Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness

by Brian Payton

Vancouver nature writer and novelist Brian Payton returns to familiar ground with his new non-fiction title, Shadow of the Bear. Travelling to all corners of the planet where bears are found he delves into the mythos, fiction, and rumours that surround these mammals, and attempts to ascertain why six of the eight remaining species of bear are on the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species.
Shadow of the Bear begins with portions of Payton’s 2001 award-winning article describing his encounters with grizzlies in northern B.C., then rapidly moves from Canada through India, Asia, North and South America, and Europe, looking at each of the eight species of bear in turn. He shares experiences with tribespeople, shamans, conservation officers, and militia members while searching for the often elusive bears, gathering anecdotes and stories as he goes.
With his clear and simple style, Payton invites the reader to share his personal experiences and draws evocative images with each observation. As he describes the work of dedicated volunteers and underpaid staff around the world, Payton also paints vivid pictures of a world where not enough is being done to secure the future of these animals. He balances this with images of people who are suffering themselves as victims of either the bears or systems in which killing bears and destroying habitats is the only way they know how to live. He shares the ways that some groups are using ecotourism to benefit both humans and bears, and shows how it is possible to find a balance between the two species with work, patience, and time.
Insightful and compelling, Shadow of the Bear appeals to both heart and mind, and may alert readers to a plight they might otherwise overlook. For those galvanized to action, the book ends with a comprehensive bibliography and a list of 10 non-governmental organizations that are working to address these issues.