Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

The Bear Whisperer

I have just received some lovely and fascinating emails from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia; no, really.

Here are some excerpts from our correspondence, with pics below. It’s worth reading to meet the bears, but also because you will be introduced to an extraordinary young naturalist and author – I really recommend checking out his website.

Dear Tristan,

My niece gave me The Lost Art for Christmas, and have loved it so much, thank you for this gift!
I’ve spent much of my life outdoors, wandering, especially among wild animals, and I knew quite a bit in there, but so much I did not!

Thought you might enjoy seeing a quick series of pics of a friend of ours, a denning bear we have known since he was a cub. We live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and spend hundreds of hours each year among Black Bears, getting to know them and following the generations as they unfold.
It’s an amazing life, and finding this den (by following him to it) and visiting again and again through this bitterly cold winter, has been a joy beyond words.

Thank you again!

Daniel Mapel and Family

New Hope, VA, USA

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for reading my book and your kind words.

I love the bear pics! Have you noticed any trends with their dens, on the leeward side of trees perhaps?

Thanks again and happy navigating,


Hey Tristan

You are spot on about the leeward side of trees! — we find it just astonishing that virtually all the tree dens we have found have S or SE facing openings in a land where predominant winter winds are from N or NW. It just boggles to witness the innate wisdom of these critters!

My son, Gabriel (18) is responsible for finding the den, attached is a pic of him pointing to it. His website is —

he’s got a couple books out already about Black Bears, his first one has sold more than 10,000 in National Parks around the USA. The kid is a real bear whisperer 🙂

I’m also attaching another pic from a different day — warm day (40F) with his head was facing the opening. Another interesting factoid: respiration is 5 breaths per minute. We count each visit through scope, such fun!


Go Gabriel and the Mapel family!

Update 21/03/18:

The bears den has cubs!