In the Company of Bears: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition
In In the Company of Bears, originally published in hardcover as Out on a Limb, Ben Kilham invites us into the world he has come to know best: the world of black bears.
For decades, Kilham has studied wild black bears in a vast tract of Northern New Hampshire woodlands. At times, he has also taken in orphaned infants–feeding them, walking them through the forest for months to help them decipher their natural world, and eventually reintroducing them back into the wild. Once free, the orphaned bears still regard him as their mother. And one of these bears, now a 17-year-old female, has given him extraordinary access to her daily life, opening a rare window into how she and the wild bears she lives among carry out their daily lives, raise their young, and communicate.
Witnessing this world has led to some remarkable discoveries. For years, scientists have considered black bears to be mostly solitary. Kilham's observations, though, reveal the extraordinary interactions wild bears have with each other. They form friendships and alliances; abide by a code of conduct that keeps their world orderly; and when their own food supplies are ample, they even help out other bears in need. Could these cooperative behaviors, he asks, mimic behavior that existed in the animal that became human? In watching bears, do we see our earliest forms of communications unfold?
Kilham's dyslexia once barred him from getting an advanced academic degree, securing funding for his research, and publishing his observations in the scientific literature. After being shunned by the traditional scientific community, though, Kilham’s unique findings now interest bear researchers worldwide. His techniques even aid scientists working with pandas in China and bears in Russia. Moreover, the observation skills that fueled Kilham’s exceptional work turned out to be born of his dyslexia. His ability to think in pictures and decipher systems makes him a unique interpreter of the bear's world.
In the Company of Bears delivers Kilham’s fascinating glimpse at the inner world of bears, and also makes a passionate case for science, and education in general, to open its doors to different ways of learning and researching–doors that could lead to far broader realms of discovery.
grandparents, SNLO needed to learn to live with a new authority. Unfortunately, I had more of a hand than I would have liked in the final stage of the Squirty–SNLO saga. I wanted to put a radio collar on SNLO, but worried about what might happen if Squirty arrived and found her in a weakened condition. Still, I was running out of time. I needed to stop capturing and sedating bears by the first of August to allow time for the drugs to completely metabolize before the beginning of the hunting
this would take several years to sort out. I began my search at the Dana Biomedical Library at Dartmouth College, where illustrated books on the anatomy of the domestic dog showed how their vomeronasal organs consisted of two tubular structures that lay on either side of the vomer and passed through the palate just behind the incisors to reach a nipple-like papilla. I looked up everything I could find on the subject, and consulted a friend, antelope expert Richard Estes, who had documented the
and a high-paying job; it just comes down to which group controlled the resource of knowledge. Early in our education process, children are asked, more or less, to express their plans for the future. Our social training by and large produces a response like “I am going get a good education, have a good job, and raise a family.” And they’ll likely have, already, even as young as five, some kind of an idea about how they will embrace and be successful in life. In other words, they have an innate
for what remains often brings them in close contact with residential properties. In New Hampshire, their preferred summertime food, jack-in-the-pulpit, draws bears quite close to homes. Once there, they can easily smell the food available in nearby yards, or follow other bears’ scent trails to bird feeders or garbage cans. In poor food years, when bears experience increased social aggression over diminishing wild resources, more and more bears will be willing to take the risk to enter backyards,
However, she was still driven by the need to find food for her starving cubs and simply expanded her home range, finding bountiful supplies of birdseed and garbage. Every fifth or sixth home was feeding birds, deer, bear, turkey, or had unsecured garbage. She entered open garages to get garbage and sacks of birdseed. Her activities took place during daylight hours, and sightings placed her as much as five miles out of her normal home range. I knew how to stop her, but my research license