The Brothers Wild

The Washington Post Magazine

It was the mid-1960’s — a warm, sunny day at Yellowstone National Park, where a 500-pound male grizzly bear known as No. 36 is slumped in a drug-induced haze. Even flattened by tranquilizers, the big bear dwarfs the four researchers in Western-style clothing who are racing the clock to pull every piece of data they can from him — weighing him, taking blood samples, checking his teeth.

John moves an immobilized yearling bear in the early 1960s at Yellowstone, probably to prevent it from sliding, disoriented, into the creek.

John moves an immobilized yearling bear in the early 1960s at Yellowstone, probably to prevent it from sliding, disoriented, into the creek.

He grows larger still when he awakens suddenly with a shattering roar. Groaning, groggy and gladiatorial, the bear rises and charges blindly at the members of the group, who scramble into their red Ford station wagon. In a dizzy rage, the bear barrels like a bristling, fanged locomotive toward the packed car, running straight into the passenger door and then heaving himself onto the hood, his head seeming to fill the entire windshield. As the animal bellows again, the car is jammed almost cartoonishly into reverse, and the big, disoriented bear slides off.

brothers-wild

Left: Twin brothers, twin passions: John Craighead (left) with a peregrine falcon; Frank with a goshawk, circa 1939. Right: John Craighead at his home in Missoula, Montana in 2007.

To aficionados of National Geographic documentaries, the scene is one of the most popular in the organization’s ample, thrill-filled archives. It is also a small taste of the action packed and intertwined lives of a set of identical twins and grizzly research partners, John and Frank Craighead… READ MORE

 

 

 

One thought on “The Brothers Wild

  1. Thank you so much for this column. A major reason for my own lifetime interest in nature was the Craighead’s book, Hawks in the Hand. They went on to live wonderful lives and it has been a pleasure to follow them from afar.

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