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See Inside Scientific American Volume 309, Issue 5

Book Review: Out on a Limb

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Chelsea Green Publishing

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Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition
by Benjamin Kilham
Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013

Nearly 20 years ago, after dyslexia derailed his hopes for a scientific career, Kilham found another way to perform research, rearing and closely observing orphaned black bear cubs on his New Hampshire farm. He had “no reputation to worry about,” no hypothesis to prove; he simply raised cubs and watched over them through their reintroduction to the wild. As detailed in this book, his work led him to discover a previously overlooked scent receptor on the roof of each black bear's mouth (which he coined a “Kilham organ”) and to challenge the common view of bears as solitary, unsophisticated creatures. In the tradition of Jane Goodall's chimp studies, Kilham's analyses suggest that bears are capable of surprising altruism and cooperation and perhaps even long-term planning and symbolic thought. Out on a Limb reveals not only the inner lives of bears in poignant detail but also Kilham's deep, abiding respect and love for these sometimes savage, often gentle beasts.

This article was originally published with the title "Out on a Limb."

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