Grizzly Bear Science and the Art of a Wilderness Life

Forty Years of Research in the Flathead Valley

ISBN 9781771605656
Softcover | Publication Date: November 7, 2023
Book Dimensions: 6 x 9
336 Pages

About the Book

In all scientific disciplines, there is an expanding gap between what is known by the general public and what is known by scientists. In this book, Dr. Bruce McLellan tries to bridge that gap.

Coexisting with grizzly bears into the future will be an increasing challenge and require a deep understanding of these large carnivores and what factors make their populations tick. Based on perhaps the longest uninterrupted wildlife research project done by one individual, this is the intertwined story of the science underlying our understanding of grizzly bears and family life in the wilderness while following bears.

The story of grizzly bear behaviour and ecology is based on dozens of research papers published in this study, which in turn are based on the actual lives of over 200 radio-collared bears. These chapters are not written “for dummies” but contain considerable substance for people interested in the science behind animal ecology and conservation. The scientific chapters cover topics ranging from the bears’ diet and how it influences changes in body fat and muscle, to how bears are counted and factors that influence births and deaths and regulate population size.

Mixed among the science chapters is the story of how a couple in their mid-20s began the Flathead grizzly project, built a log cabin on the bank of the Flathead River, had babies, and raised them in the wilderness among bears, wolves, and mountain lions. They endured floods that washed away part of their camp, forest fires that burned thousands of square miles, and some very weird people. Both children grew up with grizzly bears and eventually earned their own M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in the ecology of these amazing animals.

About the Author(s)

Dr. Bruce McLellan is a wildlife research ecologist who has just completed his 43rd field season studying the grizzly bear population in southeastern BC and his 15th season on populations in southwestern BC. Over this period he has followed the lives of hundreds of grizzly bears, many from birth all the way to their death in their late twenties or thirties. Based on information about these bears, Bruce has published dozens of scientific journal papers on grizzly bear behaviour and ecology. Besides research, he has been involved with many land-use, access management, and recreation management policy processes and, with others, initiated the Bear Awareness Society in the 1990s that evolved into Wildsafe BC. Bruce was previously president of the International Association for Bear Research and Management and co-chair of the IUCN Bear Specialist Group, and now is the Redlist authority for this group of international scientists. Bruce lives in D’Arcy, British Columbia.


Grizzly Bear Science is a fascinating and authoritative book about the lives of grizzly bears and the men and women who study them. Drawing on an incredible 43 years of field research, Bruce McLellan details the adventure-packed science of bear research and shares rare insight into the lives of bears: how they survive and raise their families in a complex and ever-changing environment. We learn how bears and people interact and how humans can protect these fascinating and, dare I say, romantic mammals. By extension, the book widens our understanding of conservation ecology in general, and the path forward to preserve all the species that we share this planet with.” —Jon Turk, author of Tracking Lions, Myth, and Wilderness in Samburu, The Raven’s Gift, Crocodiles and Ice and numerous other titles

“Bruce McLellan gifts us with his powerfully personalized story. Together with his wife, Celine, they build a remote log cabin and do pioneering, world-class scientific research into understanding the lives of grizzly bears in complex landscapes. All while parenting their two young kids in the woods. We are fortunate to journey with Bruce and his family. A thorough delight to read!” —Stephen Herrero, emeritus professor of ecology, University of Calgary; author of Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance

“On a small planet with almost 8 billion people, only a handful of individuals gain profound insight into our wild cohabitants and Bruce McLellan is one of those few. In Grizzly Bear Science Bruce creates an intoxicating cocktail of personal recollections, stories and science and infuses it with a twist of passion. His drive to understand grizzlies and where they live simmers throughout. It’s a wild ride and well worth the journey. Read this book – it will take you places so very few can go.”—Andrew E. Derocher, professor of biological sciences at University of Alberta, author of Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior

“Bruce McLellan has spent a lifetime in bear country, gathering both insights and stories to share. Grizzly Bear Science and the Art of a Wilderness Life is a vivid account of one man’s obsession braided with candid tales of a growing family in a most magnificent place.” —Brian Payton, author of The Wind Is Not a River, Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness and The Ice Passage

Grizzly Bear Science will become a classic in wildlife ecology literature. Bruce McLellan’s passion for grizzly bears and their habitat in a remote and wild corner in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains simmers on every page. While scientific research isn’t meant to be an adventure, McLellan’s pioneering 40 years of studying grizzly bears often tilts into the realm of adventure and near misses. Anyone looking to understand grizzly bears will come away with amazing and novel insights into this mythic beast. McLellan takes the reader on a wild ride from the earliest days when grizzly bear research was in its infancy all the way to the modern era. This is a terrific read that will appeal to anyone interested in, scared of, curious about, or studying grizzlies.” —Andrew E. Derocher, professor of biological sciences at University of Alberta, author of Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior