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Yellowstone Bear Tales

Originally published in 1991 as a companion volume to Paul Schullery's The Bears of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Bear Tales took on a life of its own, staying in print far longer than The Bears of Yellowstone. A new edition, much expanded and generously illustrated with original art by Marsha Karle as well as many historic images, is currently in press, and should appear later in 2013. Watch this website and Amazon.com for publication information.

"Love bears? Fascinated and delighted by the rich mix of relationships the bears of Yellowstone have with people? Then read Paul Schullery's latest and wide-ranging collection of writings about Yellowstone's bears and people. Smiles, wonder, and delight are guaranteed." - Stephen Herrero, author of Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance

"In Yellowstone Bear Tales Paul Schullery, one of the foremost experts on the bears of Yellowstone National Park, has moved beyond his landmark book The Bears of Yellowstone into the historical tales and vignettes about these animals that make history so much fun. These are the actual stories as written in the distant past by several generations of Yellowstone travelers, employees, and researchers, and they give us an extraordinary window into the great national park and its animal denizens." - Lee Whittlesey, Historian, Gardiner, Montana, author of Death in Yellowstone and Storytelling in Yellowstone

Excerpt from Yellowstone Bear Tales: Adventures, Mishaps, and Discoveries Among the Worlds' Most Famous Bears, from the "Introduction:"

It has been one of the great honors and joys of my life to witness and participate in the revolution in Yellowstone bear management and bear appreciation that has taken place in the past half century. In 1962, when my parents brought my sister and me to Yellowstone from our home in Michigan, we had no reason to wonder if seeing dozens of black bears begging for picnic leftovers along park roads wasn't as good as it would ever get.

Ten years later, when I first arrived to work in Yellowstone as a ranger-naturalist, I spent much of my time explaining to park visitors that it could, indeed, get a lot better, and that we owed it both to ourselves and to the bears to restore them to a wilder and less compromised way of life.

Ten years later, when the bears had been successfully if controversially converted back to their wild state, many people were prematurely resigned to the sad fact that they were unlikely to see many, if any, bears during their visit to Yellowstone. Some of these despondent souls actually believed the bears weren't even there any more.

And ten years after that, there was a thriving and rapidly growing new group of passionate bear watchers, I among them, who with the aid of good optics and a heightened awareness of how bears live were discovering the great joys of watching Yellowstone's wild bears go about their daily lives.

Now another twenty years have passed and we have been at this new kind of bear appreciation in Yellowstone long enough that the number of people who remember those earlier times is dwindling and most of us can't imagine things being any other way than as they are now. The park's savvy bear watchers and many thousands of casual passers-by are routinely treated to the wonder of wild grizzly and black bears roaming, foraging, preying, mating, raising their young, and otherwise moving through their wild and unencumbered days in full sight of the public. The wildness of the scene is only enhanced by the wolves who have been restored and now share the Yellowstone landscape with the bears. It is a thrilling spectacle, all the more thrilling for those of us who remember when we and the bears of Yellowstone all lived lesser lives.

And yet. And yet there are many reasons to remember—and sometimes even to celebrate—those earlier times, when Yellowstone National Park served the nation as an on-the-job-training center in bear management, as an incomparable natural history classroom, as a great theatre of the silly, and, just occasionally, as a setting for terrible tragedies when the bear-human enterprise went sensationally wrong.

This book recalls and honors those charming, awful, and occasionally goofy times. It's about what we went through—the halting and diffuse process, full of misunderstandings, wrong turns, and the occasional brilliant insight—to earn the wild Yellowstone bears we treasure today.

The bears of Yellowstone are at the center of an apparently endless controversy, one that ignited in the 1960s and shows no sign of letting up. We face great challenges in protecting these magnificent animals and their habitat. A huge amount of commentary, journalism, and scientific research continues both to illuminate and to fuel the controversy. But whenever I am out watching bears, all the ruckus, the political maneuvering, the overheated rhetoric, the intractable position-taking, the perpetually insufficient journalism, and the generally panicky mood of the bear-management world fade a bit. My fellow bear watchers know what I mean. You go out there with your head full of responsibility and distraction and unreturned phone calls and you come back with your heart full of the joy of the bear's world. Many a time I've come back from a very rewarding day like that in which I didn't even see a bear. It's like fishing; done right, even if you don't catch a fish just being out there puts you back together a little bit.

I offer this book in that spirit. In our sense of urgency to do the right thing by these precious animals and their threatened environment, we can forget why we care so much in the first place. As you read you will begin to see the richness of Yellowstone bear lore and will be reminded of why the battle over the bears has been so fiercely fought. In these stories we can see how earlier generations struggled to come to terms with the fascination, fear, and sense of duty that the bears of Yellowstone still inspire today.