A bear book that tames the fear factor

  • Great Wyoming Bear Stories

  "Wyoming is bear country," Tom Reed writes in Great Wyoming Bear Stories, a book of yarns from the wild high county in and around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks — land he calls the grizzly bear’s "last, best stronghold."

Unlike the authors of the many "slasher" bear books on the market, Reed writes with compassion for bears and their struggle to inhabit "the last few kernels we are leaving them." From the boisterous diaries of the first European mountain men to contemporary tales of men who trap bears that stray too close to human civilization, Reed resurrects almost 200 years of bear lore. Some of the voices he records belong to famous men, such as General George Custer, Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, while others are those of summer campers and state employees. Reed meticulously preserves each story and presents it as a historian might, creating a multitude of perspectives on the book’s true rock star: Ursus horribilis imperator — the grizzly.

A rogues’ gallery of bears inhabits these lively pages. Little Wahb, for example, devoured cattle and terrorized the town of Meeteetse, while gentle Bear #104, who lived along the road near Yellowstone, became famous for her docility around humans, even when she had cubs. Reed brings to life both bears and humans and creates a unique window into bear country, reminding us all why it should be preserved.

Great Wyoming Bear Stories
Tom Reed
224 pages, softcover $14.95. Riverbend Publishing, 2003.