Bears: The Mighty Grizzlies of the West, by Julie Argyle, Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah, 2021, $50
On my rambles west I have seen a dozen or more bears relatively close-up. Almost every time it has provided the right kind of adrenaline rush, as none of the bruins charged me, and I walked away feeling rewarded. One time, though, in northern Montana, the bear I saw a few bushes away had the pronounced shoulder hump and “dished” facial profile of a grizzly. No, it didn’t charge, but my nervous system still went into overdrive, releasing waves of adrenaline as I fled. In short, this particular bruin scared the $#*& out of me.
Today I’m not into hiking, let alone camping, in grizzly country. I am, however, still into grizzlies and respect anyone helping to ensure they’re around for future generations. Like many people, most far braver than me, I find these iconic symbols of power and strength fascinating. A few years ago I did see a mother grizzly and two cubs on a hillside in Yellowstone National Park—albeit through a telephoto lens set atop a fellow visitor’s sturdy tripod. Perfect. Seeing Julie Argyle’s stunning, mostly close-up shots of grizzlies in Yellowstone is the next best thing for one who, apparently unlike this professional photographer, has had a few grizzly nightmares (never mind the research suggesting a person is far more likely to be killed by a bee than a bear).
No detailed grizzly history here or photos of grizzlies terrorizing anyone on two legs. But the author does introduce readers to Grizzly 791 (born in 2011), whom Argyle witnessed taking down a six-point bull elk in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley. The author also presents a few named grizzlies—including Raspberry, to whom the book is dedicated (“The one who will be embedded in my heart forever.”); Snow (“What a blessing it was to have watched her grow from that little cub into a beautiful adult grizzly”); and Snaggletooth, who has a genetically deformed mouth. Argyle’s stunning photos send the message loud and clear this intelligent, impressive species deserves our protection. I doubt anyone who leafs through this handsome book will experience an adrenaline rush, but they likely will feel rewarded, and they won’t even need bear spray.
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