Walking with Giants: The Grizzlies of Siberia

Photo Essay

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Walking with GiantsWalking with GiantsOne of the real joys of living in this remote valley was the ability to accompany the bears on long walks that would cover several miles. There was no question that they enjoyed us being with them. The objective of our study was about living peacefully in a community of many bears without ever causing any of them any concern or strife. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Maureen Enns)
Swimming with ChicoSwimming with ChicoI was always looking for new ways to explore the amount of trust possible to have and maintain with bears. One way was swimming with Chico. The first time I did this with her, I called to her and she came to the lake excited at what I had to show her. Most often when I called her it was to show her fish. When she put her face under the water and saw my white feet flashing as I tread water, I had some quick talking to do to convince her of what she was actually looking at. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Maureen Enns)
After a StormAfter a StormA beautiful day after a storm cheered Maureen and I as well as the cubs. They definitely seemed happier right after a long spell of wind and heavy rain through which they would often find shelter in a hollowed nest under thick alders. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Charlie Russell)
First HibernationFirst HibernationWhen the lake froze over and the snow began to accumulate, we did not know if the orphans would understand how to dig a den or hibernate. They had no mother to show them how this was done, and we were not much help. When a big storm arrived in early November, they disappeared and we did not see them again until May the next year. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Charlie Russell)
Greeting ChicoGreeting ChicoThis was my first meeting with Chico in seven months. She was two years old and had recently emerged from her winter den. When the three cubs saw us, they came sliding down the mountain. Chico then gave me her favorite greeting -- weaving her claws into my fingers. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Charlie Russell)
Fishing TogetherFishing TogetherHere, Biscuit was watching, as close as I was, for a fish to take the dry fly off the surface. When they got older we stopped fishing for them in this way. We were worried that if they ever snatched a fish off the line they might ingest a hook. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Maureen Enns)
Waiting for SalmonWaiting for SalmonUntil after much of the snow melts in the spring, the bears had to depend on the previous year's fat to keep them going. The bears can eat the newly grown grass and maintain some condition, but until the salmon arrive in August, they will not gain weight. While there is snow and little for them to eat, they do a lot of sleeping and I often joined them. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Maureen Enns)
Fun in the SnowFun in the SnowThe cubs could make fun out of anything. Here, Chico dug a hole in the snow and then tried to pull the snow down on top of herself. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Maureen Enns)
A Peaceful ChatA Peaceful ChatAfter a pleasant day exploring along the lake shore, Biscuit and I sit for a peaceful chat about life's meaning. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Maureen Enns)
Painting at Kambalnay LakePainting at Kambalnay LakeChico, Biscuit, and Rosie, approach Maureen while she is painting at Kambalnay Lake. Chico seems to inspect her work. This was the type of experience that was common place during those times, but now we can appreciate how incredibly special it was. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Charlie Russell)
Follow the LeaderFollow the Leader Always up for an adventure, Chico, Biscuit, and Rosie follow Maureen across the bay, which opened up a new area for them to explore. -- Charlie Russell (Photo by Charlie Russell)
In the spring of 1997, naturalist Charlie Russell and artist Maureen Enns became foster parents of three wild grizzly bear cubs whose mother had been killed by a hunter. Enns stresses neither she nor her partner threw caution to the winds. However, the risks of approaching a wild animal are real. For information on keeping safe in bear country, please visit: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/blog/inside-nature-the-bear-blog-keeping-safe-in-bear-country/ "We don’t sit out there taking unnecessary risks,” Enns says. “We study the bears carefully and we carry pepper spray” to ward off attacks — though she is happy to report that they have never had to use it. Still, the risks are real. In 1996, for instance, prominent wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino, a veteran grizzly observer, was killed by a 7-year old Kamchatka bear that had become used to eating at a garbage dump and thus lacked the wild bear’s instinct to avoid people.