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Whistler bears to be featured in book series



Vancouver publisher invites local black bear expert Michael Allen to write about his experiences with bears

Michael Allen says he knows of at least a dozen bears in Whistler that haven’t gone into winter hibernation just yet, but he is confident they will start heading up the mountain as soon as Whistler Valley sees its first big snowfall of the season.

Then it will be time for Allen to do a little hibernating himself. The black bear researcher recently signed a contract with Raincoast Books of Vancouver to write a pair of books on the bears, including his own experiences in the field over the past 15 years. Raincoast hit the jackpot as the Canadian publisher of the Harry Potter series.

According to Allen, he was approached by Allan MacDougall, the president of Raincoast Books, who has a place in Whistler and has been following Allen’s work through his columns in Pique. After meeting with a publisher and going over his material, Raincoast decided that there was more than enough material for two books.

The first book, which will be targeted to adults, will be published in the spring of 2004. The second book, a resource book for kids and students, is due in the fall of 2004.

While Allen says it’s a big job, especially the longer adult book, he’s looking forward to finally putting his collected research and field experiences together.

"I’ve been studying bears for 15 years now, starting in the Kootenays in 1987 and then moving to Whistler in 1994, and I’ve got lots to say," said the 37-year-old Allen. "You spend so much time in the bush that you’re literally overflowing with the things that you find out. It’s been interesting. This is a good way to get all of that out, and share that knowledge and those experiences with the public."

In Whistler, Allen has been known to camp overnight in bear territory, and is well known to many of the local bears. He has practically immersed himself into the population, studying them up close in their natural habitat. Allen once commented that the bears, which are shy and over protective of their territories, have accepted him as one of their own.

He has shared his experiences with Pique readers for more than six years now, and has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and a BBC documentary.

He has conducted black bear sightseeing tours with Whistler-Blackcomb, conducted slide shows and presentations on the bears, and recently started a youth program where kids assist with his research.

In addition to education, Allen has helped with initiatives to bear-proof Whistler, including the landfill area, and cut down on the number of bear kills in town.