Debruyn, Terry D.

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PERSONAL: Married; wife's name Annette. Education: Northern Michigan University, M.A.; Michigan Technological University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Home—Anchorage, AK. Office—National Park Service, 2525 Gambell St., Rm. 107, Anchorage, AK 99503. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Lyons Press, 123 West 18th St., 6th Fl., New York, NY 10011. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Biologist and writer. Michigan Technological University, Houghton, adjunct associate professor; Florida Game and Fresh Water Commission, state black bear coordinator; National Park Service, Anchorage, AK, biologist. Also worked for the Soil Conservation Service.


Walking with Bears: One Man's Relationship with Three Generations of Wild Bears, Lyons Press (Washington, DC), 1999.

SIDELIGHTS: In the 1980s Terry D. DeBruyn was a soil conservationist who hunted bears with a bow and arrow. After a while, however, he started wondering what harm he might do if he killed a sow, and became curious about bear habitat and the numbers of black bears still ranging in the wild. DeBruyn began to study bears in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in a project that would stretch over six years, include three generations of animals, and lead to a master's degree and a doctorate in wildlife biology. DeBruyn became the principle investigator for the project, and the State of Michigan helped with the research, as did the U.S. Forest Service, which used the data to consider bear habitat in planning the harvesting of timber.

In Walking with Bears: One Man's Relationship with Three Generations of Wild Bears DeBruyn writes of his fifteen-hour days with the bears, during which they allowed him to come within feet of them. DeBruyn observed their eating habits, watched them break open logs as they looked for insects, and observed the family-rearing traits among a number of litters. DeBruyn named the first female who became tolerant of him Carmen because of the way she seemed to dance. He caught her in 1990, tranquilized her, and put a collar with a radio transmitter around her neck. In the spring of 1991 he encountered Carmen and her three cubs, enticing her with doughnuts to try to gain her trust. It took approximately 150 hours of doughnut treating before Carmen allowed DeBruyn to approach at close distances, and they spent another hundred hours together before Carmen denned with cubs in late autumn. As the bears hibernated, DeBruyn sedated them, took blood samples and measurements, and tagged the cubs. He continued to monitor Carmen and other bears throughout the seasons over several years. Although black bears are indigenous to twenty-eight of the United States, very few have become habituated as DeBruyn's bears were. In his book he notes the sounds the mothers and cubs make to express various emotions, and how they play, forage, and den, documenting thirty-six different activities. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly said of the book that "nobody who cares about bears should miss it."

DeBruyn became the black bear coordinator for Florida's Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in 1997. The Florida black bear, a subspecies of the American black bear, was put on the state's list of threatened species in 1974. The biggest killer of the state's bears is the automobile, with nearly half the deaths occurring on roads in and around the Ocala National Forest. DeBruyn was responsible for developing habitat management plans for the bears and coordinating Florida's work with that of federal, state, and local agencies and organizations. He has since moved into a position with the National Park Service in Anchorage, Alaska.



DeBruyn, Terry D., Walking with Bears: One Man's Relationship with Three Generations of Wild Bears, Lyons Press (Washington, DC), 1999.


Library Journal, October 15, 1999, Nancy J. Moeckel, review of Walking with Bears, p. 100.

New York Times, April 4, 1995, David Binder, "Scientist at Work: Terry DeBruyn; Black Bears up Close and Personal," p. C1.

Publishers Weekly, October 11, 1999, review of Walking with Bears, p. 65.