Running into a bear can turn into the story of a lifetime. Running into a bear 30 times over can turn into a bevy of true tall tales.
With plenty of tales to tell, Steve Bickerstaff’s wrote and self-published a book, “There’s A Bear Right Behind You!” to recount his and his wife Charlotte’s run-ins with bears in national parks. The encounters range from the hilarious to frightening, and they say as much about human relationships and curiosity as they do about the biology, behavior and beauty of bears.
Having traveled all over the world, Steve and Charlotte have hiked extensively. For them, wildlife like black and grizzly bears are essential components of wild places.
A former parliamentarian, attorney, adjunct professor and assistant attorney general, Steve has done a lot of legal writing. With this book, now available at Amazon (or in limited supplies at our office), he wanted to reach a general audience and fill a niche between guide, photography and “bear attack” books to honor the animals and wildness he loves.
As a former Trustees board member, he also decided to donate the book’s proceeds to Trustees for Alask—and for that, Trustees and the bears we defend are grateful.
Here’s what Steve had to say about the book and his time in the wilderness.
Bears behave a lot like people sometimes
What’s the number one thing you learned about life through these bear encounters?
As I mentioned in my book, it is unrealistic to believe that people are truly redeemed by their outdoor experiences. My wife and I are not better people because of our encounters with bears, only happier ones. We found pleasure in the bear encounters and the unpredictability of our backcountry experiences. We often could see for miles, but surprises were only a few feet away around the next bend or over the next rise. In terms of bears, we learned that they are very much like people—they vary in their behavior according to the individual, the circumstance, and whether they feel threatened.
How important are bears in your life story?
Bears have been important to my wife and me. They are not the mindless, killing machines depicted in some of the gruesome stories. Bears deserve our respect. Other people have had memorable experiences with bears and admire them like we do—the primary difference is that I have found the time to write about our encounters.
Protecting bears and other predators
Why do you think we should protect bears?
Bears should be respected and admired. They are a vital part of the world we inherited.
What made you want to donate sales to Trustees?
At one time, I served as the secretary of the board of directors of The Trustees for Alaska. I am proud of the organization and of its invaluable work on behalf of the environment, wildlife, and native peoples of Alaska. At 71, my days of hiking in the backcountry are gone, but I hope that the proceeds from my book will help Trustees preserve this wonderful world for my grandchildren. By donating the proceeds of the book, I am hoping to make a gift that will be forever valuable if the book is popular.
“There’s a Bear…” includes bear encounters in national parks around the country, and often notes the human mistakes and mishaps that make any trip outside perilous, even without running into bears. This passage describes a sow and cub Steve sees while doing a solo hike when camping with Charlotte in Denali National Park. Excerpt:
“I dropped to the ground to appear nonconfrontational and to steady my camera. The cub paid me no attention, but the sow was watching. She became rigid and stared at me. Only about fifty feet and a gentle slope separated us. This was one of the few times when I actually thought it might become necessary for me to play dead in the face of a sow’s charge. Instead of trying to appear as large as possible, I tried to look small and meek (an unnatural instinct for a trial lawyer)…”
Steve Bickerstaff has two wonderful daughters (Betty and Lee) and three fabulous granddaughters (Jesse, Maggie, and Abby). He and his wife, Charlotte Carter, have traveled and hiked extensively around the world. They live in Texas. You can find his book on Amazon.