Author to discuss bear encounters

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2000

Big bears, little bears, timid bears and mean bears - Alaska is lousy with bruins. Just ask Larry Kaniut.

Kaniut, author of ``Alaska Bear Tales'' and five other books about living in The Last Frontier, is one of the best-selling scribes of Alaskana. The author will be in the capital city Tuesday to conduct two presentations.

``I'll probably spend a little time giving an overview of how to put a book together and how I wrote my first book. But I really like questions and answers to maximize people's time and not bore them,'' said Kaniut from his home in Anchorage.

Along with his trilogy of bear books - ``Alaska Bear Tales,'' ``More Alaska Bear Tales'' and ``Some Bears Kill'' - the author has written several other volumes revolving around adventures in the 49th state.

``I like to capture other people's stories and their words. For me, that's the interesting part of the story,'' said the nonfiction author.

Kaniut's Alaska story started in 1966 when he and his wife ventured north from Oregon to teach high school in Anchorage. His initial attempts to publish a book about Alaska were purely academic.

``I didn't have a textbook for my `Literature of the North' class and I was hoping to compile stories about the prospectors and pioneers to use as a textbook to teach kids,'' Kaniut said. ``I never had plans to be a writer. I thought a publisher would take the stories and edit them together.''

Instead, the teacher, who worked as a commercial fisherman and assistant guide in the summers, was asked to write a book of Alaska bear stories.

Published in 1983, ``Bear Tales'' is still a big seller. This year, the book went into its 15th printing.

``All his books sell well and not only to tourists. He is one of our most popular selling authors,'' said Susan Hickey, co-owner of Hearthside Books.

``There's a bump in sales in the summer, but local people are buying his books too. Juneau is very interested in any kind of outdoor writing and how to survive with bears is a reality here,'' Hickey said.

Surviving with bears is not only the former teacher's livelihood, it's his passion.

``My dream would be to follow around a bear for a day or two and co-exist with him,'' said Kaniut, whose scariest encounter happened on Kodiak Island in 1994.

The author was indisposed behind a tree when he noticed a large brown bear at about 100 yards from his makeshift bathroom.

``He was humongous. I don't know how I sensed him but there I was, weaponless, with my pants around my ankles. Within no time he was loping my way. At 50 yards, he woofed at me and turned at a 90-degree angle.''

``I took that woof as saying, `Yo, dummy. Get your pants up and get out of the woods.' It took me about five minutes to get my pants up. My fingers were useless they were shaking so bad,'' said Kaniut with a laugh.

Kaniut will be in Juneau on Tuesday. His first presentation will be at noon in the Mourant Building on the University of Alaska Southeast campus. He will also conduct a seminar at 7:30 p.m. at the Juneau Public Library. Both presentations are free.

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