Bearing Down

Experts put an eventful – and sometimes fatal – season of bear activity into perspective
by Erika Fredrickson

Chuck Jonkel learned long ago about the public’s deep fascination with bears. Before he switched the focus of his work to the animal in 1959, he saw bears mostly as a nuisance. While working toward his master’s degree in zoology at the University of British Columbia, he was dismayed to find black bears ruining his traplines, which he used to catch and study pine martens. But his constant encounters began to intrigue people around him.

“I’d stop somewhere for coffee and three people would run over and want to talk about bears,” says Jonkel, a now 80-year-old biologist, bear expert and founder of the Great Bear Foundation. “They’re very powerful for people. And that’s their burden.”

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