A book from the ‘bear lady’ 

Bear-ology explores ‘true nature and essence of the bear’ with a fun format

click to enlarge 1615bear.jpg

Bearology: Fascinating Bear Facts, Tales & Trivia

By Sylvia Dolson

192 pgs., $22.95

PixyJack Press

It doesn't matter how long you've lived in Whistler, you still have something to learn about bears. For example, did you know that people have sent bears hurtling over Niagara Falls in barrels?

Didn't think so. That's just one of the tasty tidbits that's found within the pages of Bear-ology: Fascinating Bear Facts, Tales & Trivia, written by none other than Whistler's own Sylvia Dolson.

Dolson began work on the book almost two and a half years ago, collecting research, writing, tracking down copyright permissions and organizing as she continued on with her full-time job as executive director for the Get Bear Smart Society.

"It's a long process, to put a book together," Dolson said with a chuckle. "Much longer than I expected."

A long-time unabashed advocate for Whistler's bear community, Dolson knows just how important education is. With a background in business, not bear biology, Dolson moved to Whistler from Ontario almost 13 years ago.

"We went into town for a newspaper to find a job, find an apartment, all that good stuff, and the front page story was 'Garbage bear destroyed in Village,' and I thought, 'Wow, why would a bear be killed just for eating garbage?'"

She immediately called the local bear society, who invited her to become part of the solution.

"I just became really passionate about it, because the bears really needed a spokesperson and someone to work on their behalf," she said.

Her background as a business professor has helped with her Bear Smart work.

"One thing I learned as a teacher is that you have to make learning fun, and that was the main purpose behind this book," Dolson said. "It wasn't to be a book on the biology and ecology of bears, starting with the life cycle and going through all that kind of boring reading. That's textbook reading."

Instead, she saw a niche in the market for a more light-hearted approached to the subject of bear education - a book that contains fun facts, trivia, jokes and illustrations. Nestled in between anecdotes and cartoons is some important information - a few pages on basic bear how-to's, like what do when you see a bear.

"I hope readers will be able to gain an appreciation of the true nature and essence of the bear, one that transcends the unfounded fears based on years of misinformation, sensationalized media stories... and exaggerated campfire tales."

Dolson approached the Colorado-based company, PixyJack Press, about her project after she saw another of their recent bear books, written by Linda Masterson, called Living With Bears: A Practical Guide to Bear Country.

"I thought it was one of the best books out there that was really, truly a practical guide to living in bear country, and I really enjoyed the layout of the book."

She also enlisted the help of good friend, Evelyn Krikaldy, a talented artist from the Kootenays, to do all of the cartoons and illustrations for the 192-page paperback.

"She just has a way of illustrating the bear just to show their true essence," she said.

The book was published in late February, and can be found on shelves of Armchair Books, Home Hardware, IGA and Carlberg's.

Even though it's only been out for a few weeks, Dolson has already received a lot of feedback from readers.

"I'm really just so happy with the reaction I've been getting. Yesterday, for example, I got an e-mail from some folks in Australia and they bought the book when they were here in February... and they just wrote to say how much they learned and how much they enjoyed the book."

The Community Foundation of Whistler provided over $11,000 in funding to help get the book project off the ground, with proceeds going back towards the Get Bear Smart Society.

"For us, it's a fundraiser," Dolson said, adding that the society is working on creating more educational products with retail potential in these times of economic uncertainty.

"We're hoping that with this type of entrepreneurial approach... that we can sustain ourselves financially during the tough times that we're having this year," she explained.

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