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Environmentalist Doug Peacock on Saving the Grizzly Bears

Peacock has devoted the last 20 years to saving the grizzly bear. Like many Veterans, he had trouble adjusting when he returned from Vietnam. He sought a life of seclusion in the mountains and it was then that he first encountered grizzly bears. Now, he performs research alone through the mountains of Wyoming and Montana studying the behavior, social hierarchy, and communication methods of grizzlies in their natural habitat. He contributed to "Mark of the Bear: Legend and Lore of An American Icon" (REBROADCAST from 8/12/96)

37:52

Other segments from the episode on April 25, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, April 25, 1997: Interview with Doug Peacock; Interview with Charlie Sifford; Review of the films "Paradise Road" and "Daytrippers."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: APRIL 25, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 042501np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Doug Peacock
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:00

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Mary Moss-Coane, filling in for Terry Gross.

A century ago, more than 100,000 grizzly bears lived in the continental United States. Today, it's estimated that one percent of that number, approximately 1,000 grizzlies, roam the western wilderness of the lower 48 states.

My guest, Doug Peacock, has waged a campaign for more than 25 years to save the grizzlies' habitat. After returning from Vietnam in the late '60s, he found solace hiking and camping in remote sections of Yellowstone National Park. He also encountered grizzlies, and began to track their movements and record their behavior.

Since that time, he's become a leading authority on the grizzly bear and an ardent spokesman for their survival. I spoke with him last summer.

Doug Peacock's book "Grizzly Years," written in 1991, chronicles his summers in the late '70s to early '80s when he lived in a place he dubbed "the grizzly Hilton" -- in bear territory, deep inside Glacier National Park. The story of a scary encounter with a black grizzly is included in his book of essays on bears called "Mark of the Bear."

As Peacock describes it, he was sitting on a ridge in Glacier, watching a mother and her cub in a meadow when all of a sudden, the black grizzly appeared.

DOUG PEACOCK, ENVIRONMENTALIST, AUTHOR: Well, actually it was on a knife-edge ridge in the -- in the wildest part of Glacier National Park, where people never go -- there's no trails. It's not a very attractive place. It's buggy and brushy, not very scenic, but it's just full of grizzly bears.

And this bear that I call the black grizzly really was my Moby Dick grizzly. He was an incredible bear, but a cantankerous one. And I was on the top of this ridge looking almost straight down, watching a mother with her yearling cub browse on huckleberries. It was late August, and that's what the bears eat up there.

And after about 15 minutes, I was aware of some noise way down in the bottom of this little valley, a little mountain cirque (ph), and you can hear grizzlies a lot of the time before you ever see them in country like that.

And all of a sudden, I saw and recognized this black grizzly, who among this group of grizzlies that -- that congregate, you know, loosely -- they don't get together for a social occasion, but they get together and put up with one another because of the food, and so it's like a gathering of grizzlies where there may be, oh, 20 or 30 grizzlies in an area of just a few square miles.

And they form a sort of dominance hierarchy, and at the top of this hierarchy sat this black grizzly. And it's hard to sex adult grizzlies, but big black ones tend to be males, and there is no question in my mind that the black grizzly was the alpha male of this social congregation.

And so I watched these -- these three bears, unaware of each other, browse on huckleberries, moving up the side of a mountain, and the -- it had -- it occurred to me that the black grizzly was closing on this mother and her yearling grizzly cub. And I didn't know what was going to happen.

At the same time, I'm in the middle of no place. There's a winter storm blowing in, and my tent is on the top of a ridge about a mile away, and all of this is unfolding between me and my tent. Anyway, I looked down and all of a sudden I heard a roar and a rush and I saw the black grizzly racing up hill -- bears -- grizzly bears can run very, very fast -- up to 41 miles per hour. That's a lot faster than any of our Olympic athletes, you know, by a factor of 15 to 17 miles per hour.

And they can run up or down hill at amazing rates, and he was -- he ran right up towards this mother and her cub, and the mother, naturally, raced and head of this grizzly, ran across the bridge not more than 100 feet in front of me -- the bears unaware of my presence -- and continued contouring around the side of the mountain.

And the black grizzly was closing on this mother, until the black grizzly was just inches behind the yearling cub, that looked like it was gonna get killed. And at the last minute, the mother bear just spun effortlessly on her rear paws, and turned around and met this black grizzly, and they -- they roared and they locked jaws and they -- they both rose to a standing position, and, you know, roars to such a -- the likes of which I've only heard maybe three times in all nature -- just filled this mountain valley.

And this went on for several minutes, and -- and to make a long story short, all of a sudden, the black grizzly, when it looked like he was really going to break the neck of this mother and -- this female grizzly -- just turned his head off to the side, and that's a sign that he was done fighting.

MOSS-COANE: Is that a -- is that a sign that he believes he won?

PEACOCK: No. It's just a sign that he's done fighting and one -- grizzlies do this to each other all the time, and once they turn, you know, turn their flank like that, turn their head away, neither grizzly will violate that. It's -- I don't know what to make of that, but that's just the way it is.

And then slowly, the mother moved up hill, rejoined her cub, and the black grizzly stood there on the mountain top with the sun, you know, disappearing behind the ridge between me and my tent, and...

MOSS-COANE: Now -- and -- and you wanted to get back to your tent...

PEACOCK: It was going to snow that night, and I -- that would -- didn't want to freeze out on a ridge, you know.

MOSS-COANE: But you have this big grizzly bear that was in the way. How did you disguise yourself in order to try to pass by him?

PEACOCK: Well, I -- I had to make a decision that the only -- I had no other option. I had to get back up to my tent. This was sort of a dangerously cold night. I probably wouldn't have died, but I would have been miserable with about six inches of wet snow, and so I decided I had to go -- more or less face him down.

And I didn't really -- I don't know what I do when I'm in those situations. I've done it a number of times, but each time I just sort of let my instincts go. And this time, I just remembered I happened to be filming -- that's what I was doing in this country. I was not a biologist. I was making a last documentary film of what I thought were the last free-ranging grizzlies in the continental United States.

So I had a garbage bag, you know, one in each hand -- kind of brown and black and black and brown grizzlies tend to be males, and I started walking towards this grizzly. And he was only 50 to 100 feet away, and he hadn't seen me yet.

And when he looked at me -- with me talking -- I talk to bears. I don't think it's terribly important what I say. I never remember what I say, but I do talk to them. I never look at them. This is the way they -- they behave around one another.

And, you know, I -- this bear saw me, and looked straight at me -- grizzlies don't do this to one another because that's a -- that's a direct confrontation, and his ears went back, and the ruff on his back stood up -- not unlike a dog. And that means probably you're gonna get charged when that happens, and this bear did take one great hop charge, I would call it, slammed his paws down and closed about half the distance to me.

And that was a long time ago, and -- but I think this all unfolded in -- in the next 30 or 40 seconds, but I remember talking to the bear, the bear looking straight at me from no more than 25 feet away, and -- and then suddenly, without making a sound, the grizzly turned his head smoothly and gracefully off to the side and just disappeared into the brush.

MOSS-COANE: Well even though you say it doesn't matter what you were saying to the bear, what were you saying to the bear?

PEACOCK: Probably something like: Hey, black grizzly, it's just me -- good old Arapaho (ph) -- you know, I used to call myself Arapaho then -- and, you know, and something -- hey, give me another chance. I'll make it up to you later. I remember thinking that that's probably what I said.

But it's the tone of voice -- like an animal trainer would talk to a horse -- that's important.

MOSS-COANE: So such as -- what does that tone sound like?

PEACOCK: I think it's conciliatory. It's not loud, but it's loud enough to identify yourself as a human being, because I wanted him to know, you know, what I was.

MOSS-COANE: Well, once you got to the camp, the -- the bear came back two more times.

PEACOCK: Yeah.

MOSS-COANE: It sounds like to...

PEACOCK: No, that was -- that was quite a night. I did. I got to this little camp, which is nothing more than a clump of trees on the top of a mountain right at timberline, and it's steep -- it's just a little -- it's a little knoll, like a pyramid on three sides. And I built a fire that night, and I never built a fire out there because I don't want to drive the bears away -- the bears don't necessarily like fire smoke.

And -- but I did that night because I was -- I got to the top of that ridge and I found myself shaking uncontrollably, which, you know, hadn't happened to me, at that time, since Vietnam. And...

MOSS-COANE: Shaking with fear, I assume.

PEACOCK: Well, yeah, I think so.

LAUGHTER

But I started a little fire, and it was dark by then, and no more than an hour later, I could hear the brush crunching -- bears make a lot of noise, especially at night and this grizzly was coming up the side of the hill to check me out, and I got a few plumes of bear grass burning.

Actually, it doesn't burn very -- very well either. I got it burning with a bunch of sticks, went off to the side with a little torch, 10 feet from the fire, and I can actually see the bear's eyes and talk to it some more. And it went back down the mountain.

Well, about 45 minutes later, I hear the bear coming up a different angle of the mountain, and doing the same thing, and this scene repeated itself until about two a.m. when -- when everything got quiet, the bear left, and I feel asleep.

MOSS-COANE: Sounds almost personal.

PEACOCK: It was personal, I think. You know, you're never sure of these things, but two days later, that same grizzly found my stash of gear tied high in a tree, and this -- this bag contained a, you know, like a tent, a sleeping bag, a dirty T-shirt, some other stuff.

The bear didn't touch the tent or anything else, but it -- it literally ate the sleeping bag and the dirty T-shirt -- everything that smelled of me -- delivering a very personal message which I took to heart, and I left the mountain the same day.

MOSS-COANE: What was the message? Get the hell out of here?

PEACOCK: Get the hell off my mountain.

LAUGHTER

MOSS-COANE: OK. We'll talk more with grizzly expert Doug Peacock after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.

Let's get back to Doug Peacock and his experiences with grizzlies.

You've been tracking and -- and writing about and talking about bears for -- for almost three decades. What got you first interested?

PEACOCK: My -- my first -- my first connection with grizzly bears was because I was a Green Beret medic in Vietnam, and I came back after the Tet Offensive, like many other vets, completely out of sorts. And I didn't -- I wasn't any good around people -- didn't want to be around people.

The one place that I've always been comfortable all my life is -- is the woods, the wilderness. And so I was -- I lived in the American west and I followed the snow line up towards the Wind Rivers of Wyoming and eventually up into Yellowstone. And that's where I ran into grizzlies.

I didn't know anything about grizzlies. I just -- I had a malaria attack and I had to go back into an area of Yellowstone which I knew that had hot springs, and I was going to soak in the hot springs and sort of regain my health, you know, like a -- the old spas.

And one day I was soaking in a little hot creek in Yellowstone, and it was -- you know, it's quite hot. It's like a little bath tub, and the water's probably 108 or 110, you know, it's hot enough enough so that you've got to get in kind of slow. But I looked off to the side, crossed a little meadow, and here's -- there's a mother grizzly and two big yearling cubs.

And I didn't know anything about mother grizzlies at that time, but -- except you're supposed to stay away from them. You know, avoid them -- they're the most dangerous animal on the continent. So, I was soaking in this little hot creek, and it was October.

The wind was blowing. The mother grizzly and her cub were probably 150 feet away. They weren't looking at me. They hadn't seen me, but when they weren't looking, I decided I would make a dash for this tree.

So, I stood up and -- and made a fullback's rush for this tree. Well, the -- you know, the whirlpool-like effect of the hot water took all the blood away from my brain. I immediately blacked out. I hit the tree -- smack, you know, head-on with my forehead -- cut a huge gash in my forehead -- the blood was running down in my eyes.

But I was so terrified, and managed to get up the tree anyway. And I got right up to the top of the tree -- you know, right up in the utter-most branches, and it turns out it really wasn't much bigger than a Christmas tree. You know, that -- it was sort of a stupid little tree, no more than 10 feet tall.

And so I -- I clung to the upper branches of this tree for about -- for the next 40 minutes while the grizzly bear and her two cubs grazed in this meadow, coming sometimes as close as 20 or 30 feet away, but never looking at me -- pretending -- they knew, of course, I was up there, but they never looked at me.

And meantime, here I am -- it's -- you know, it's 40 degrees out, the wind is blowing. I'm bleeding. I'm naked. I'm blue with cold and perched in the top of this silly little tree like some species of, you know...

LAUGHTER

MOSS-COANE: I'm sorry to laugh.

PEACOCK: ... silly, you know, tohee (ph) or sparrow of some kind. Anyway, those bears -- they got my attention. That's where it began.

MOSS-COANE: Well, do you feel a kind of kinship with grizzly bears?

PEACOCK: I do. And in those days, it was really clear to me -- in the safety of -- of retrospect now, 30 years later -- almost 30 years later -- that those bears really saved my life, you know.

They -- they allowed me to, you know, re-gather the elements of my own humanity, and for complicated reasons of -- of gratitude and duty, you know, I felt it was -- it was my responsibility to do what I could to improve their plight on earth.

And, you know, curiously 25, 30 years later, you know, I had sort of decided in those days that, you know, that my battle ground -- my war -- would be the war for the American wilderness. And today, some 25 years later, you know, that seems as solid now, today, as it does -- as it did then.

MOSS-COANE: Well, I wonder, too, having been a medic in Vietnam, whether what you learned surviving that war and the jungle conditions of that war, were whether you could use some of those skills to live and survive in the American wilderness?

PEACOCK: Of course. But I was pretty good at the -- I was pretty good at the woods to begin with, and one place I was always comfortable, even in Vietnam -- because I would -- working with irregular troops in mountain areas, mountain yards in the central highlands of what used to be the southern part -- or the northern part of South Vietnam.

You know, I was always comfortable in the thickest of jungle -- even in the jungle night. And I don't think that -- I think that was there before Vietnam.

But it was the war itself that really convinced me that, you know, that -- I thought something was going to change in America after the Vietnam. I really thought that this notion of, you know, the -- America as a frontier gunslinger, you know, the endless taming of nature; the endless military forays into the Third World -- I thought that was going to end then.

And I was wrong about that. Things are, you know, as crazy and crazier and as dire today as they were then. And yet my instinct for, you know -- the world is on fire and like a lot of other people, I'd like to put out that fire. And that instinct about saving the wild is still -- I'm saying -- it's still solid today.

MOSS-COANE: Well, how many grizzlies are there in the United States today?

PEACOCK: Well, south of Canada and Alaska, there is less than -- it depends. You know, counting grizzlies is a cottage industry, but certainly less than 1,000. Only people who sell hunting licenses would probably say there's more than that.

There may be 200 or so in the so-called Yellowstone ecosystem, which means, you know, Yellowstone Park and adjacent forest lands, which is isolated right now from the other area south of Canada that has grizzlies, which is up in Glacier Park and the Bob Marshall (ph) -- it's called the northern continental divide ecosystem.

Bears -- there's a few grizzlies in the Selway (ph) -- in the north Cascades of Washington; possibly a few in the Bitter Root, but this is, you know, less than 1,000 grizzlies all together. And these are island ecosystems, and you know, those grizzlies will never survive long-term until those populations are linked up with grizzlies that live in Canada and Alaska, where there's estimated to be maybe another 10,000 grizzlies left.

MOSS-COANE: What do grizzlies bring to any habitat -- to an ecosystem?

PEACOCK: What they bring, more than anything else, is an attitude to human beings that makes it very clear that we are no longer the top of the food pyramid. I mean, you can put on a Kelty (ph) pack and you can hike anywhere and, you know, in the Adirondacks or Appalachia or the High Sierras or anywhere in Utah or Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado -- and you're top dog.

But, you know, you put on that same pack and you walk in places in Yellowstone and Glacier where there's grizzlies and you are unmistakably a second-rate citizen. And it's that -- it's the human attitude -- it's sort of an enforced humility that the bear brings to the ecosystem, and that is the only place on this continent where you can get that attitude.

And, you know, not coincidentally, at least in the American West, those, you know, those little enclaves -- those pieces of the original habitat, you know, which we happen to call wilderness today. You know, that's -- that was emblematic of what it all was like 500 years ago, you know, a very short hunk of time ago.

When Lewis and Clark came upstream, you know, 1805 into the American west, they were the first Europeans to hit the Rockies -- you know, we had 67 million bison. We had 100,000 grizzlies. We had more wolves. You know, we had endless wild Indians and wild country.

And all of that disappeared in a heart-breath of historic time -- in 100 years, it was all gone. You know, 100 -- by 1902, there were 23 wild bison left they couldn't catch in Yellowstone Park.

MOSS-COANE: Do grizzlies live in social networks? I've seen mothers and their cubs, but I've rarely seen bears or grizzlies in large packs or herds.

PEACOCK: Grizzlies are known as solitary animals, where only -- bears only get together to mate for about two weeks during the year. A productive adult female will probably only breed every three to four years. So you -- generally, you just see mothers with cubs. Sometimes, you see brothers and sisters or siblings together in their third or fourth years.

But on the other hand, grizzlies are a lot more social. They have social capabilities and tolerances that go way beyond our biology. We haven't watched a lot of that because by the time we got around to studying grizzlies in, you know, the early '60s, there weren't any left.

But grizzlies do form social aggregations, not because they like each other, but because of food. And probably this took place more than any other place in the state of California. The first grizzly sighted in North America -- of record, anyway -- was 1601 in Monterey Bay. Viscaino (ph) saw a herd of 40 to 60 bears on a whale carcass.

Those were grizzlies, because black bears didn't live there. And today, grizzlies congregate in the Alaska, at salmon streams. They used to congregate in Yellowstone at the garbage dumps, and they get together -- I wouldn't call it, you know, a social grouping like at salmon streams -- but they concentrate in places, like in Glacier Park where they pack themselves into good berry habitat; up in the Alpine in Yellowstone for a couple of weeks to eat just grass and, you know, the primary reason they put up with each other there is because there's no human beings.

MOSS-COANE: Doug Peacock is a leading authority on grizzly bears. His books include "Grizzly Years" and "Mark of the Bear." He'll talk more about his work in the second half of the show.

I'm Marty Moss-Coane and this is FRESH AIR.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Marty Moss-Coane.

Let's continue our interview with Douglas Peacock. He's tracked grizzly bears in the American West for over 25 years, and he's worked to ensure their survival by protecting their habitat.

When you do your observational work, what are you looking for?

PEACOCK: What am I looking for when I go out into grizzly country? Well, I used to film grizzly bears. I quit filming grizzlies in 1982, so you know, I can't say that I'm waiting for great shots of grizzlies any more.

I go out to find the bear and to see the bear and watch bears and, you know, bears are so rare that it's a glorious day if you're lucky enough to see a grizzly. You know, most people go a lifetime, even living in grizzly country, without seeing one.

But above all, I like to watch bears at their leisure doing their bearish things. And that means, you know, observing grizzlies where they never know that I'm there.

And I like to watch grizzlies -- for instance, up at the grizzly Hilton, where there's enough food and enough security and, again, security for a grizzly means security from human beings and nothing else. And, you know, a dense forest or a huge wilderness are equally secure, as long as there's no human beings around.

And at their leisure, they do amazing things. They're a wonderfully playful animal, which hardly anybody has the pleasure or luxury of seeing anymore because we don't have many grizzlies, and modern, you know, grizzly bear biology is largely telemetry from satellites and aircraft and stuff like that.

Bears are not relaxed enough at salmon streams where people can go to watch them. They don't play there, but they do play in these wild mountain meadows, and that's probably what I love the most -- is to see bears really unshroud and reveal their very distinct individual personalities and especially through play.

MOSS-COANE: I've been to Glacier National Park, and I think anyone that goes to that park is given advice about how to hike, because you are in grizzly territory. And one of the things we were told was to sing or even to carry a bell around our neck. I guess this bought -- this way, letting a potential grizzly know that you were in the neighborhood. Does that make sense to you, as someone who has tracked and lived with and confronted grizzly bears?

PEACOCK: Well, I think it's wise advice that you need not to surprise a grizzly, and there's lots of different ways of doing that, and air horns and bells are one way, but in fact, I think that's bad manners in a wilderness. I mean, we don't have to go -- these bears only live in, you know, one percent of their original habitat.

And we don't have to go in grizzly bear habitat. When we do, I think the onus is upon us to learn a little bit about the bears and, you know, I take exception when there's endless tinkle of bear bells on trails in the wilderness.

I think, you know, if you think you need air horns and bear bells to be safe in grizzly country, maybe you should just go someplace else. But there are other ways of being safe in grizzly country. The advice about not surprising a bear is sound.

MOSS-COANE: OK, so the idea of at least quiet conversation or quiet song-fest that would -- would that make sense? And would that be good bear manners?

PEACOCK: Well, I'll tell you what. Occasionally, I will make a little bit of noise, but you know, grizzlies are creatures of habit, and you can learn where bears bed, where bears feed, and when and where they travel. And by being alert, you know, you eliminate the need for making noise about 99 percent of the time.

You know, this is not to say that on certain, you know, certain cool mornings on a really brushy trail at a bend in that trail, I might not -- you know, I might not make a little bit of noise. I've always advised people to learn about bears and stop and don't be cocky -- don't go down that trail, you know, just -- you're not out to have a jog or get exercise. You can get your exercise at the city park.

But if you're going to be in grizzly country, travel like an animal. Animals stop, they scent the air, they listen. And bears, you know, bears make a lot of noise. You can -- you'll know when a bear is around, and if you need to sing, go ahead and sing softly and not very long and only at very dense, brushy parts of the trails -- but never sing Country Western they hate Country, let me tell you.

LAUGHTER

MOSS-COANE: Is this from your own experience?

Now what if you are hiking, let's say...

PEACOCK: Yeah, OK.

MOSS-COANE: ... you are in Glacier National Park. You are hiking, and lo and behold you come upon a grizzly. What do you do next?

PEACOCK: Don't run. Don't shout. Don't look at the bear. This is probably going to happen in the sub-Alpine, and I'm just -- I happen to know Glacier pretty well, so I'll just -- we'll -- you know -- let's say you're on a trail up on the high line trail perhaps, and you see a grizzly say, oh, 200 feet down the trail.

The important thing is don't do anything fast. I mean, grizzlies have, you know, a critical angle -- or excuse me, they have a, you know, so-called critical territory they may defend. Now, 99 percent of the time grizzlies will just run away from human beings.

The one dangerous exception are mothers with cubs, and the important thing for human beings is to realize, first of all, that mothers with cubs will do anything to protect their young, but they mean you no harm. And, you know, 80 percent of all injuries to human beings -- maulings -- are mother grizzlies protecting their young.

And all -- basically all of those daytime maulings are avoidable. Human beings did something wrong. You know, you've -- a lot of national park daytime maulings are people who stumble upon grizzlies bedded, and grizzlies sleep pretty sound on day beds.

You can get really close. And so if you're 30 feet away and you surprise a grizzly and you try to run away, you're going to trigger their -- you know, their -- grizzlies are part predator and you can trigger that predator instinct.

And if it's a mother with her cub, you're definitely going to get charged, and if you keep running, you're going to get attacked. And if you continue to struggle or fight, you're going to get mauled and maybe killed.

MOSS-COANE: Well, of course, the impulse is to run away because you're stumbled upon a grizzly. If you're not supposed to run away, what do you do?

PEACOCK: You stand your ground.

MOSS-COANE: Really?

PEACOCK: You don't look at the bear, and again, I would probably talk softly. And -- I've been charged by a number of grizzlies. I've been charged a number of times, and, you know, all I can say is, so far, so good, but I mean I talk and -- during that charge.

I mean, even with a mother grizzly charging you, she is still deciding in the course of that charge whether she's going to conclude the charge or not, so what you do is important.

And above all, you've -- you know, you've got to pretend that you're, you know, you're maybe another bear -- equally dominant bear that doesn't want to fight today and you mean no harm, you know. So you stand there inoffensively. Don't run. Don't shout.

MOSS-COANE: And don't even back away quietly -- I mean, you -- and I'm just trying to imagine myself trying to do something like this as a grizzly's coming down -- coming down on me. You're saying, just be there, be a presence, but don't be threatening.

PEACOCK: Yeah. And if the bear is -- starts out 100 feet away, I mean, look there are no rules. There are no guarantees, and that's what I love about grizzly country: It's risky. It's a risky proposition, having a bear out there.

And you should enter, you know, grizzly country with that notion in the back of your mind, that you might get, you know, chewed on for no fault of your own. You might even get killed.

But nonetheless, the only time that people are likely to get mauled is when they actually stumble upon a bear at very, very close quarters. And maybe a bear on a carcass in the spring, you know, so if you smell -- if you smell rotted flesh, you should stay away from the area. Or, again, a mother grizzly on a day bed.

And if you startle a mother grizzly from 30 feet away, she's probably going to be on top of you. But listen, a lot of people -- by not fighting, by playing dead -- have just -- have gotten off dirt cheap. So still, what you need to remember is the bear -- no grizzly bear means to kill and eat you during the daytime.

That's -- it's not to say that this has not happened in bizarre and unexplainable circumstances at night, but during the daytime, you just -- you need to remember these simple things.

MOSS-COANE: Have you been in that situation, where you actually got mauled?

PEACOCK: No, I've never had a bear touch me. I've had a few charge right up to a few feet. And they've all stopped or veered off and run away, so all I can say is: so far, so good.

MOSS-COANE: So you think...

PEACOCK: But this is hardly an idiot-proof strategy, you understand.

MOSS-COANE: Well, I was going to say: do you think you're lucky or smart?

PEACOCK: Lucky. And I think the bears, in certain cases, like the black grizzly that you first asked me about -- I mean, in that case, that was totally up to the bear and he granted me quarter, and I can just be grateful for that. He didn't have to do that. He could have taken my head off just as easily.

MOSS-COANE: There are, according to what you said, some 1,000 grizzly bears left in the lower 48. Do you want to have some kind of program to introduce more grizzlies to the wild, the way that's been done with wolves?

PEACOCK: No. And the reason is quite simple: there's no place on earth where there's too many grizzlies. And I think that it's -- I don't think it's ethical to take an adapted wild bear out of its home and put it someplace else.

I mean, for example, grizzlies have a very, very low reproductive rate. Only musk ox compare with grizzlies as a land mammal. Grizzlies cubs spend an average of two and one half years with their mothers, learning the country. And so that's -- I think not. I tend to look at individuals within a population, like I look at individual human beings, and I would not sacrifice individuals, you know, for -- to save a population.

In a place like Colorado, where there's -- down in the south San Juan of Colorado, there's maybe a few surviving grizzlies. Now, that's a population that does need to be augmented. That, you know, means bears brought in from the outside.

And, you know, we haven't really done this yet, but it's possible. There's a lot of cubs bred in zoos that there are no homes for, and they've done a little bit of this work with animals like wolves, but it'd be possible to raise those cubs in a halfway house in wilderness in Colorado, away from human beings, then they'd have a chance of making it.

But, you know, I don't feel -- what I would like to see, I think we need more grizzlies. I think we need -- what -- you know, human beings and Americans in particular, need as much as anything else is more wild untamed country. And this taming of nature we've done since hitting this continent doesn't have to be a one-way road. You know, we can tear up asphalt. We can blow up dams. We can turn this around.

But what grizzlies need and, I think, we need more bears. But what the bears need to increase their own populations is they need human tolerance. They need linkages between grizzlies living in Yellowstone -- grizzlies in Glacier.

And there's no reason why we can't do that. We have enough biology and technology to bring the mountain goats of Glacier Park under Highway Two to the goat lick on the Flathead -- middle fork of the Flathead River.

And, you know, it's not like there are not going to be problems, because, you know, the bottoms of these valleys that connect Yellowstone and Glacier and the Bitter Root and other, you know, grizzly bear ecosystems have a patch-board of private lands and Indian lands and federal lands and state lands. We have freeways to cross.

But you know, we could do that. That's something our culture could do if we really wanted to. It's mainly -- it's been a failure of imagination so far, that, you know, we think once the land and habitat is gone, it's gone forever. Well, I don't believe that. That's not the case. We could expand Yellowstone and link up Yellowstone with Glacier to the Bitter Root to the Selkirks, to Canada.

It's not impossible to think about linking grizzlies in Colorado with grizzlies in Wyoming. It's just something our culture has not done, and again, it's because we fear the unknown and we tend to shoot the bear every time. The bear can put up with us. It's human beings that have the problem.

MOSS-COANE: Douglas Peacock is an expert on grizzly bears. His books are "Grizzly Years" and "Mark of the Bear."

Coming up, black golfer Charlie Sifford.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia
Guest: Doug Peacock
High: Environmentalist Doug Peacock. He's devoted the last 20 years to saving the grizzly bear. Like many Veterans, he had trouble adjusting when he returned from Vietnam. He sought a life of seclusion in the mountains and it was then that he first encountered grizzly bears. Now, he performs research alone through the mountains of Wyoming and Montana studying the behavior, social hierarchy, and communication methods of grizzlies in their natural habitat. His books include "Grizzly Years," "Baja" and a memoir of Edward Abbey, "Walking It Off." Most recently, he contributed to "Mark of the Bear: Legend and Lore of An American Icon."
Spec: Books; Environment; People; Animals; Grizzly Bears

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright (c) 1997 National Public Radio, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. under license from National Public Radio, Inc. Formatting copyright (c) 1997 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information please contact NPR's Business Affairs at (202) 414-2954
End-Story: Doug Peacock
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: APRIL 25, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 042502NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Charlie Sifford
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:44

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: This is FRESH AIR.

When Tiger Woods won the Masters title, becoming the first black player to win a major golf championship, he credited golfers Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder for paving the way. He said: "If it wasn't for them, I might not have had a chance to be here."

Charlie Sifford was the first black player admitted into the PGA -- the Professional Golfers Association -- and the first black man to play on the PGA tour. To get into the PGA, he had to challenge their whites-only clause that remained in the association's constitution until 1961.

During Sifford's career, he won over $1 million in official prize money. He's now in his mid-'70s and has been playing in the senior PGA tours. He spoke with Terry Gross back in 1992, when his memoir "Just Let Me Play" was published.

He told Terry he was introduced to golf as a caddy at a North Carolina country club which didn't allow black members. Terry asked him how he learned to play on a whites-only course.

CHARLIE SIFFORD, GOLFER: I guess it's just a gift from God, you know, 'cause I used to get out and I used to -- I'm from a very, very poor family. I had -- my father and mother, we -- they had six kids and my father was a laborer.

And when I'd get out of school in the afternoon, I would go to the golf course, and I just picked the game up. And when I was 13 years old, I could shoot 70, even par, 71, one over par -- and it's something like that. I just took a liking to the game.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Would you have to sneak onto the course to play? Or would they let you play as a caddy, even though the course was officially closed to blacks?

SIFFORD: Well, we had a day we called "caddy day Monday." But sometime, I would slip out on the golf course, and that's why the gentleman that owned it was Sutton Alexander (ph) -- very nice man, and God bless him, he passed.

And he used to let me -- take me out and we'd play, you know, but after all the members of the golf club got to talking about it, he asked my mother and father if they would let me go out where somewhere where I could play golf, and that was to Philadelphia. I had an uncle up there, and I went to Philadelphia in 1939.

GROSS: Because there was a public course nearby that you could play on.

SIFFORD: Right. It's still there.

GROSS: Now, you said that being the first black on the PGA tour was one of the most frightening and dangerous things you ever faced. What was dangerous about it?

SIFFORD: Well, can you imagine a black man going to North Carolina to play on a PGA-sponsored golf tournament, with all white players and one black, the first time it ever happened? That's enough to be afraid of.

GROSS: Were you threatened?

SIFFORD: Oh, well, I wasn't going to go. I called my wife, and she's responsible for everything that's happened to me in golf, because she -- I asked her what about going to Greensboro, so she said "go ahead on that," and "they're not going to bother you." So, there I went.

GROSS: So, were you threatened?

SIFFORD: Oh, yes. I -- after the first round of the tournament, I shot 68 and led the tournament the first day, and as I went back to the -- these friends' house I was living with -- wasn't any hotel. And phone rang, and they asked to speak to Charlie Sifford, so answer the phone, so this guy saying: You Charlie Sifford? So I said, yep. So he said, you better not bring your -- back to the golf course tomorrow.

So I told him, I said, well, I tee off at 9:40, and whatever you're gonna do, you better get ready to do it, because I'll be there. So, I went out, teed off, and about 10 or 12 guys started on number one, and it took them to the 14th hole before they could arrest them all.

GROSS: What were they doing?

SIFFORD: Hollering, yelling, calling me names. Didn't hit me. Just thank God they didn't. Though I'm sure, I wouldn't -- you know, may not have been here today as a successful black professional.

That's why I said to Jackie Robinson, you understand -- he's in a different category than me than -- he was in a ball park. See, I'm out between those ropes and touchable, you know, anything could happen, you know. But in the ball park, he's more safer than I were.

GROSS: Of course, he had a lot of things thrown at him, didn't he?

SIFFORD: He had eight guys with him anyway, you know, and I'm nobody but me, and 14 golf clubs.

GROSS: Well, how did you golf that day? You know, there's such a hush that falls over the crowd when somebody is taking their swing, and here you had all these hostile people out to get you who are hollering and insulting you as you were playing. Did you play well that day?

SIFFORD: I think I shot 73 that day.

GROSS: What was par?

SIFFORD: 71. I played well in the -- behind that, because, you know, I hadn't made up my mind I was going to go through with it anyway, you know, long as someone didn't hit me, you know.

So, you know, ain't nothing they can do to turn me around, you know, to break my concentration and break my determination, because I had started and I wasn't going to quit.

GROSS: So when you started on the PGA tour, even though they had let you in, were there still tournaments that -- were there still events that you were barred from, or were you...

SIFFORD: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: Yeah? There were?

SIFFORD: Oh, sure.

GROSS: How would that work?

SIFFORD: After I'd got through playing in Greensboro, North Carolina, I got in my car that Sunday night and I drove all the way to Houston, Texas, where they used to have the Houston Open. And when I got there Wednesday morning to sign up to get in the tournament, I was ran away -- told me I couldn't play.

And there was the guy who headed the PGA then by the name of Joe Black (ph), so I went to him and asked him what was the thing I got -- what was the reason? I had my pro players card, why couldn't I play? So he said: Well, ain't nothing we can do about it 'cause it's 1962, you know, Houston wasn't desegregated then. You know, everything didn't come down 'til '64, you know.

GROSS: How much would you fight when you were turned away? And how much did you feel like you should be, you know, the gentleman and be polite because it might hurt your reputation in the PGA if you became too militant?

SIFFORD: Well, I wasn't going to be militant, because I now that's just what they wanted me to be, you know? So, I just got in my car and drove on down the highway and got me a towel and just cried and got it off my shoulder, and it's kept on making me want to play more, you know.

And I think the -- when they'd turned me away in Houston, I think if they had a let me play in Houston, I may not never play golf, because that really made me mad, you know, and I really wanted to play after they turned me away -- after I had the pro players card in my pocket.

MOSS-COANE: Charlie Sifford was the first black player admitted into the PGA. He spoke with Terry Gross in 1992, when his memoir "Just Let Me Play" was published.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia
Guest: Charlie Sifford
High: Pro Golfer Charlie Sifford. He was the first black admitted to the PGA in 1961. In 1992 he published his biography, "Just Let Me Play," written by Sifford with James Gullo (by British American Publishing, 19 British American Boulevard, Latham, New York, 12110)
Spec: African-Americans; Books; Golf; Sports

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright (c) 1997 National Public Radio, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. under license from National Public Radio, Inc. Formatting copyright (c) 1997 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information please contact NPR's Business Affairs at (202) 414-2954
End-Story: Charlie Sifford
Show: FRESH AIR
Date: APRIL 25, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 042503NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Paradise Road and Daytrippers
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:54

MARTY MOSS-COANE, HOST: This week, two new films open in movie theaters nationwide. "Paradise Road" is a Hollywood production with big themes and "Daytrippers" is a small independent.

Film critic John Powers contrasts the two, and says the film that may sound important actually isn't.

JOHN POWERS, FILM CRITIC: Back in the '50s, the French director Claude Chabrol (ph) wrote a piece attacking movies that deal with big abstract themes, like the loss of innocence or man's inhumanity to man. Get beyond their grandiose intentions, he said, and you realize that these films are nearly always trite -- boring as drama and untrue to life.

In contrast, movies that tackle small themes aren't crushed by such bombastic abstractions. They have the space to find the universal in the particular.

I thought about this essay when I saw Paradise Road -- a World War II yarn that puts a feminine spin on classic POW movies like "The Bridge on the River Kwai." The action centers on a Japanese internment camp in Sumatra, whose prisoners are the familiar United Nations of stereotypes.

Starting with a redoubtable British matron played by Glenn Close. There's the pushy Yank, the plucky Australian, the pigdin-babbling Chinese, and the exiled German-Jewish doctor who's played by Frances McDormand like someone auditioning for the Joel Grey role in "Cabaret."

To keep up their spirits over the years of imprisonment, these women defy the Japanese by forming a choir. They turn their sorrow and yearning into song. The movie was adapted from real events by Bruce Beresford, the Australian filmmaker best known for "Driving Miss Daisy."

Beresford's a solid professional, but here he's so busy milking his story for uplift that he forgets to give us the vivid characters and conflicts that would draw us into the film. While he doesn't flinch from showing the brutality of the Japanese -- there are harrowing scenes of guards beating women -- he skims the psychological surface, shying away from the murkier emotions of POW life.

At one point, the prisoners are told they'll escape the camp's misery and starvation if they'll simply become comfort women at the Japanese
officers club. Such an offer should pose a real temptation for women who fear dying from hardship of the camp.

But we know instantly that all the main characters will refuse. After all, to have Glenn Close even ponder being a prostitute would be far too disturbing for a movie whose whole aim is to dish up that biggest and tiredest of Hollywood themes: The triumph of the human spirit.

In fact, there's far more human spirit on display in the wonderful comedy "The Daytrippers." Hope Davis and Stanley Tucci play Eliza and Louis -- a Long Island couple who seem to be the epitome of loving domesticity, until she finds evidence he may be having an affair.

Rushing to her family for advice, Eliza soon finds herself in the car heading into Manhattan, along with her long-suffering Dad, her bossy Mother, her smart-alecky sister Jo, and Jo's boyfriend Carl, who has written an unintentionally hilarious novel about the emptiness of middle class existence.

As this rag-tag group drives around the city in search of the wayward husband, they fall into bickering and cross talk, as when Jo asks Carl, who's played by Liv Schreiber (ph) to talk about his novel.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, FILM "THE DAYTRIPPERS")

ACTRESS AS JO: Carl, tell Mom and Dad about your novel. Carl wrote a novel, everyone. It's great. It's just far out. It's brilliant.

ACTOR AS CARL: I don't think your parents want to hear my novel.

JO: Mom and Dad -- do you want to hear about Carl's novel?

ACTRESS AS MOM: Oh, yeah, sure Carl.

CARL: Well, Rita, it's -- it's an allegory about spiritual survival in the contemporary world. The main character is this freak of nature -- he's this man who -- who doesn't have a normal head. He was a -- he was born with a dog's head.

MOM: A dog's head?

CARL: Yeah, you know. Sort of a fantastical story.

JO: It's like a fable.

CARL: Yeah, like "Master and Margarita" or...

JO: Animal Farm.

CARL: Animal -- yeah, exactly. Very Kafkaesque.

MOM: Carl, I'm not an educated woman.

JO: It's Dr. Seuss for adults, Mom.

MOM: Oh. Oh, yeah.

CARL: So, everyone else in the book is normal, except for the man with the dog's head, who really only wants...

ACTOR AS DAD: What kind of dog?

JO: Dad, it's not important.

CARL: No, no, no, no, no. It is important. Actually, that -- that's very important. It's a German short-haired pointer. You see, it's actually especially important that it's a pointer, because that's a crucial metaphor, because in the book, he's sort of a -- he's sort of a visionary, you know? You know? Pointing the way to salvation.

MOM: Jo loves dogs.

POWERS: The Daytrippers was written and directed by Greg Matola (ph) -- one of the increasingly rare filmmakers whose humor is tinged with tenderness, not derision. Far from thinking that middle class life is empty, Matola offers his own road map of Cheever and Updike territory. He captures the confused yearning that percolates beneath ordinary suburban silliness.

With the exception of the mother, who's overplayed by Anne Meira (ph), the characters all reveal secret emotional shadings. Just as Jo's acid tongue masks her inner uncertainty, so Carl is not the pretentious buffoon his novel makes him appear. He's redeemed by being genuinely kind.

By the time Eliza finally catches up with her husband in unexpectedly wrenching circumstances, we realize that the movie's small theme has actually been given a very big treatment. What looked at first like a sunny little comedy is actually a sly portrait of loneliness, family dysfunction, and middle class naivete.

MOSS-COANE: John Powers is film critic for Vogue.

For Terry Gross, I'm Marty Moss-Coane.

Dateline: John Powers; Marty Moss-Coane, Philadelphia
Guest:
High: Film critic John Powers reviews Paradise Road and Daytrippers.
Spec: Movie Industry; Paradise Road; Daytrippers

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright (c) 1997 National Public Radio, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. under license from National Public Radio, Inc. Formatting copyright (c) 1997 Federal Document Clearing House, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission. For further information please contact NPR's Business Affairs at (202) 414-2954
End-Story: Paradise Road and Daytrippers
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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