A Boy and His Bear
I have just been blown away, after a two-hour talk with Casey Anderson I feel energized and in the same way a little overwhelmed. Here is a man who has seen a grizzly bear cry.
I am a bit keen and as I enter the ballroom at the Fairmont twenty minutes early I see the front row seats have already been taken, it seems that Casey has quite a following. Casey is also early and is wearing the same kind of hat as in the iconic photo of him and his best friend Brutus, an 800lb grizzly bear.
He is the producer and host, of NAT GEO’s show, “Expedition Wild”. He has filmed mountain lions, wolverines, and polar bears, but he insists it’s his grizzly bear friend that has taught him the most. The kids in the front row are silenced as Casey plays a few clips from his show. Mountain lions, rarely captured on film, are stalking across the front of the ballroom, wolverines are battling it out, but Brutus steals the show when he chases a hockey puck across an ice rink.
Casey is knowledgeable, modest, passionate and humorous. He knows he’s got the job most people would kill for, but it’s taken a lot of hard work and over 70 stitches to get there. With his eyes lit and cheeks rosy, Casey weaves story after story about his life, and as I look around everyone’s rapt.
Casey grew up in the mountains where he learnt to track animals at a respectful distance. During college this perspective changed; he took a job helping train animals for movies and for the first time engaged with animals up close and personal. He was constantly learning, and often the hard way. At age nineteen he has his first “lesson” with a pack of wolves, then with a mountain lion called Simba. The latter lesson resulted in the 70 stitches.
These lessons made the man standing at the podium today. With his feet just slightly more than shoulder width apart, straight posture and shoulders back, he exudes confidence. This is “the gift Brutus gave me” he explains. Casey adopted Brutus when he was just a few months old. Challenging our perception of bears, and animals in general, Casey explains that through his experience with Brutus he realized that animals have distinct personalities and characteristics. There is a “soap opera” going on in the animal kingdom, just like in ours.
Casey started his own bear sanctuary in Montana, which now five grizzly bears call home. He feels a huge responsibility to share his extraordinary experiences with people, educating them along the way. He wants to tackle “bearanoia” and believes Brutus is the key. These animals are not killing machines, but beings that can feel emotion and express it. He shares a story obviously close to his heart about the two times he’s seen Brutus cry. The first he dismissed, but the second time was not coincidence, it was Brutus at his most honest showing love for the man who raised him.
There have been laughs, there have been tears, and there has been a boy and his bear.