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McNeil River Bear
McNeil River Brown Bear, Alaska, 1995

... in Wildness is the preservation of the world.
Henry David Thoreau, Walking


       In the book The Great Bear: Contemporary Writings on the Grizzly which is a collection of essays on the grizzly, there is a very short story by Aldo Leopold entitled "Escudilla". It's the story of Escudilla mountain, and the last grizzly bear on that Arizona mountain. As with most present day stories on the grizzly bear it's a story of loss, of how a mountain lost its bear, to become only a mountain like so many others. Land without bear.

       I was in Yellowstone the fall before I took this photograph, speaking to a retired math professor from Georgia. He had just flown into Jackson, WY earlier that day to be in Yellowstone. Wildlife photography was his passion, and he was there to photograph. As usual, one thing led to another, and he mentioned McNeil River to me. It was the first time I heard of McNeil. I tucked that mention away, until I received an e-mail about applying for a visitors permit at McNeil, which is what I did. And to my great suprise, I obtained a permit to visit Alaska brown bears for 4 days.

       I can't stress enough, the dynamic of actually being able to spend time extremely close to wildlife, in the natural setting like McNeil. And, thanks to the Alaska State Game staff headed by Larry Aumiller, the quality of the experience is more than can be hoped for. McNeil is a notable wildlife sanctuary, and especially so when considering the multiple pressures visiting city people place on what wildlife remains in numerous National Parks in the lower 48 states.

       McNeil is a place where one can truly experience the quality of bears being bears, and not some reaction to hoards of people pressuring them. If one is interested in wildlife at all, and especially the quality of interspecies interaction with bears - McNeil is an experience not to be missed in one's life. May you be as lucky as I have been, to spend time in the company of bears. In the land of bears.

       Returning home, you may experience the loss Leopold wrote of.   Remembering too, that beauty of the wild life.

Related Links:

The Great Bear: Contemporary Writings on the Grizzly by John A. Murray (Editor)

Grizzly Years : In Search of the American Wilderness by Doug Peacock

In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World by Eliot Porter, Henry David Thoreau

State of Alaska, Fish & Game McNeil River Page

My Notes from McNeil River State Game Sanctuary Index page

Craighead Environmental Research Institute

Leopold Center

Sierra Club Grizzly Guardians

Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

Wild Lands Project

US Fish & Wildlife Endangered Species Program

Photograph © 1997, All Rights Reserved:
10 October 2008

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