A thoughtful story of bears, humans, and their tragic interactions.
“Mouse-brown fur covered their strangely human bodies. Their eyes opened, seeing nothing for a time, then spring’s white light.” Montana-based conservationist Andrews (Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West, 2013) writes without sentimentality or undue anthropomorphizing of a pair of grizzly cubs whose mother, Millie, was brutally murdered, leaving the cubs orphaned and helpless. “Millie’s story…bothered everyone who heard about it,” writes Andrews, having told an elegant story in which he himself encountered the trio. As a conservationist, he is in full sympathy with the bears; as someone living on the land, he recognizes the perils for all concerned when bears, hungry in a landscape with less and less game on it, come down into the cornfields below the high country. “My father asked what I thought about the farmer growing corn so close to the mountains,” writes the author. “I said that it was complicated.” Andrews introduces readers to numerous men and women who figure in the quest both to track down the poachers involved and to keep the cubs alive. One, the game warden for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, is a quiet warrior for the bears even as others demand that they be kept away from human settlements. As the author notes, the collision course was set not just by hunger, but also by the ever encroaching human presence, even in vast Montana, and on a changing climate in which spring arrives a full month earlier than it did half a century ago, altering the long-established schedules of bears and people alike. In the end, Andrews writes, dispiritingly, “it seems that I could spend a lifetime building cornfield fences, worrying over cubs, and shipping elk meat to Maryland, and make no headway against our epidemic lack of restraint.”
A gem of environmental writing fitting alongside the work of Doug Peacock, Roger Caras, and other champions of wildlife and wild land.