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The Bear Whisperer

"Never run from a bear," Charlie Russell's parents cautioned him and his siblings when they were growing up on a ranch in southwestern Alberta’s grizzly country. That bit of wisdom has stayed with Russell through more than 40 years of research and hundreds of encounters with both grizzly and black bears.

The naturalist and photographer will share his experiences and findings in a pair of lectures for The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, to be held in Victoria and Vancouver in October.

Russell has developed an uncanny ability to communicate with bruins and earn their trust, even fishing for salmon alongside the rare kermode bear, a white-coated black bear found on Princess Royal Island in British Columbia. For the past seven years, Russell and his partner, artist and photographer Maureen Enns, have spent time living among bears in eastern Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, one of the world’s densest grizzly habitats.

They have learned that their ursine friends can live closely with people who understand and treat them well — a controversial theory in North America, says Russell, where the prevailing view is that we must keep "bears and people afraid of and separate from each other.

"There are safe ways to live with bears," he adds, "and the best way to increase their habitat is to develop an understanding of how to live with them without conflict."

Click here for more lecture details.

- Monique Roy-Sole

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