Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Smiling Bears: A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears” as Want to Read:
Smiling Bears: A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  92 Ratings  ·  12 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
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Smiling Bears, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Smiling Bears

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Ann Littlewood
Sep 29, 2013 Ann Littlewood rated it it was amazing
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 it was amazing
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
Oct 10, 2012 Katherine Shaw rated it really liked it
Wonderful stories of the relationship between a zookeeper and the bears she is responsible for, showing us how intelligent bears really are.
Alicia Meranda
Dec 26, 2013 Alicia Meranda rated it really liked it
Really liked all the details about bear behavior, rehabilitation and enrichment ideas. Great read for zookeepers and bear lovers alike.
Nov 11, 2009 TODD rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Aug 04, 2009 Kristen rated it liked it
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.
Kirk Johnson
Aug 03, 2015 Kirk Johnson rated it it was amazing
loved this book, which describes a sort of benign Ender's Game, with the addition of a lot of personal work, with bears in zoos. the writing flows and has that unique quality of peace and dignity that the best naturalist books have.
Jul 21, 2014 Kyle rated it really liked it
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.
Katarina rated it really liked it
Sep 22, 2014
Loretta rated it it was amazing
Sep 26, 2014
ROSE M. IANNONE rated it it was amazing
Jul 19, 2015
Lindalou rated it liked it
Sep 19, 2012
Katrina rated it really liked it
Jul 21, 2011
Kyle rated it really liked it
Apr 24, 2012
Kathy rated it really liked it
Nov 16, 2009
Kathleen rated it really liked it
Apr 19, 2010
Five-Toed Sloth Bear
Five-Toed Sloth Bear rated it really liked it
Jul 18, 2016
Sandra Elvin
Sandra Elvin rated it it was amazing
Mar 23, 2013
Kim rated it really liked it
Sep 18, 2015
Ine rated it liked it
Oct 24, 2011
Sharon Klotz
Sharon Klotz rated it really liked it
Jun 17, 2014
Jean rated it it was amazing
Jan 02, 2016
Kim rated it it was amazing
Jun 22, 2014
Robert Hult
Robert Hult rated it really liked it
Sep 05, 2013
Aug 29, 2012 Storyheart rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals, bears
Moving and fascinating account of the emotional lives of bears.
Peggy rated it really liked it
Dec 28, 2012
Kathy rated it really liked it
Mar 27, 2012
Debbie rated it it was amazing
May 31, 2016
Meaghan rated it really liked it
Dec 04, 2013
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Moral Lives of Animals
  • 100 Heartbeats: A Journey to Meet Our Planet's Endangered Animals and the Heroes Working to Save Them
  • The Elephant's Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa
  • Conceptualizing and measuring human anxiety on the Internet
  • Dogs are from Neptune (Dogs Behaving Badly!)
  • Mr. Hornaday's War: How a Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged a Lonely Crusade for Wildlife That Changed the World
  • The Once and Future World: Nature As It Was, As It Is, As It Could Be
  • Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold
  • Lads Before the Wind: Diary of a Dolphin Trainer
  • The Kingdom of Rarities
  • Learning From the Octopus: How Secrets from Nature Can Help Us Fight Terrorist Attacks, Natural Disasters, and Disease
  • The Arctic: an anthology of the finest writing on the Arctic and the Antarctic (The ends of the earth, #1)
  • Kicked, Bitten, and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the World's Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers
  • Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions
  • Killer In The Pool
  • I'll Be Home Soon: How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety
  • Fowl Weather
  • Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family

Share This Book

“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, that 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 that 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 debilitating 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
More quotes…