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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Willcox

Episode 43 - Brad Orsted

Gary Macfarlane

Brad Orsted is an award-winning photographer and wildlife filmmaker, whose work has been aired on National Geographic, BBC, PBS, Travel Channel, Smithsonian Channel. He and his wife co-own the Wonderland Cafe and Lodge in Gardiner, Montana, on the doorstep of Yellowstone Park. Brad is the author of an upcoming book: Finding Marley: A Story of Healing in Nature after the Death of my Daughter.

Parenthetically, the day before our interview, Easter Sunday, Brad and his family provided an Easter dinner with all the fixings for 200 people in Gardiner; nearly half could not pay because they had been furloughed during the coronavirus shutdown.

For more about Brad, his book and Horsefeather Photography:


At rock bottom one morning, I walked out into Yellowstone, terribly hungover, and had a close encounter with a grizzly bear. And it was brief -- and it was a non-threatening encounter, but it snapped me out of my kind of woe is me doldrums and my suicidal fantasies that I was having at the time… And I remember that days before that, I wrote in my journal that it would be OK if I walked out into the backcountry of Yellowstone and died, and let the grizzly bears and the birds eat me and shit me out somewhere beautiful. And standing there on Swan Lake flats in Yellowstone, with a grizzly close enough I could see the whites of his eyes, I realized two things: that I didn’t want to die anymore, and I definitely did not want to be shit out somewhere beautiful anymore.

I wholeheartedly believe that we can coexist with grizzlies. It’s all about education and local resources. It’s a partnership and a shared responsibility in the community. We live in one of the most amazing places in the world, and with that I feel comes an inherent responsibility to protect and preserve it.

There may not be another animal in North America especially that’s shrouded in more mystery and lore than the grizzly bear. They’ve been immortalized as the epitome of a bad camping experience and portrayed as man’s best friend on TV. But I think they’re just really misunderstood a lot of times… And I don’t mean to anthropomorphize grizzlies, but I don’t think we should be anthropocentric either and think that we’re the only beings capable of love and compassion and emotion. As a wildlife photographer, specializing in grizzlies, I’ve seen that love and compassion and intelligence in the grizzly bear.

A lot of people are hunting with their cameras these days… people who are trapped in offices, and trapped in different spots, want to come here and get a taste of the wild, something they can take back -- a picture they can hang in their cubicle when they’re back at work. And I think it’s changing the narrative of the West -- changing it from a place that is to be tapped and mined and harvested to more of a place that’s to be appreciated and respected and preserved.


Grizzly Years: Doug Peacock

One of Us: A Biologist's Walk Among Bears: Barrie Gilbert

Sea Wolf: Jack London

What the Robin Knows: Jon Young


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