Dominion of Bears
Living with Wildlife in Alaska
John Burroughs Medal
Long ago we invited bears into our stories, our dreams, our nightmares, our lives. We have always sought them out where they live, for their hides, their meat, their beauty, their knowingness. Human country and bear country exist side by side.
“This book is one that all with a professional or personal interest in the bears of North America will benefit from and enjoy reading. Indeed, all with these interests in northern hemisphere bears will find useful information here as Simpson discusses brown and polar bears as well as the North American black bear.”
—International Bear News
“A rich and thoughtful natural history—and Simpson writes it well. Her book is essential reading and highly recommended for park managers, historians, conservationists, and students of Alaska’s bears.”
—Terry D. DeBruyn, author of Walking with Bears: One Man’s Relationship with Three Generations of Wild Bears
“I thought I knew something about bears. But when I read Sherry Simpson’s masterpiece, I realized I had a whole lot to learn. And I loved learning it. She writes so gracefully, intelligently, personally, brilliantly, and entertainingly that when I finished the book, I wanted more.”
—Richard Ellis, author of On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear
“Simpson brings a talented writer’s skill and a high level of competence to her insightful look at one of the earth’s most fascinating creatures in one of the wildest places left on the planet.”
—Sterling Miller, past President of the International Association of Bear Research and Management
“Humble, curious, observant, and incisive—and clearly passionate about her subject—Simpson is an ideal literary guide for readers who wish to explore and better understand Alaska’s bears. The more I read her work, the more convinced I become that Simpson is not only Alaska’s most accomplished essayist, but that she ranks among the best in the nation.”
—Bill Sherwonit, author of Living with Wildness: An Alaskan Odyssey
“Accessible and insightful, Dominion of Bears is a mix of ecology, social science, history, travelogue, and science. Simpson has created a stunningly fresh look at the bears most people thought they knew.”
—Andrew E. Derocher, author of Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to their Biology and Behavior
“Alaska’s three bear species and the people who love, fear, and encounter them have found their truth-teller in Sherry Simpson. This journey into every corner of a last stronghold of bears and their meanings is a joy to take with such a clear-thinking and good-natured guide.”
—Nancy Lord, former Alaska Writer Laureate and author of Beluga Days and Early Warming
“Next time I’m trying to interpret the behavior of a brown bear I’ll have to think to myself—what would Sherry say if she were here? She understands, speaks from her heart, and does so with wonderful prose. ”
—Derek Stonorov, author of Living in Harmony with BearsSee fewer reviews...
As Sherry Simpson suggests, the relationship between bears and humans is ancient and ongoing and, in Alaska, profoundly and often uncomfortably close. A huge number of North Americas bears live in Alaska: including at least 31,000 brown bears, 100,000 black bears, and 3,500 polar bears. And nearly every aspect of Alaskan society reflects their presence, from hunting to tourism marketing to wildlife management to urban planning.
A long-time Alaskan, Simpson offers a series of compelling essays on Alaskan bears in both wild and urban spaces—because in Alaska, bears are found not only in their natural habitat but also in cities and towns. Combining field research, interviews, and a host of up-to-date scientific sources, her finely polished prose conveys a wealth of information and insight on ursine biology, behavior, feeding, mating, social structure, and much more.
Simpson crisscrosses the Alaskan landscape in pursuit of bears as she muses, marvels, and often stands in sheer awe before these charismatic creatures. Firmly grounded in the expertise of wildlife biologists, hunters, and viewing guides, she shows bears as they actually are, not as we imagine them to be. She considers not only the occasionally aggressive behavior bears need to survive, but also the violence exacted upon them by trophy hunters, advocates of predator control, or suburbanites who view bears as land sharks that threaten the safety of their families.
Shifting effortlessly between fascinating facts and poetic imagery, Simpson crafts an extended meditation on why we are so drawn to bears and why they continue to engage our imaginations, populate indigenous mythologies, and help define our essential visions of wilderness. As Simpson observes, The slightest evidence that bears share your world—or that you share theirs—can alter not only your sense of the landscape, but your sense of yourself within that landscape.