Book Theme: Coping With Bears Without Fears
Kevin Van Tighem, who retired as the superintendent of Banff National Park in Alberta in 2011, sat down with Calgary Herald environment writer Colette Derworiz in Canmore last week to talk about his upcoming book, “Bears Without Fear.” He also was asked about his recent efforts to raise awareness about the province’s watershed and how it affects both Albertans and wildlife. Here’s an edited transcript of the interview:
Q: Tell us about your book, Bears Without Fear
A: If we really want bears to have a future, we need to manage them without fear. The dominant management paradigm certainly in Canada right through the 20th century was that we could keep bears and people safe by keeping them scared of each other. We always have those messages, ‘You are in bear country, All bears are potentially dangerous.’ The whole idea was that if you avoid them, you will be OK.
At the same time, every time a bear came and started feeding along the roadside, the response was to get out there with rubber bullets and whiz-bangs or whatever and scare them away from the people because a scared bear is a safe bear. But it deprives us of an awful lot of the richness of what could be the relationship between bears and people. In the crowded world of the 21st century, it deprives bears of what they need most of all, which is quality habitat, because we are occupying it all.
I am hoping that we can make people more consciously aware that there is a relationship between bears and humans, and it is possible to get it right and it’s necessary to get it right. I am hoping it will change the way agencies manage bears. It will reinforce some of the good things people are already doing and it’ll help people to enjoy bear country and be less fearful of bears so they’ll be less reluctant to tolerate bears in close, and that means we’ll actually have bears living in bear habitat. I am hoping we’ll get bear management right in the 21st century.
Click here to read the entire interview.