Bear Books

Bear books may all seem the same, and indeed the thinking may overlap quite a bit, but the variety of philosophies, yarns, and themes offered by books in this genre keep it from getting tired. For example, Tim Rubbert’s Hiking with Grizzlies: Lessons Learned (Riverbend Publishing) puts an interesting spin on the classic bear-avoidance-and-survival guide. Instead of simply offering a list of dos and don’ts, the author takes a “what I’ve learned” approach by chronicling his own sought-out bear encounters, evaluating how playing dead, climbing trees, and other common tactics worked for him. Some of his boneheaded mistakes (like having lunch in the middle of a field full of fresh bear diggings) will vex most readers, but at least Rubbert’s photos give you a look at many of the equally annoyed bears.

Mike Lapinski, author of the recently published Grizzlies and Grizzled Old Men (Falcon), takes a different tack. Lapinski’s book starts out with a history of the eradication of the grizzly, which once numbered 50,000 to 100,000 in the American West before the westward expansion of the 1870s, but the profiles of nine people who have fought tooth and nail to save the grizzly from extinction make the rest of the book a veritable Who’s-Who of bear management. This is the book to read if you want to know why you keep hearing about Chuck Jonkel, the Craigheads, or Carrie Hunt.

One member of Lapinksi’s Most Influential list is Doug Peacock, whose latest book, co-authored with wife Andrea, is The Essential Grizzly (Lyons Press). By far the most comprehensive of the three books in this review, Peacock’s book is history, politics, biology, ecology, and guidebook all in one. Authoritatively written, but congenial in tone, the thoughtful compilation of such a variety of material makes The Essential Grizzly a wonderful primer.