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Remembering Author Charles Russell

Remembering Author Charles Russell

We at Anansi are deeply saddened by the passing of Charlie Russell, a beloved Canadian naturalist, photographer, author, and friend. Son of the renowned conservationist Andy Russell, Charlie was raised in the foothills of Alberta, where he developed an early and profound appreciation for the natural world and, more significantly, bears. Last year, I was lucky enough to work with Charlie on the reissue of his 1994 classic, Spirit Bear: Encounters with the White Bear of the Western Rainforest. As we revisited Charlie’s incredible photographs and stories of his visits to British Columbia’s Princess Royal Island, where he observed the illusive Kermode bear (often known as the white, ghost, or spirit bear), I was struck by his deep compassion and concern for the well-being of all living things. Charlie believed that we could live in peace and harmony with bears, and spoke often of his desire to convey this message to the world. In the afterword to the new edition of Spirit Bear, he wrote, “The problem isn’t bears, it is us. And knowing this, we can change and once again live well in peace and respect with our ursine kin.” Charlie passed away in hospital on Monday. He will be missed.

Douglas Richmond


House of Anansi Press


Written with vivid detail and passion, Spirit Bear is the story of acclaimed naturalist Charles Russell’s journey to study and learn from the extraordinary spirit bears on the remote Princess Royal Island.

From early experiences observing black bears in the Rocky Mountains with his father, the well-known writer and broadcaster Andy Russell, to nerve-racking encounters with grizzlies in British Columbia’s Khutzeymateen Valley, Charles Russell has spent a lifetime studying bears in their natural habitat. In 1991, Russell visited Princess Royal Island, an uninhabited island off the coast of British Columbia. There, amidst the rivers and trees of the western rainforest, he encountered the elusive spirit bear.

Known to scientists as the Kermode bear and to the public as the white, ghost, or spirit bear, these extraordinary animals have never been exposed to civilization. In Spirit Bear, Russell recounts his experiences on Princess Royal Island — trekking over rocks and through streams; waiting hours for the evasive ghost bear to appear; and finally coming face-to-face with a spirit bear only inches from his nose. Illustrated with over 100 stunning colour photographs, Spirit Bear provides beautiful and astonishing insight into the habits and nature of the Kermode bear, and is part of an ongoing effort by conservationists to save Princess Royal Island as a sanctuary for these remarkable animals.

The reissue of Spirit Bear, a classic work of Canadian nature and wildlife, includes an updated design and a new Afterword by the author.

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