Some of you may remember me through my former guiding business by the name of Goosetongue Guiding and Consulting. While I am now simply using my name, the story of Goosetongue is still alive and important to me symbolically.
Goosetongue was about five months old when I first met him – he was scurrying along a beach in coastal Alaska, trying to get away from me. I soon realized that this little brown bear cub was alone out there. His mother had been killed in the spring bear hunt and since then he had to make his own way without his mother by his side, teaching and protecting him as bear mothers do for the first two years. Many larger brown bears roamed the area, foraging in the best spots, making it harder for the little cub to find food on his own. Despite his desperate situation, I discovered the little bear to be very resourceful, instinctually feeding on plants I was certain his mother didn’t have a chance to show him. I named him Goosetongue after a plant (Plantago maritima) that grows abundantly in tidal flats along the pacific coast; it was the first plant food I saw the little bear forage on.
Sadly, I am not certain of Goosetongue’s fate -- but he is one of the reasons I decided to make bears and their world the focus of my guiding business. Properly conducted nature based tourism, including bear viewing, has become one of the better conservation arguments today to help protect some of the remaining wild places and its wildlife.
Bear hunting is just one of many threats bears around the world face today. Loss of habitat and direct management mortalities are the two bigger problems. Having worked as a conservationist for several years I know that education can often be the first step to solving a problem. And combining this and the fact that it is my biggest passion to be outdoors, preferably in bear country, I can not think of a better way to spend my life than helping people from around the world understand the intrinsics of nature.
Why do we need bears? I have been struggling trying to find satisfying answers to this question.
The great bear evokes a wide range of reactions in people from deep fear and loathing to admiration and respect. Some people believe that we should destroy bears so that people can hike in the backcountry without fear. Others believe that bears are vital for our mental, physical, and spiritual well being.
I think the question of whether we need bears has a lot to do with our level of understanding about the natural world and our spiritual connection to the land. As we shut ourselves off physically from the natural world – in our concrete jungles -- we lose our spiritual connection to nature. And over time we can forget about the rich relationships we’ve had for thousands of years with animals such as the bear.
The need to even ask the question “why do we need bears?” shows me how far we have become separated from this animal that was once so revered by our ancestors, and from our own wild nature.
One way to reverse this process is by getting out under the open sky to rediscover and celebrate that magnificent and incredibly rich and beautiful natural world. Please come and join me where ever you are from!
In the wilderness is the salvation of the world.
Henry David Thoreau