In the Absaroka Range of Yellowstone National Park, McNamee tracks one April-to-September cycle in the life of a female grizzly and her two cubs--interleaving history, politics, and social attitudes. It's a magic book, bursting with nature-lore and strong feeling, by a talented new writer. McNamee can be savage as he examines early human/bear encounters of the shoot-the-varmint variety or the California Spanish colonial custom of bear-versus-bull fights. (The bears usually won, but more and more bulls were supplied.) He despairs of the tangle of government agencies charged with protecting the grizzly; the ambivalent attitudes of some officials and the simplistic approaches of some conservationists. He notes the gerrymandered turfs that leave parks and forests protected while bordering regions, also grizzly range, are up for grabs--with venial motelkeepers setting out garbage dumps and hunter-guides out for blood. The grizzly family itself is a composite, drawn from many field studies and radiotelemetry observations. But the chronicle is vivid, engrossing. McNamee describes the bear cubs sledding, the family gorging on tiny meadow buds of ""spring beauty""; he shows the mother taking off after a potentially cannibalistic male, both careering up a 45-degree slope at 35 mph. He also supplies a wealth of physiological details or conjectures concerning hibernation, den-building, mating, and other essential features of the life cycle. McNamee does not romance the grizzly; rather, he elicits respect and admiration for an endangered species of regrettable history and remarkable skills.