I am the author of the Sierra magazine article cited as being "guilty" of "misinformation about wildlife" (HCN, 5/10/99). The story concerned the research Charlie Russell and Maureen Enns are doing with grizzly bears in Kamchatka. HCN quotes Chuck Bartlebaugh of the Center for Wildlife Information as saying that "the story is full of holes." For starters, Bartlebaugh says, "The story mistakenly identifies the bears as grizzlies. Ursus horribilis doesn't live in Asia."
If Mr. Bartlebaugh has discovered a new species of bear, HCN should have given the story more play. If not, I wonder about the quality of his "wildlife information," because every other source will tell you that Kamchatka brown bears are indeed our friend Ursus arctos horribilis.
I am also criticized for describing Russell's and Enns' approach of speaking gently to bears "rather than making noise and avoiding bears as people are instructed to do with grizzlies in Montana." Well, yes - my story was about Kamchatka, not Montana. But the main issue seems to be the photo accompanying the story showing Russell "napping with the bears, resting his head on one cub's rump." Charles Jonkel (who was also quoted in my story) told HCN that the photos should not have been published because "People who see the photos won't see the text that goes with them saying, "Hey, don't ever do this." "''''My text said precisely that.
Jonkel is, of course, entitled to his opinion; personally, I find it unlikely that anyone would try to use a grizzly for a pillow because they saw a picture of it in a magazine. But what I'm curious about is how HCN got a special dispensation from Bartlebaugh et al, to illustrate its story with a photo of a child standing 10 feet in front of a bull elk. Do the people who just look at the pictures in Sierra read every word of HCN? Hats off to your readers then!
San Francisco, California