bear viewing guide on tours of the Katmai Coast. I feel indebted to the bears for allowing me to live my life’s dream, and now I will do anything and everything to support their conservation.
There are lots of grizzlies in Alaska, but this actually is a hard place to live for someone who loves them. Everywhere you look you can see the bears struggling to coexist with humans. Some of the greatest threats include gun toting fishermen, bears shot because they were attracted to garbage at homes, trophy hunting, poaching, mines that threaten to destroy some of Alaska’s most precious bear habitat, bears being provoked to attack by ignorant humans, predator control and poor management initiated by our selfish, corrupt and misguided State Government Regime…. the list goes on and on and on.
I believe putting a value on these animals living in their natural habitat is one of the best ways to support their conservation, and the best way to do this is through carefully controlled, responsible ecotourism. I pray that Alaska will eventually follow the models of Botswana, Costa Rica, and other nations who treat their wildlife resources as if they were gold or oil deposits. Unfortunately, I fear that we are too tied to our 19th century roots of manifest destiny which drive us to conquer the land, rid the forest of evil creatures, and to kill what scares us rather than to embrace it. The grizzly bear is always destined to lose in the end.