“The safest forests are the forests where bears do not fear people.”
All text and photos by guest author Ellie Lamb
Based on thousands of private hours with bears, spanning 18 years of guiding people into the back country, bears have shown me their intimate world, along with many of the secrets they hold so dear. Bears are just waiting for someone to listen to them; to hear their truths and their stories. A man who understood bears better then anyone I know once said to me that the only thing that separates him from others when it comes to bears is that he listens to them. We must listen to them too, not the stories from people who don’t know these animals or somehow benefit from perpetuating mistruths about them, but to the bears themselves. A bear’s language is clear; they do “talk” and tell us what they need. By not listening to them we get them in trouble – and we get in trouble ourselves…
Here is what I have learned about bears; They are beautiful, sentient beings who are extremely large in personality, polite, and even empathetic. They have a keen sense of community, and are not as solo and independent as people have suggested. They are peaceful, thoughtful, emotionally intelligent animals. They are trustworthy, especially true with a mother and her cubs. Mother bears love their kids.
Bears have a jolly sense of humour, curiosity and compassion. They build their worlds in a way that makes great sense and have thoughts of beauty in doing so. They are born into a comfort with the human animal and no one knows why. If they become fearful of people, it is often because of a history they have had with people. Under negative conditions, fear promotes aggression and unpredictability in both bears and humans, thus the safest forests are the forests where bears do not fear people. Our fear of bears is their biggest problem. For the safety of all in the future I believe our respect for these animals needs to replace the culture of fear that surrounds them. Historically it is where our relationship started, and it is where we need to shift our intentions.
Bears have taught me that they differentiate perfectly well between people, and places. How they are towards one person generally depends on the history they have with that one individual. Bears can be very different in how they react towards each of their relationship. They build community with other bears and other animals, including humans. Bears have a great sense of memory, remembering in detail everything they are told, taught and experience. Significantly, they do not generalize as much as people think, and read intention beyond any other animal that I know.
Grizzly bears are amazing beings with whom we are graced to share the world.
…that’s who they are.
Ellie Lamb is a British Columbia, Canada, bear viewing guide, and wildlife bronze artist specializing in bears. For 18 years, Ellie has been guiding people into the back country of the Great Bear Rainforest and Tweedsmuir Park, to experience grizzly bears on their homeland. The focus of her work is education, which she believes is the way forward to improving the treatment, understanding and protection of grizzly bears. The tenor of her work reflects her friendship with teachers such as Ian McAllister, Charlie Russell, Qwatsinas, and with the grizzly bears themselves.
Ellie is a Director on the following Boards:
The Grizzly Bear Foundation (Vancouver BC)
North Shore Black Bear Society (North Vancouver, BC)
Get Bear Smart Society (Whistler, BC)
For the story of a personal relationship between Ellie and a grizzly bear named Queenie, see: https://justiceforbcgrizzlies.com/2018/12/14/queenie-a-personal-relationship/