Bear people, incomprehensible stats and learning how to listen

The conference

The conference begun with an evening buffet in the Dena\’ina Civic and Convention Centre. This must have been the largest IBA (International Bear Association) conference ever! More than 450 people registered to attend.

Bert and I spent most of the first evening trying to spot people I know or people we needed to interview and eating two thirds of the buffet.. We approached a few people about being interviewed for our film and noted down the other names they gave us – some of which they gave to deflect attention from themselves and others they gave because they loved the idea and wanted us to do a good job!

The oral presentations started on the second day, after receiving blessings and words of inspiration from Eklutna Chief Lee Stephen, followed by Ida\’ina (eedah eenah) K\’eljeshna (keeljeshnah) – Athabaskan Friendship Dancers. Then I found the space where my poster would hang and be admired for the rest of the week! The poster presentation was planned for Wednesday evening, but posters could hang for the whole week for people to check them out.


We heard talks on polar bear feeding behaviour and their silly walk as they approach their prey. We learned that brown bears have glands on their paws which they may use for scent marking – a strut infinitely sillier than the polar bear\’s stalking walk. Did you know that some black bears can climb down trees head first? So amazing to imagine a 60-300kg animal able to defy gravity and walk vertically like squirrels! Find out more about the bears of the world here!


Bears can sometimes become quite annoying and potentially dangerous whe\"IMG_5924\"n they get used to being close to humans and feeding on our waste.. We watched videos of bear teaser guns and bear sprays and got introduced to the star of the conference, Soledad, the Wildlife Service Karelian bear dog! Soledad and h\"IMG_5928\"er handler spend their days helping to resolve bear-human conflict issues throughout western North America. Find out more about their work and about bear dogs here.


The conference days were hectic! Aside from seeing presentations of crazy stats and very complicated techniques that made me go cross-eyed, Bert and I were running from talk to talk and then trying to find people from our massive list of names to interview during the breaks. Very small breaks, too much new information, very good food, too much coffee, very little sleep, lots of interviews with amazing senior bear specialists, new bear biologists and students from around the world. It is so interesting to interview people about something you share a passionate for. That said, listening without being able to contribute to a conversation is much harder than I thought! It was almost painful to sit there and nod when they said something incredibly stimulating that would normally initiate a great conversation. But we had to save the insightful conversation for next time and focus on getting the interviews done for our documentary! We are very happy with what we managed to accomplish within such a short amount of time and Bert is looking forward to starting the editing process and writing the music! Plus I got to talk to all of the bear superheroes!

How great!!


Ah, and we saw another moose on the cycle path on the way home…

Now off to get some great landscape footage and perhaps see some other incredible animals!


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