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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Willcox

Episode 46 - Reno Sommerhalder

Reno Sommerhalder is a naturalist, filmmaker, author, guide and an expert on bear ecology and behavior. His passion for grizzlies has literally taken him around the world. He has studied bears in Canada, Alaska, Russia, Italy, Spain, and France among other places. Originally from Switzerland, for many years Reno has lived his dream in Banff, where he studies bears and other wildlife and works to promote coexistence.


About adopting orphan grizzly bear cubs with Charlie Russell in Kamchatka: The cubs quickly adopted us and followed every one of our steps into the wilderness, which blew me away. From a food perspective, I was trying to figure out: what will it take for us to teach those little critters bear knowledge basically? …It seemed all complicated to me at the time, but I did not realize how much comes to them instinctually. They knew exactly where to go, and which plants to eat at what time of year without either one of us or their mother having shown them.

At the age of 5-9 months, they would be quite the big fur balls. And the tundra there is fairly soft with a lot of sponge material underneath. And you could feel their steps when they weren’t far away. When they were running you could literally hear them running on the tundra -- these little thundering steps.

When you start learning about bears, it’s really difficult to avoid learning about salmon, learning about plants, learning about berries, learning about water, learning about soil, learning about everything. Because you realize bear is just one species amongst many in that chain of interconnectedness -- and we humans are part of that chain.

No matter where I’ve been around the world bears in general have been very peaceful towards me. I’ve had literally 10,000s of encounters with brown and grizzly bears over the past 35 years. It’s very clear if we give bears a chance to be peaceful, and if we give them the respect they deserve, we will get the same respect in return.

About his many years in conservation: It’s kind of like climbing a mountain. You don’t look up to the top of the peak very often. You go step by step and try to be in the moment. The best thing that we can do is to come to a place of understanding and acceptance about how it is right now and move forward with small little steps and have hope.


Small is beautiful, E.F. Schumacher

Stronghold, One Man’s Quest to Save the World’s Wild Salmon, Tucker Malarkey

Rewilding North America, Dave Foreman

Half-Earth, Edward O. Wilson

Carnivore Minds, Gay Bradshaw

In Wild Trust, Jeff Fair

Utopia for Realists, Rutger Bregman

The Rights of Nature, David Boyd

Rewilding the World, Caroline Fraser

Feral, George Monbiot

Grizzly Heart, Charlie Russell

Talking with Bears, Gay Bradshaw

The Tiger, John Vaillant

Of Wolves and Men, Barry Lopez

A Window on Eternity, E.O. Wilson


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