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Meet Whistler’s real locals

A Whistler Bear Story introduces Jeanie, Fitz, Katie, Marissa, Slip and friends to the human set



A Whistler Bear Story by Sylvia Dolson & Katherine Fawcett

63 pp., $14.95.


It takes a while to be considered a "local" in Whistler, but there's a select set of long-time residents who can safely claim that title without any qualms - Whistler's beloved black bears.

The many black bears who live in the valley are a big part of the day-to-day lives of year-round residents, seasonal workers and tourists, who all feel a little chill of surprise run up their spines when they spy one of the ubiquitous ursine lumbering down the Valley Trail or searching for berries in the bushes.

But few of us take the time to learn about these magnificent animals, beyond the very basics (like storing your garbage properly). However, Whistler's self-proclaimed "bear lady" is aiming to change that with her latest book, A Whistler Bear Story.

Sylvia Dolson, executive director of the Get Bear Smart Society, has actually authored two books on bears this year alone - Bear-ology: Fascinating Bear Facts, Tales & Trivia and now, A Whistler Bear Story . And an idea for a third book is already percolating. This most recent text, however, is far different than Bear-ology ; it's a first-hand account or personal introduction, if you will, to some of the community's best-known black bears.

"They all have their own stories, they're all individuals with unique personalities and they've got things to do every day, they've got friends, some of them have rivals, they have families, they have social networks... Some of the young bears have mentors that they learn from," Dolson explained.

She wanted to give people a glimpse into what the life of Whistler bears is really like, chronicling the lives of Jeanie, Fitz, Katie, Marissa and Slip as they struggle to live peacefully in the valley. And if anyone can tell their story, it's Dolson, who has spent the past 13 years observing and photographing the bears.

"I've been photographing the bears since I came here and I've always been an avid photographer. So I had all these photos accumulated and I really wanted to do something with them and to inspire people," she explained.

"When I'm taking my photographs I really strive to show a real and honest representation of bears and one that reveals their true nature. I'm really opposed as an educator to front-page magazine shots of snarling bears. Those are animal actors that are trained to do that! That is not what they do."

Dolson co-wrote the text with another local author, Katherine Fawcett, providing a wealth of information from her field notes and observations of the bears.