by Jo Barnes –
Some people love cats, others love dogs.
But Eddy, he’s more of a grizzly bear kind of guy.
While they may not be the first choice for most animal lovers, Edward or “Eddy” Savage, Victoria-based expedition leader, naturalist guide and photographer, is passionate about bears. He feels very strongly about these magnificent creatures, in particular the grizzly bear.
“They are gentle and intelligent animals that are important caretakers of our wild places,” says Eddy. “While many people whole-heartedly believe grizzly bears seek out humans for food, these bears actually spend much of their time avoiding us. They prefer the comfort of their peaceful and wild valleys.”
He completed a bear safety program with the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of B.C. and became certified as a Full Bear Viewing Guide. He’s also a founding member of the Brown Bear Research Network and has done extensive data collection and field work in the Great Bear Rainforest.
“I am passionate about the brown bears of British Columbia,” says Eddy. “I believe brown bears are widely misunderstood and that the more we understand the animal, the better we will be able to live alongside them.”
For most of us, the idea of working around bears might be daunting. But for Eddy, it’s a passion, a calling in life, a “call of the wild” if you will, and he’s enthusiastic about photographing them (www.edwardsavage.com). This begs the question of course: how do you go about taking pictures of a bear? While the obvious answer is “very carefully,” Eddy has learned some techniques.
“You need to respect them. You need to remember that you are a visitor in the grizzly bears’ home and that you are the unpredictable one. If you are calm, gentle and predictable in your behaviours (like a bear), chances are you will only have positive encounters,” shares Eddy.
His fascination with bears doesn’t stop with just the grizzly or brown bear. Last year he led polar bear expeditions with Natural Habitat Adventures, a company which offers small group travel. It’s unique work he loves and will continue this year.
“I look forward to catching a glimpse of these bears before they head out onto the sea ice for their annual dose of seal,” says Eddy.
So where did this love of adventure and wildlife begin? While Eddy always had an interest in animals and sports as a child, his involvement in the Outdoor Education Program at Parkland Secondary School served as the catalyst.
“The Outdoor Ed 12 trip on the West Coast Trail and the Nitinat Lakes, also known as the ‘Nitinat Triangle,’ was definitely where I found out I enjoyed leading, I had confidence to do so, and I wanted to make this my career,” remembers Eddy.
The program taught him outdoor skills like tent and tarp set-up, first aid, food prep and storage, knot tying, fire building, canoeing, and wildlife safety. Subsequently, Eddy completed a two-year diploma in Adventure Tourism with North Island College, further developing self confidence and skills in leadership, management and interpersonal abilities.
Eddy has been working in the adventure tourism sector since 2008. He was a sea kayaking guide with Coastal Spirits Adventures and led trips around Quadra Island, Cortes Island, Desolation Sound and Johnstone Strait. Then he worked as a naturalist and guide for Knight Inlet Lodge leading whale watching and grizzly bear viewing expeditions.
For Eddy, the great outdoors and the wonders of wildlife beckon him.
“It is hard for me to pick just one experience over another when it comes to wildlife and the outdoors,” says Eddy. “Every day and every experience is so exciting and different.”
He’s constantly learning, for the life of a naturalist and expedition guide is ever evolving. This year Eddy will lead expeditions to China exploring the land, people and yet another bear species, the giant panda. It’s one more for the bucket list, a list which seems endless to this curious fellow.
“The entire world is of interest to me. Everywhere and anywhere sounds great!” says Eddy.
There are all kinds of animal lovers. While some might prefer a budgie or a beagle, for Eddy Savage, nothing beats a bear.