Charlie Russell | Life among grizzlies

To his credit, he didn’t seem to care very much. I think it’s true that we tend to take our lives too seriously in some ways; which Timothy didn’t do. He even once said on “Letterman” that he might end up as “bear shit.” So, although he didn’t mind being killed by a bear, my concern was that there would be terrible repercussions for the bears. Which there were. We live in such a hunting culture, I knew they’d use Timothy’s death to open up new areas to hunting; to enable hunting right up next to national parks and bear-viewing areas like McNeil Falls, and that’s what they did. It was a nightmare. All these bears who had learned to trust people were exposed to hunting. So what his life ultimately proved was that he cared more about Timothy Treadwell, and the Timothy Treadwell mystique, than he did about bears.

The MOON: How do you reconcile your advice to carry pepper spray and surround yourself with electric fencing with your belief that we need to base our relationship with bears on trust?

Russell: There are some bears who are dangerous, just like there are some people who are dangerous. These bears don’t like people, and they don’t like them for very good reasons. Generally, bears who aren’t trustworthy won’t build a relationship with you. You have to take precautions against those bears, just as you have to take precautions against dangerous people. Timothy didn’t take those basic precautions, and now I can’t conduct an interview, or give a lecture, without having to talk about Timothy Treadwell, and it pisses me off. He didn’t have to die, but he wouldn’t take the simple precautions that would have prevented it.

The MOON: The theme of this issue is “The Call of the Wild.” Can you speak to that? Why should we value wildness? What does it mean for us humans, who think we’re so civilized?

Russell: There is so much we can learn from nature, even though most people think we can improve upon nature. In agriculture, for instance, we think we can create fertilizers and pesticides and even crops that are better than nature provides. And then we think we’ll create chemicals to counteract the problems that result. We’ve gotten away with it to a certain extent, but now the problems are multiplying: soil loss, habitat loss, species loss, global warming, rainforest loss, acidification of the oceans, fisheries loss, droughts and water shortages. If we’re not part of nature, what are we?

I’ll tell you what we are: totally screwed, but we don’t know it yet.

I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by incredible beauty, enjoying wonderful relationships with wild animals most of us were taught to fear. We really need to get over our fear of the wild. It’s what sustains us; not what threatens us.

For more about Charlie, visit his website.

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12 Responses to Charlie Russell | Life among grizzlies

  1. Debbie Peacock September 11, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

    I think this man had stunning intuition and I think a lot can br learnt from hid intelligent mindset. I believe his theory would work on most wild animals.

  2. LINDA LANDERS September 12, 2013 at 3:56 am #

    SO VERY INTERESTING CHARLIE…WONDERFUL READING…WONDERFUL LOGIC!!

  3. Vivienne Rundle September 12, 2013 at 4:00 am #

    What a splendid article……..
    I am in the UK and came to you from a link on the North American Bear Center page.
    Even though we don’t have bears in the UK I have been following the daily updates from NABC for two or three years now and even did some den cam watching research for them, grieved over the loss of ‘Hope’ and read your article with quite some emotion.
    The BBC showed a documentary on Timothy Treadwell and I think he came across as an egotistic, idiot who was heading for trouble but, as you say, the real tragedy was that his death has set back public opinion by years. It didn’t make sense, but even I wondered if there was any difference between the Grizzly behaviour and that of the Black Bear.
    I won’t go on, but thank you for the article, I wish you all the very best and hope passionately that your and Lynn Roger’s views will soon gain recognition for the benefit of all of us.
    Sincerely, Vivienne Rundle

    • christine September 13, 2013 at 7:27 am #

      I am leaving this as a reply to Vivienne’s mail as hers could so easily have been mine! I too live in the UK and came to the article via the NABC website which I have been following since the BBC programme my bear family and me – agree with everything you say Vivienne and add my thanks to you Charlie for such an enlightening article.
      I too hope and pray that people become more aware of the work you and Lynn Rogers and his team are doing and that these beautiful creatures can be left in peace without risking being shot at every turn.

  4. nora September 12, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    I am so grateful for this article and to Charlie Russell for his courageous and passionate life. I have been waiting for this information. Thank you.

  5. judy September 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    I am so impressed. I only wish that humans were not so closed minded. I so respect what you have done, the insight in your evaluation of bears, and knowledge that there are mean humans and not just mean bears. I hope and pray that we can learn from your experiences and live peacefully with nature. Thank you.

  6. Ken King October 19, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    This article does a great job of showing the kind nature and dedication to our positive future with bears that is Charlie Russell. I have had the very great pleasure of working with black bears on a golf course quite near to where Charlie lives. Over my ten year tenure at the course, I noticed that when I started the expected procedure was to use loud noises and fast golf carts to chase the bears off of the course with the result we worked with bears who were not comfortable and so bluff charged quite often. As we decreased the confrontational ways to deal with the bears to the point where many of out golfers simply played through the bears, leaving them in place and giving them good room as they moved around the course, we achieved the result one would expect if one understands Charlies message from the above interview. We had far fewer negative interactions with the bears. I truly hope that as time goes by, the course will continue to deal with our furry friends in a respectful manner and part of Mr. Russell’s message will provide a living example for Parks Canada in their own back yard.

  7. Marc Severson December 3, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    This world does not belong to us and if we do not find a way to coexist with other species here it will be our loss. Charlie Russell appears to understand this.

  8. Mark March 22, 2016 at 11:50 pm #

    This guy is GREAT! Spread the word, Charlie is GREAT!

  9. Brenda Gentile April 27, 2016 at 6:24 am #

    Dear Charliie, I bought and enjoyed your book, “Grizzly Heart.” I support wildlife. I agree with this book.
    I feel like I lived in Kamchatka with you and Maureen. Thank you for your research and for the kind and caring hearts of both you and Maureen. My squirrels, birds, and pet cats mean the world to me – I talk to them and am ever surprised at the fact they – even birds – have varying personalities. You captured the personalities of the bears in a beautiful way — and the beauty to be found in Russia, despite a cold and often unforgiving climate. I am 73 and live in KY.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Moon Magazine Interview with Charlie Russell | Bears Matter - September 15, 2013

    […] Charlie Russell | Life among grizzlies or http://moonmagazine.org/charlie-russell-life-among-grizzlies-2013-09-01/6/  […]

  2. Advocating for the souls of animals | An interview with Gay Bradshaw - January 6, 2015

    […] discovered Bradshaw and the work of The Kerulos Center while researching Charlie Russell, whose interview in the September 2013 issue of The MOON was our most-read article for nearly a year. Bradshaw […]

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