Report on February Speaker, Barbara Murray – “Charlie Russell and Kamchatka Bears”

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Our February 5th speaker was Barbara Murray of Bears Matter Consulting, speaking about Charlie Russell and Kamchatka Bears. 

Barb lives in Fairwinds and shared her bear conservation efforts from over the years with us. From her first encounters with Black bears in Vancouver North and Whistler to adventures in Kamchatka Region, Russia, we had our bear awareness raised.

 While we have few grizzly bears on Vancouver Island, the remote Kamchatka Region in Russia does and became the home for Charlie Russell’, Barb’s mentor and friend who spent ten seasons studying wild grizzly bears, rehabilitating orphan cubs  and returning them to the wilds. Over the years Charlies family had transitioned from Grizzly Bear hunting guides to conservationists protecting and preserving bears. He was integral in BC’s campaign to end the grizzly bear hunt. His observations from many years led to the philosophy of “Bears treated with respect might not be killers. Bears might only be as dangerous as we make them. Bears can live in close proximity to people if people observe some rules….”

 This slide and video presentation introduced both Charlie Russell’s 10 year study based on living with grizzly bears in Kamchatka, Russia and Barb Murray’s visit there approximately 15 years later in August of 2019.  Barb was very fortunate to join grizzly specialist Reno Sommerhalder on an exclusive tour of Charlie’s study area. Reno worked with Charlie on his documentary ‘Man from Kamchatka (a.k.a Edge of Eden’06) based on his best-selling book ‘Grizzly Heart.’  Barb introduced us to the grizzly bears she met and to their unique habitat through stunning images and video clips.  More info can be found at: 

Barb shared pictures and experiences from her 9-day trip in flew to Russia and stayed in the town of Yelizova. This has become a tourist town with over 100,000 tourists each year because of bear guiding trips and viewing of over 300 active volcanoes. With no roads in the region, visitors are flown in by large helicopters. The area is also known as “The Fish Market” because of the variety and abundance of fish, especially the salmon that the bears depend on. Unfortunately over-fishing, tourism and poaching are affecting the bears. Barb’s guide, has said by 2024, he will no longer be offering tours for tourists. They expect to take down Charlies camp buildings and restore the area to nature.

The talk demonstrated that “Bears Matter” and humans are slowly decimating their territories, food supply and conservation killings and poaching are reducing their numbers. You can learn more of Charlie Russell’s legacy in the book- “Talking with Bears” – a conversation with Charlie Russell authored by Dr. Gay Bradshaw

The presentation was dedicated to Charlie’s memory: August 1941 to May 2018

Thank you Barb for your talk.  You captured a time and place that could be gone in 5 years, sad to say, but raised everyone’s awareness that “Bears Matter”

Currently Barb maintains a non-profit and blog



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