<DIV><DIV><P><B>Prologue</B></P><P>I thought I saw Emory today.  </P><P>He’d be pretty old for a grizzly bear:  I last saw him when I was in the eighth grade, slightly more than twenty-five years ago.  Male grizzlies can certainly live into their late twenties, but it’s not typical, and had I not been so excited I would have realized that the huge male I spotted clambering out of the river was simply too spry to be who I thought he was.</P><P>Though I am a bear biologist by education and training, I’ve spent most of the past year examining dirt, of all things.  Specifically, the dirt on the banks of rivers where bears congregate.  </P><P><I>Ursus arctos horribilis</I>, the great grizzly, is normally reclusive and shy, but he abandons his anti-social ways to stand virtually shoulder-to-shoulder with other bears during a salmon run.  Bear etiquette demands they keep their fishing grounds pristine, so when it comes time to relieve themselves they wander up on shore—hence my interest in dirt.  </P><P>My name is Charlie Hall, and I’m an expert in the proverbial question, “does a bear poop in the woods?” Yes, yes he does, and his droppings, rich with nitrogen from salmon and seeds from all the berries he consumes of a summer, create a fecund stew along the riverbanks, leading to incredible biodiversity and trees fully twenty percent taller than their less richly-endowed cousins growing further inland.  The bears hunt for grubs, turning the soil like farmers.  Grizzlies, I tell anyone who will listen, are nature’s gardeners.</P><P>The question, you see, is not what a bear does in the woods, but rather, what good does a grizzly bear do when he gets there?  To those of us engaged in a desperate attempt to save the species from extinction, the answer to this question is crucial.  </P><P>My back had been complaining for about an hour when I screwed the top on the last container of soil, dumped my heavy tool belt to the ground, and stretched with a groan.  It was at that moment, my hands reaching up to the sky as if in supplication, when I caught sight of a massive bear, eight hundred pounds and more than four feet tall at the shoulder.  He was a male, a bear I’d never seen before, rearing up on the bank of the Clearwater River in Montana, standing in low grass.  His fur was silver-tipped, “grizzled,” and his head was broad. His nose was high—probably sniffing <I>me</I>, because the 40 yards separating us was nothing to a creature whose sense of smell was nearly as sharp as a hound dog’s.  The bear was on my side of the river, his face mostly turned away from me, but there was something in his profile, something in the way he stood…</P><P>“Emory!” I shocked myself by yelling.  I clumsily stood, pushing the brush away from my face.  “Emory!”</P><P>If I were to write a book on how to behave around an animal so powerful he can kill an elk with one blow, rule one would have to be, <I>Don’t ever yell at a grizzly.</I>  Rule two would be, <I>Don’t ever startle a grizzly</I>, and rule three:  well, if you were stupid enough to chase a grizzly bear, as I was doing, a book probably wouldn’t be of much use to you.  But certainly rule three would be: <I>Don’t ever, ever run after one.</I></P><P>I’ve read that the chances of a person dying from a bear attack are about the same as a person dying from a lightning strike.  I’ve always thought, though, that if you actually are hit by lightning, your odds of dying from it go up dramatically.  The same might be said about the mighty grizzly, an amazing, top-of-the-food-chain predator with astoundingly sharp claws, flesh-tearing teeth, and powerful jaws. Your best chance of surviving a grizzly attack is to not have one.  </P><P>When the bear I thought might be Emory turned toward me, I saw two things immediately.  First, it wasn’t Emory:  the black stare from those eyes was entirely different than the warm intelligence I remembered in Emory’s gaze.  Second, this bear was spooked, as stressed as bears get.  </P><P>And I, of course, was the source of his stress.  </P><P>I heard his teeth clank together like a metal gate banging shut, three quick successive bites at the air that told me this bear felt his life threatened by my approach.  <I>His </I>life threatened.  Saliva flew--when grizzly bears are about to attack, they drool, adding a menacing sheen to their long, sharp fangs.  And, just before they charge, they pound the ground with their feet.</P><P>I had a canister of bear repellent attached to my belt.  My belt was maybe fifteen or twenty yards behind me, lying where I’d tossed it.  I spread my arms wide, letting the bear know I was just human, nothing to be afraid of.</P><P>“I’m sorry,” I said in a quaking voice.</P><P>The bear slammed his front paws down on the dirt.</P><P>I took a slow, careful step backward.  A grizzly bear can run thirty-five miles an hour and can turn more adroitly than a fleeing squirrel.  He was twenty-five yards from me.  If I sprinted for the bear spray, I might make it half way.</P><P>“It’s okay,” I said reassuringly, trying to calm both of us.</P><P>The bear showed me his teeth, snapping them together, saliva flying.</P><P>“<I>Please</I>.”  I took another step backward.  </P><P>The bear pounded his paws on the dirt.  I inhaled carefully. </P><P>He charged.</P><P>Eight hundred pounds of angry tooth and claw came at me with his head low and his murderous gaze intent.  <I>Run</I>, my inner voice screamed.  It was a straight forward attack, swift and silent.  <I>Run!</I>  But I stood, holding my ground.  </P><P>“Hey,” I said tremulously, and then he was there, right <I>there</I>, so close I felt the blast of heat from his breath as he chuffed at me and veered away.  He ran another ten feet laterally, and then stopped, staring at me.</P><P>They call it a “bluff charge.”  Among bear experts, there’s a joke:  it’s only called a bluff charge by the people who live through one.  For everyone else, it’s just a charge.  A bear feels threatened and he wants you to leave, so he storms at you, makes it clear that this is the one warning you’re going to receive.</P><P>I was backing up, still talking, trying to keep the heartbeat out of my voice.  “Okay, easy bear, good bear, it’s okay.  It’s okay.”  I didn’t look it in the eye; that’s an aggressive act.    </P><P>My fingers were trembling when I got to where I had left my belt.  I unhooked the bear spray.  When I looked up again, the bear had disappeared into the brush.</P><P>Needless to say, I didn’t pursue him.</P><P>It took more than five minutes for the wash of adrenalin to dwindle, for my heart to finally stop beating at my ribs, for my fingers to regain enough strength to put my belt back on.  I started gathering up my soil samples.  That was it for me, I was done for the day.  I felt nauseated and weak, sweat trickling from my forehead.</P><P>If it had been Emory, I allowed myself to wonder finally, would he have reacted any differently?  Did I think he would recognize me, be glad to see me?</P><P>I sighed, a bit disgusted with myself.  Was I a bear biologist because I was interested in the species, or because I was on a foolish, life-long quest to catch just one more glimpse of the bear who had so completely changed my life?</P></DIV></DIV> <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Emory's Gift</b> by <b>W. Bruce Cameron</b> Copyright © 2011 by W. Bruce Cameron. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.