If you're a hiker or angler in black bear or grizzly territory, a modest little handbook, Bear Aware: Hiking and Camping in Bear Country, could save your life. It concisely explains the bear essentials of coexistence, such as staying alert in the outback, venturing out only with a large group, sticking to the trail and hiking in the middle of the day rather than at dawn or dusk. It also recommends making a metallic noise - a sound not common in nature - to warn bears of your presence. About this last point, writer Bill Schneider, publisher of Falcon Press in Helena, Mont., admits ambivalence since most of us like wilderness precisely because it doesn't contain the sounds of mankind. Then he adds a more basic conflict: If you do everything recommended in this book, you most likely will not see any bears. But you probably won't see deer or moose or eagles or any other wildlife either. "You make the choice." In any case, Schneider says, although bears add risk to a trip, you take on a much greater risk just driving to the trailhead.


Falcon Press, Helena, Mont., 127 pages, softcover, illustrated by Kirk Botero, $6.95.


*Betsy Marston