Couple Teaches How To Survive Wildlife Encounters

By Karen Bossick
HAILEY, AK- -Sixteen years ago Buck Wilde walked into the middle of 50 Kodiak Brown Bears and began photographing a sow with her two cubs. Suddenly, the mother barged out of the river and charged him.

“She covered the 150 ft. between us in two seconds–so fast I couldn’t even take a breath,” recalls the Hailey man. “She was roaring over me with her hot breath resonating on my torso. I had my first out-of-body experience right then.”

That was Wilde’s first encounter with a bear. Since then, he has had many while filming wildlife for a dozen BBC documentaries and the Discovery Channel. Over time, he says, he has learned to read their body language and communicate with them.

David Attenborough calls him “the bear whisperer.”

“There’s a real subliminal dialogue that goes on between people and pets,” said Buck, who has written several natural history books for McGraw-Hill. “It’s important to learn to interpret movements, posture and facial expressions. If, for instance, a dog’s ears are forward, it indicates interest. If they’re backwards, fear. If they approach you in a zigzag manner, it’s something to be wary of. But if they approach you cautiously, it probably indicates curiosity.”

Together, the couple has had some unusual encounters with wildlife, and have had their photographs published in more than 30 countries. They present educational programs focusing on bears, foxes, wild horses and even feathered dinosaurs in classrooms from coast to coast, showing youngsters how they can connect with nature.

Many bears are shot in so-called self-defense, Buck says, when all they’re doing is mounting a bluff charge.

“I’ve been bluff charged 23 times with the bears getting right in my face. And I’ve never been touched,” he says. “I’m here to tell that story because I obey the golden rule, which is never run.”

In addition, Buck says, “We never go to wildlife. We let them come to us. And, if we feel we’re intruding, we leave.”–Times-News