SHADOW OF THE BEAR is published as IN BEAR COUNTRY in the UK.
We have been meeting them in the wilderness, and in our dreams, since the dawn of human history. Immortalized in art and myth since we began drawing on the walls of caves, they cast a long shadow over our collective subconscious. Wherever bears endure, they are an indicator of the health of their ecosystem. Their decline—some to the edge of extinction—foretells a bigger story: that of our planet’s peril.
In a series of remarkable journeys, Brian Payton travels the world in search of the eight remaining bear species. Along the way, he encounters poachers in the jungles of Cambodia, the cruelty of China’s bear bile trade, and Canada’s insatiable polar bear paparazzi. From the spectacled bears of a cursed Peruvian mountain, to the man-eating sloth bears of India, Payton vividly captures the power and beauty of these majestic creatures while exploring their unique place within very different cultures. His quest ultimately leads to the Colorado Plateau, where an ancient reverence for black bears collides with the will of trophy hunters in pursuit of game they do not eat. The result is a collection of gripping and moving meditations on the fate of wilderness—and the vestiges of wildness in us all.
True tales masterfully told, Shadow of the Bear chronicles an unforgettable trek down the braided path of bear and human experience. (Published in the UK as In Bear Country.)
Shadow of the Bear was chosen as a Barnes and Noble Book Club Pick, a Best Outdoor Book of 2006 (Ron Watters, Chair, National Outdoor Book Awards), a Vancouver Magazine Best Book, and as a Finalist for Best Book – Adventure Travel at the Banff Mountain Book Festival.
“Accomplished and complex… Shadow of the Bear: Travels in Vanishing Wilderness is top-rate… (Payton) documents more than just an animal under siege by hunters, global warming, shrinking habitat, and a dwindling food chain. He grapples with huge moral questions… Six of the eight species are now vulnerable or endangered. His hope is that by learning their names and stories, their facts and myths, we may come to care as he does. It’s an infectious evangelism.”—John Burns, Georgia Straight
“Brian Payton has traveled to all lands where bears thrive. He brings back to us a thousand stories of mystery and wonder, myriad insights into the nature of this iconic creature, poetic moments of encounter and concern, all brought together into a moving narrative that reminds us that we are not predominate on this Earth. This is a lesson we would do well to remember.”—Wade Davis, author of The Serpent and the Rainbow and Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic Society
“Payton’s Shadow of the Bear is a gripping story of a species at the crossroads of extinction… Compelling and absorbing, Shadow of the Bear is an in-depth and thoughtful look at a species that may just be tied to the future of humanity itself.”—Julie Kentner, Winnipeg Free Press
“Payton so elegantly articulates the ranges of human experiences with bears in many cultures… The bear and the wilderness, although threatened, still exist and are too important for civilization to lose. Brian Payton’s book makes this abundantly clear.”—Robert E. Bieder, The Globe and Mail
“High adventure combined with dazzling passages of nature writing.”—George Cohn, Booklist
“Courageous, surprising, and fascinating… Brian Payton’s global journey into bear country is one-of-a-kind. In this fearless—and fearlessly honest—exploration of the habitats and histories we share with the eight surviving species of bear, Payton takes us to places most of us would never think or dare to go. He is an eloquent witness to a series of beautiful and terrible collisions taking place between humans and bears as we compete for habitat and resources. At its core, Shadow of the Bear is a mirror; in it we are offered not only a wild reflection of our former selves, but a stark assessment of how much it will cost us to lose the deep and ancient connection we share with these astonishing creatures.”—John Vaillant, author of The Golden Spruce
“Insightful and compelling, Shadow of the Bear appeals to both the heart and the mind.”—Cori Dusmann, Quill & Quire
“A series of vivid journeys… (Shadow of the Bear) develops our understanding and respect for one of the world’s most intriguing and important animals.”—Trent Edwards, Calgary Herald
“An extremely satisfying and sometimes provocative read.”—Publishers Weekly
“Brian Payton has accomplished a rare thing. Possessed of an insatiable curiosity, a disciplined humility and an abiding capacity for wonder, Payton has sculpted a fine work of art from the language of common speech. Even in his witness to the obscenity of Asia’s bear-bile trade, or the last stand of the sloth bears of India’s Bilaspur forest, and even in his treks to the fading, final refuge of the spectacled bears of Peru, Payton is ever mindful of the delicate human geography he traverses. Because he treads so carefully through that ragged and disorienting landscape, Payton notices the important things, not least of which are all those telling details that so amply illustrate humanity’s ancient empathy for the wild things of the world. This is a book in the traditions of Peter Matthiessen and John McPhee. It is the sort of writing the world needs a lot more of, especially now.”—Terry Glavin, author of Waiting for the Macaws
“Brian Payton is the real ‘Grizzly Man.’ With energy, freshness, and no small amount of humor, he takes us deep into ‘bear country’—a place that exists not just in the forests of India and Peru, but, as Payton shows us, resides within each of us. Never has the primal bond between man and bear been so richly explored.”—Michael D’Orso, author of Eagle Blue and Plundering Paradise
“A fine work of narrative nonfiction, sure to please anyone interested in natural history.”—Nancy Pearl, NPR and Book Lust
“Certainly among the most sustained efforts to investigate the bear-human relationship ever recorded. Extremely rewarding reading… poetic… These increasingly fascinating stories accumulate until it becomes clear that our coexistence with bears proves a despairingly delicate one, but one that can only benefit from our knowledge of what Payton has devoted so much time and heart to learning.”—Jose Teodoro, Edmonton Journal
“A fascinating and often poignant look, not only at the lives of the bears themselves, but at how their relationship with man has evolved from one of mystery and mutual respect, to one of exploitation and virtual extinction.”—Outpost
“Well written and engaging.” —Shelagh Plunkett, The Vancouver Sun
“Essential reading.” —Josef Braun, Vue Weekly
“Fascinating.”—Anthony Brandt, National Geographic Adventure
“A spiritual and imaginative record of loss and hope. Valuable and captivating.”—Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
“Shadow of the Bear is the best kind of travel book: eloquent, thoughtful and beautifully written… reminiscent of Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux.”—Green Living
“Nature writing at its best… read this and weep.” —Alison Pressley, Good Reading Magazine (Australia)