Talking with Bears
Conversations with Charlie Russell
About the Book
A highly literary and reflective portrait of Charlie Russell’s beautiful and unparalleled relationship with some of our planet’s most majestic giants.
Charlie Russell is a legend, not only in his home territory of Alberta but in all of Canada and around the world. An author of several books, including Walking with Giants: The Grizzlies of Siberia, The Spirit Bear: Encounters with the White Bear of the Western Rainforest, and Grizzly Heart: Living Without Fear Among the Brown Bears of Kamchatka, he has been the subject of numerous interviews, documentaries, and articles showcasing him and the bears he loved.
Talking with Bears is an intimate portrait of Charlie Russell’s philosophy of nature, which evolved over the 76 years he graced this planet. Accompanied by stunning photography, the book is written in narrative form, the way Charlie spoke and shared his stories and knowledge with others. Each of the chapters describes some facet of Charlie’s philosophy and experiences through the stories of individual bears and what they taught him: the meaning of trust, respect, attention, love, and much more.
Talking with Bears is written for everyone and anyone who yearns to rekindle the magic of living in alignment with nature and bring the teachings of Charlie Russell and his bears into their own lives.
“I love this book. From dedication to the final page, the book made me openly weep. The tears were of homecoming, and recognition of our place in this world that is our only home. A love for wild nature – and specifically for bears! – informs every word. If we and the world survive, it will in great measure happen because of books like this one.” — Derrick Jensen, author of The Myth of Human Supremacy
“This extraordinary, view-altering series of true stories about the authentic nature of bears reveals them as the sensitive and intelligent beings they are. And in showing that the reality of bears is so different from our usual impressions – that they are such individuals and so prone to peace – Gay Bradshaw has given us not only another startling book but this time a deeply spiritual one.”— Carl Safina, author of Becoming Wild and Beyond Words
“A gripping, beautiful, unique account of two powerful minds (Gay and Charlie) coming to grips with an equally powerful one embodied in the great brown and black bears of the Pacific Northwest and of the Russian Far East. My favorite line? When Gay asks Charlie if he has ever been in love, the answer is Yes, with the bears of Kamchatka Peninsula. Reading this book will not only teach you something about bears that you will find in no other book, it will also teach you a great deal about love. What a bargain!”— Jeffrey Masson, author of The Secret World of Farm Animals
“Figuring out how to share the planet with other big and powerful mammals seems one of the crucial tests for human beings in the time ahead. Charlie Russell had some serious insights about how this might be possible.” — Bill McKibben, author of, among many others, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
“With poetry and grace, Gay Bradshaw calls us into the magical mission of Charlie Russell’s life, mutual friendships with bears, taking us back to long-standing attitudes of Indigenous peoples who live in peaceful co-operation with wild animals. Charlie is a role model for loyalty to nature, human humility and wholeness. Bradshaw shares the warmth of his soul with us, a treasure of inspiration for those who hear the whispering calls of nature and yearn for more connection.” — Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology, University of Notre Dame; author of Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom
“Charlie Russell would love to have written this book. And were he still with us, he would love to have read it. Charlie always felt that our human failures to respect, understand and communicate with bears and other fellow beings resulted in unnecessary fear and suffering for both us and them. In Talking With Bears, long-time collaborator and correspondent Gay Bradshaw honours and responds to those concerns by taking readers into the world Charlie shared with the bears he loved, and into the mind of one of the great naturalists of the past century. Our conflicts with bears mirror our conflicts with the rest of the world and indeed with our own selves. Those conflicts deprive us of much of the joy and meaning a life in nature can offer. Charlie Russell offered an alternative, profoundly ethical and deeply meaningful way of living in the world and of knowing the bears with whom we share it. He proved that love and humility are an antidote to the recurring problems caused by fear and distrust, and in so doing he challenged almost everything we’ve been taught to think about bears. Bradshaw’s well-crafted exposition of his remarkable legacy has produced a book that is eloquently and intelligently written, challenging, inspiring and joyful. The importance of this book – and of Charlie Russell’s lifetime labour of love – simply cannot be overstated. At a time of climate crisis and environmental emergency, when the flaws in our relationship with nature now clearly threaten our very existence, this book is a must-read.”— Kevin Van Tighem, author of Bears Without Fear
“Too often maligned and dismissed, Charlie Russell was a maverick who made the world a better place for both bears and people. Bradshaw’s latest book is a joy to read and the paean Charlie deserved.”— Jeff Gailus, author of The Grizzly Manifesto
“Charlie Russell defines legend. From the first time I met him 30 years ago deep in the rainforests of northern British Columbia I have remained in awe of his epic and extraordinary life’s journey to understand bears. His astounding immersion into our planet’s wildest bear havens will forever be considered the most insightful and ground-breaking bodies of work to reveal the true nature of bears. A giant of a man that will be enshrined in our history as one of the greatest explorers and wildlife conservationists of our time.”— Ian McAllister, executive director of Pacific Wild and author of Great Bear Wild
“Charlie Russell changed how we see and work with bears by reframing the conversations around compassion, respect and coexistence. G.A. Bradshaw’s conversations with one of North America’s foremost bear conservationists shares stories and anecdotes and introspectively examines the human/bear relationship in Alberta and Russia. Talking with Bears is an intimate account of how Charlie saw the world that will prompt you to examine your own relationship with nature and how that shapes your world.”— Sarah Elmeligi, PhD and co-author of What Bears Teach Us
“Talking With Bears is a spellbinding book. G.A. Bradshaw masterfully weaves Charlie Russell’s own words, stories and photographs to provide a glimpse into the uncommon, yet brilliant, methods and approaches that Russell used to further his understanding of bears. The book does a wonderful job of chronicling Russell’s heartfelt connection for both bears and nature, allowing Charlie’s vision and messages to shine clearly. In the end, one can’t help but come away from reading Talking With Bears feeling inspired and rejuvenated and much more informed about how humans and bears can and should co-exist. It is truly an incredible story of how one man charted a path to loving bears unconditionally and became a Canadian legend along the way.” — John E. Marriott, co-author and photographer of What Bears Teach Us and The Pipestone Wolves: The Rise and Fall of a Wolf Family
“Charlie Russell was a man that not only walked with and understood bears but actually talked to them. He gave these misunderstood animals a soul and helped correct their picture. His mission continues with this profound book about his lifework. Overwhelming and a must-read for everyone, and especially every bear enthusiast around the world.” — David Bittner, Dr. phil. nat., Biologe
“Enlisting both stunning prose and a finely tuned cross-species sensibility, Bradshaw’s enterprise here is an urgent and vital one: to connect us with a man whose life mission was not merely to know and live at one with bears. It was, as retold by Bradshaw, also to reconnect us with nature and with our own animality. Not in some mythic realm of harmony and balance, but in a very real, if rapidly vanishing, state of mutual attentiveness and regard.”— Charles Siebert, author of Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral and The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward A New Understanding of Animals
“Gay Bradshaw delves deeply into the passionate heart and mind of Charlie Russell as he explores and protects the lives of grizzlies in Kamchatka, Russia; the Rockies; and coastal British Columbia. She discovers a man who sees bears as individuals and intriguing characters, and she deftly paints a picture of his passionate life of “ursine inquiry.” This is a wonderful tribute to a man I had the privilege of spending time with in “bear country.”— Mike Beedell, conservation photographer; author of The Magnetic North
“The peoples of history in America, Europe and Asia made a special place for bears in their mythologies and stories. For millennia, bears were venerated by those who shared the landscape with them. My brother Charlie was on the same page. In Talking with Bears, Gay Bradshaw presents Charlie’s philosophy in a sensitive and accurate way.” – Gordon Russell
“Talking with Bears is a stunning, original and mind-changing book. Gay Bradshaw has the rare intelligence able to meet and give voice to Charles Russell’s true, courageous and determined relationship with bears. And also this is a manual, an essential text, for teaching us how to live as true human beings. The two themes, living in right relationship with the natural world and refusing the violent instincts of contemporary life, provide a footpath to avoid extinction. A must read for us to survive.” — Deena Metzger, author of, among many others, the novels, La Negra y Blanca (winner of a PEN Oakland award for Literature) and A Rain of Night Birds; co-editor of Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals
“The face of beauty filled with a complete story. With only a glimpse the reader portends what is to follow… with a word I use very sparingly: Perfect!” — Lee Burkins, author of Soldier’s Heart