Brown Bear Summer

Thomas Bledsoe, Author Dutton Books $18.95 (249p) ISBN 978-0-525-24530-8
McNeil Falls is a prime tourist attraction in Alaska, so popular that visitor permits are apportioned by lottery (and limited to 10 per day). For here, on a 300-foot stretch of white water near the mouth of the McNeil River, brown bears (Ursus atctos congregate to fish for chum salmon in July and August. Before the area was restricted to tourists, it was a research center for behavioral studies of the bear; Bledsoe was one of the fortunate, spending three summers at the Falls. It was a wildlife biologist's dream, and his account is a gratifying vicarious experience for animal enthusiasts. Some observations and records had begun in the 1950s; the bears had names and were recognized year after year. There was Patches, vigorous at 19, senile at 23, who lived another three years; Big Mamma, who produced three cubs at the age of 20, while Reggie had her first cubs at 14. Bledsoe discusses the bears' lack of social organization (each year they have to learn to tolerate the presence of other bears at McNeil); he profiles seven mothers and their young, and he relates a delightful story of cub swapping. One sad note: the state of Alaska protects these bears in the summer, exploiting them for tourism; adjacent areas are open to hunting two months later. Bledsoe urges that the sanctuary be expanded to join the boundaries of Katmai National Monument. Illustrated. (June 29)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1987
Release date: 06/01/1987
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 978-0-525-48544-5
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