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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Willcox

Episode 5 - Charlie Russell, Part 1

Charlie Russell is a rancher, bear expert, film-maker and author, who has such a special personal way with bears that some call him a bear whisperer -- a honorific that he poopoo’s. Charlie has spent much of his life pioneering a different kind of compassionate and respectful relationship with bears and other wildlife, one he thinks is possible for all of us. Charlie has accomplished what many thought impossible, including raising tiny orphan cubs and releasing them successfully in the wild to flourish. Charlie’s decade in Russia’s Far East were high adventure, tracking poachers in his ultralight plane, and building a Russian ranger corps to protect bears and other wildlife.   Charlie speaks to tragic deaths by bears of friends like Timothy Treadwell, and the threats to grizzly bears in Alberta and Yellowstone by proposed sport hunting.


"I saw that there were a lot of things that were said about grizzlies that weren’t true. When I was ranching, I thought that might be also the case with bears and cows. So, I decided to let grizzlies feel welcome on my place to see what would happen."

"It’s been a complicated situation, but I decided that these grizzlies could be fed my dead stock. I wasn’t a perfect rancher, so I had a few dead animals around. And I would put them up next to the Waterton National Park boundary, so that the bears could find them when they came out of the den and have something to eat in a time when there wasn’t a lot for them to eat."

"There was one female that was particularly curious and friendly, and she would come running if I was showing -- and it was beautiful, and people just loved this bear. She was extremely friendly and entertaining, because we were often in a zodiac and she would come up right close, and find a water log or a rock or something and start playing with it, splashing -- and often splashing the people right in the boat, she was that close."

"And that did change my life in a way. I just had to explore the limits of this trust and why certain bears could be trusted, and why other bears couldn’t be trusted. The whole dynamic between humans and bears became an obsession with me. I know there are dangerous bears out there, but why are they dangerous? And I set out to explore that as much as I could."

"The Soviet Union had just fallen apart and I had known about the bears of Kamchatka for a long time. I wanted to know more about it and had the opportunity to explore what was going on with the poaching, with the new arrangement in Russia."

"I got to thinking: "Gosh if I could take these [orphaned] cubs from the zoo and release them, have them live here with us, that would be a pretty amazing way to explore the idea about, you can learn a lot about bears."

"The cubs were so much fun to be around… and the joy would just sort of seep into your own bones and you couldn’t help but be happy being around these animals."

"To me it was like going to a university and they were my teachers. They were my professors. They taught me about what life was about and more than just about bears. They taught me a lot about how nature worked."


Grizzly Heart: Living Without Fear Among the Brown Bears of Kamchatka, 2002, by Charlie Russell and Maureen Enns

Spirit Bear: Encounter with the White Bear of the Western Rainforest, 1994,by Charlie Russell

The Beardude Story: Data vs Dogma, Apr 9, 2015, by Mr. Allen W. Piche

The Grizzly, 1914, by Enos A. Mills


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