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Smiling Bears: A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears
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Smiling Bears: A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  73 ratings  ·  10 reviews
A zookeeper's extraordinary relationship with the bears she has rehabilitated and her insights into their behavior and emotional lives.

Few people know bears as intimately as Else Poulsen. She has raised bears, comforted bears, taught bears, learned from bears, had bears communicate their needs to her, and nursed bears back to health. This remarkable book reveals the many
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 23rd 2009 by Greystone Books
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Community Reviews

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Ann Littlewood
Smiling Bears reminded me of the best of zoo keeping. Else Poulsen writes about bears in captivity and her creative, dogged, and daring efforts to keep them happy. She weaves in information about how to read bear expressions and behavior (I wished for more on this) and tells a series of stories about orphaned, neglected, ailing, and crazy bears, describing how she tried to help each bear find a low-stress, active life within the context of a zoo. Her training in biology keeps this from being ano ...more
Nov 07, 2012 Joy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: animals
I might be biased as I am a Docent at the Detroit Zoo, where some of the stories in this book take place, and love sweet Miggy and Barle's daughter Talini. (Barle passed away from cancer in August.) However, I don't think you need to volunteer at a zoo to enjoy this book. It's an interesting read with a lot of wonderful stories, not a dry, scholarly reference book at all. Plus, the plight that bears are currently facing and ways to help are brought to the forefront, which can only be a good thin ...more
Ira Therebel
Holding animals in captures for human entertainment in zoos and circuses is pretty cruel and wrong since every living being wants and deserves to be free. At the same time the sad reality is that in our time some zoos and sanctuaries are needed since the natural habitats of these animals are destroyed and also for the rehabilitation of abused and rescued animals. Unfortunately not many zoos meet the standards to provide a good life for animals, but luckily there are some that are trying to do so ...more
Katherine Shaw
Wonderful stories of the relationship between a zookeeper and the bears she is responsible for, showing us how intelligent bears really are.
Alicia Meranda
Really liked all the details about bear behavior, rehabilitation and enrichment ideas. Great read for zookeepers and bear lovers alike.
Jul 31, 2014 Kyle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: nature
Loved this book. If you like wildlife, you'll love this book. Can't wait for the book club to meet about it.
I literally (and I do mean literally) grabbed this book at random from the "Newly Purchased" display at our local library. I read the dust cover and thought close enough. Not what I was expecting, this is more memoir than science. She is one of the good guys, doing her best for bears in zoos, and It is interesting as it goes. But while introduction says she doesn't anthropomorphize the bears, she does.
Chapin Hardy
Very easy and fun read about bear husbandry. Definitely leaves you smiling.
I'm not really into animal stories, but my aunt gave me this book as a gift. The author now lives in Grimsby, ON which is my aunt's home town. And since my dad studies bears I thought I should try reading it. It was interesting learning more about bear behaviour and about holistic approaches to zoo keeping.
Loved the book and all the info given
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“The self-aggrandizing and widespread assumption that we humans have the full complement of all of the emotions possible to all animals on Earth–basically, tha all the marbles belong to us–is not only unscientific but also childish. Do we know how it feel is sail on an updraft in the sky, to echolocate our dinner in the dark, or to see at lightning speed with a compound eye? Fortunately, human understanding is maturing, and we are learning thaat animals are emotional, thinking, and self-aware beings relative to the niche that they were born to occupy.” 2 likes
“You and I know how to stay alive in an urban community. As humans, we are genetically encoded to adapt to many environments when given proper teaching from more experienced humans. We know not to talk to strangers, not to cross on the red light, and not to leave the doors unlocked. Most of us are more or less successful and only occasionally make a life-threatening mistake. Some of us may have an additional set of survival skills, depending on our circumstances. We can live with a debilittion disease, be shot into space and live in a capsule, or survive summer camp. After summer camp, we are still the same people we were before summer camp, except now we know write our name in our underware, not chew gum found under the bed, and to stay away from things that look like sticks but are, in fact, snakes.” 1 likes
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