Winter Speaker Series


In The Company of Bears

May 11, 2016 - 7:00pm
Curtis Library, Brunswick
Ben Kilham
Independent Wildlife Biologist and Author

Ben Kilham has been researching and living with black bears for nearly twenty years. He has become an expert in black bear behavior, as well as in rehabilitating orphaned and injured bears and reintroducing them to the wild. He is invited to lecture all over the United States and internationally. His previous book is Among the Bears, Raising Orphan Cubs in the Wild.

Kilham and his work with black bears have been featured in five internationally televised documentaries, including National Geographic and Discovery Channel features, and he has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC Nightly News, ABC Nightly News International, The O’Reilly Factor, Fox News Daytime Edition, Inside Edition, The David Letterman Show, NBC Nightline, CBS Coast to Coast, Canadian Broadcasting Company Nightly News, and various other shows, as well as National Public Radio, and a host of nationally broadcast radio shows. He lives in Lyme, New Hampshire.

After receiving his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from UNH, Ben Kilham attended the Colorado School of Trades and became a talented gunsmith. He also was a special student at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. Kilham holds U.S. patents for gun safety design and a jab stick for darting wild animals. Along with his work as an independent biologist and wildlife rehabilitator specializing in bears, he is the owner of Kilham & Company, engaging in gunsmithing and product design. Over the years he has been a product engineer for Colt Firearms and Manager/Gunsmith for Paul Jaeger, Inc., Pistolsmith for Austin Behler, Pistolsmith and Gunsmith for Abercrombie & Fitch/Griffon & Howe.

Kilham has authored: Among the Bears, Raising Orphan Cubs in the Wild, published by Henry Holt & Company, New York, NY, March, 2002 and In the Company of Bears: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition published in 2014 by Chelsea Green with a forward by Temple Grandon.

While an independent cinematographer himself, Kilham has been widely featured on television and in various films including:
Home Waters, produced by BBC/WGBH TV, 1994; Coast to Coast, produced by CBS, July, 1997; New Hampshire Crossroads, produced by N.H. Public TV, November, 1997; Goodwill Hunting, produced by NBC Dateline, April 3,1998; Mother Bear Man, produced by National Geographic Television, Explorer, April 5, 1998; Bear Man, produced by National Geographic Television, Explorer, November 26, 2000; NBC Today Show, November, 2002; Papa Bear, Discovery Channel, December, 2004; Ultimate Bear, National Geographic Television 2006 and A Man Among Bears, National Geographic Channel 2008. Also in 2008 Kilham was featured on: Good Morning America ABC, The Today Show NBC, BC Nightly News, Bill O Reilly, FOX and Inside Edition.

Ben Kilham has given over 450 lectures on black bear behavior to schools and other organizations throughout New Hampshire and New England More than 50,000 people have attended.

Imagine raising an orphaned bear cub, carefully reintroducing her to the wild, then being welcomed back, almost daily, to observe her wild world for more than seventeen years. Imagine visiting her in her feeding spots, watching her with her mates and her young, peering into her den, and, over time, observing the lives of all the other wild bears in her territory and surrounding ones. That is what happened to Ben Kilham, whose long-term study of wild black bears has shattered conventional wisdom about how they live their lives.

In the Company of Bears unveils Kilham’s groundbreaking work. Like others, he once thought that black bears were solitary. But he discovered that they actually have extraordinary communication and interaction with each other—creating and enforcing codes of conduct, forming alliances, and even sharing territory and food when supplies are ample.

In the Company of Bears (originally released in hardcover as Out on a Limb) is more than a story about bears. It’s the story of a scientist once kept from a traditional science career by his dyslexia, only to find that thinking and seeing differently was his greatest gift and his best tool to interpret the non-human world.

Kirkus Reviews—
"The author is a state-sponsored researcher whose work with the black bear population in northern New Hampshire is safe, methodical and sanctioned. Since he does not currently hold a doctorate—he’s now working on that—much of his fieldwork has been discounted by the scientific community. On the other hand, his outsider status has allowed him to go his own way and trust in his natural skills rather than bemoan his shortcomings revolving around his dyslexia.

Despite his condition, he is blessed with the ability to recognize patterns and see systems where they are not self-evident. The tone of his presentation allays criticism or hostility with its frankness and generosity, as he plunges into what he has observed: how bears use scent and body language, how they compete and cooperate, how they enforce house rules and exhibit a social code of justice and punishment, and how they communicate.

Though he has interacted with hundreds of black bears, one in particular—Squirty, whom he adopted as a cub and released into the wild—has allowed Kilham to experience an intimate association with him, from comfort to anger and many other emotions in between.

The author presents a solid case for bears as primal actors of social exchange—cooperation, altruism, morality—and their study, a 'gateway' to understanding 'how surplus fitness and an increase in population density have affected human behavior.' A powerfully original study of bears."

Call Kathleen McGee, 666-3598


Watercolors by
Sarah Stapler