Author gets up close with grizzlies
Book: Black Diamond writer says bear’s numbers must be controlled
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 02, 2014 07:18 am
An 81-year-old Black Diamond author who spent the last 55 years studying grizzly bears claims their numbers must be controlled in his most recent publication.
Jack Boudreau’s bestselling book King of the Mountain takes a close look at these powerful animals and suggests their growing numbers are becoming too dangerous. The book, released in June, is his ninth publication.
“I want people to be a lot more alert around bears and to not believe some of the nonsense that is being published today about how we have to be friendly with bears and we have to get along with them and lose our fear of them and all of this kind of talk because it’s just not true,” he said. “They are wild animals and they should stay that way. As soon as they become habituated there is trouble.”
Boudreau collected a lot of his data for King of the Mountain from his own observations while living in the small community of Penny in central British Columbia, three miles from Grizzly Bear Mountain – a place he frequents every year.
He said grizzly bear sightings were occasional in his younger years, but Boudreau considers their increase in numbers the last few decades scary.
“When I was first going in the mountains we used to see one or maybe a family of mothers and cubs,” he said. “That was in ’40s. After the wolves were poisoned off in the ’50s we started seeing a tremendous increase in the grizzlies. There was more food for them. When the wolves go down the bears go up.”
Now Boudreau will see as many as 17 bears at a time.
“They are getting too thick in many places,” he said. “We are starting to see more articles in the Calgary Herald about trouble with them and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Boudreau has also spoken with guides and outfitters in the mountains about the trends of the grizzly bears and collected data regarding their numbers and grizzly bear conflicts in Canada and the United States online and in books.
According to a report by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in 2012, grizzly bear estimates in British Columbia increased from 6,600 in the 1970s to 15,000 in 2012.
In Alberta, Grizzly bear hunting was suspended in 2006 and the animals were declared a threatened species under the Alberta Wildlife Act four years ago.
According to a government of Alberta report for 2013, staff responded to 481 grizzly bear occurrences and relocated 34 bears in response to conflict situations including public safety concerns, depredations on livestock and property damage to access livestock feed.
Boudreau said the grizzly bear population should be controlled as more human are killed when they come across the bears.
“They have lost their fear of humans because they have been protected,” he said of grizzly bears. “When any animal gets too thick it gets aggressive.”
Boudreau said there is an increase in grizzly bears killing people in places like Yellowstone National Park and northern Canada and it isn’t because of an increase in human population, he said.
“There are not near as many people in the woods now as there was then,” he said. “People were chased into the woods in the depression years because they couldn’t make a living. Trappers had every piece of the wilderness covered. They got money for fur and they could buy flour. If they were in town lots of them had nothing.”
In fact, Boudreau’s first book Crazy Man’s Creek, which he began writing in his 60s, tells true stories of his father and other men who worked in the woods trapping animals for fur.
Even during his years of trapping, Boudreau’s father rarely came face-to-face with a grizzly bear – even at Grizzly Bear Mountain, he said.
“He spent 30 years in that same area and he saw one grizzly,” he said. “I’ve seen up to 20 in one day.”
Boudreau recalls a childhood of hunting grizzly bears in the area.
“When we were kids they were feared so much,” he said. “They are such a powerful animal. They can kill a man with one swipe. I never lost that caution, that fear of grizzlies.”
Over the last few decades Boudreau focused on studying the bears and said he gained respect for the large mammals.
“I learned more by studying them than I ever did hunting them,” he said. “That’s where I learned a lot about them was watching them. I enjoyed watching their interactions with each other.”
He also learned about their behaviour while working as a guide in his younger years, the parks service in Prince George, the forest service as an initial attack firefighter - often seeing the bears from overhead in helicopters - and as a licensed scaler, measuring the volume and quantity of timber.
Boudreau noticed an increase in aggression while watching the bears’ behaviors and interactions with one another. In addition to their run-ins with people, he noticed they were also running at each other, which he suspects is due to competition for food and land and it will only get worse, he said.
“I go over that in this new book big time, pointing out over and over how it results in disaster for the bears and sometimes humans,” he said.
King of the Mountain has been in The Association of Book Publishers in British Columbia top 10 bestseller list the last three weeks. Another bestseller is Boudreau’s Grizzly Bear Mountain, which is a story about the life of grizzly bears.
King of the Mountain is available for purchase at Black Diamond Pharmasave and online at www.amazon.ca