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The One Animal That Humbles Humankind

May 06, 2019 | 831 videos
Video by Ben Moon

When Doug Peacock returned from his second tour in Vietnam, he was ready for some peace and quiet. He found it in the wilds of Montana and Wyoming, where Yellowstone National Park provided refuge for thousands of species of wildlife. Peacock learned to live among these creatures in the mountains and on the plains. An encounter with a grizzly bear, however, would change everything.

“My companions ended up being grizzlies,” Peacock says in Ben Moon’s short documentary Grizzly Country. “Those bears saved my life.”

Grizzlies, classified as an endangered species, have dwindled in number, from the estimated 50,000 bears that roamed between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains in the 1800s to just over 1,000 today.

In the film, Peacock explains how observing the bears in their natural habitat inspired him to become a naturalist. “The voiceless really needed a human voice,” he says, going on to describe how he has dedicated his life to documenting grizzly behavior and advocating for the preservation of their habitat. In 2016, Peacock founded the organization Save the Yellowstone Grizzlies. He was galvanized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed removal of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem from their “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act.

“Living out on the land with the grizzly bear, you’re not the dominant creature, and you’re physically aware of that,” Peacock says. “The grizzly bear is the one animal capable of reminding the most arrogant species on Earth of its true place in the world.”

“In a culture like ours, we fear what we don’t know, and we really hate what we fear,” he adds. “To make a friend of that kind of fear—it really does expand a tolerance towards all other kinds of beings.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.