Soaring over the Kamchatka Peninsula, an armadillo-shaped chunk of subarctic land hanging off the eastern tip of Russia, you can fly for hours over miles of greenery, rivers and volcanoes without seeing any signs of civilization.

Within this vast expanse of wilderness sat a solitary cabin, where Canadian naturalist Charlie Russell lived for more than 13 years studying — and eventually, befriending — grizzly bears.

Growing up on a ranch near Cochrane, Russell said he was always troubled by what he felt were misconceptions about grizzlies (now more commonly known as brown bears). Could they be as vicious, as dangerous, as bloodthirsty as everyone made them out to be?

So Russell embarked on what turned into a decade-long mission living amongst 400 bears in his little cabin off Kambalnoye Lake in Russia.

“Back in the ‘60s, I decided there were two ideas about bears that were not true. One, that they were unpredictable. Two, that they were inherently dangerous if they lost their fear of people,” Russell said.

“I didn’t think that was fair,” he said. “I could see they needed to share the land with us, but we demanded they were fearful. It was a huge problem for bears because it gave us so many excuses to kill them, and that wasn’t very generous on our part.”

And so for most of the ‘90s and 2000s, Russell lived in Russia, almost completely isolated from humanity with only a rickety old plane to get him to and from where he needed to go.

He set up a small electric fence around his cabin to keep the bears away from his living quarters and food, and began his mission of what he said not many people have bothered to do: form relationships with, and try to truly understand the psychological nature of bears.

It started out slow. Russell would …read more

Source:: Calgary Herald

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