In my book, Dancing in the Rain, the character of Brenna entertains the tourists on Grouse Mountain by hand feeding the whisky jacks, a bird commonly found on the mountain. I liked the idea, but had never actually done it myself. Yesterday I spotted a group of them in in the trees while snowshoeing on Mount Seymour . I put out my hand to see what would happen. Immediately a bird landed on it, looking for food. Because she was so friendly I shared my Cliff bar with her. Nothing makes me happier than being up close to wildlife.
Both of these magnificent animals have been on my mind because I was on a gorilla trek in January and will soon be back to helping care for the two grizzly bears at the Grouse Mountain Refuge for Endangered Wildlife. I have also just reread Dian Fossey’s Gorillas in the Mist and I went to hear Charlie Russell speak about his many years of living with the grizzlies in a remote area in Russia. The accompanying pictures are of Charlie Russell with the bears and one of Dian Fossey.
Dian Fossey proved, without a doubt, that the Mountain Gorillas are gentle giants when they are treated with respect. Charlie Russell discovered the same thing about the grizzly bears he lived with. Both animals have an intelligent, playful and peaceful nature. They will interact in a friendly way with humans if they haven’t been abused.
But humans have not always treated these animals respectfully. Both animals have been poached for body parts, or the young are kidnapped to be taken to faraway zoos. Ranchers have come into conflict with bears and they have been the target of trophy hunters. When the animals associate humans with violence, they can return the violence.
I thought that this first picture of Charlie Russell must have been photo-shopped, but in his presentation he showed the series of pictures leading up to it. The bear was there first, and allowed Charlie to join him.