Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Author Terry Pierce talks Eat Up, Bear!

Eat Up, Bear! is an adorable, rhyming board book that addresses a big topic: respecting the local wildlife – and keeping yourself safe! – when enjoying the outdoors! Whether you’re having a picnic or birthday party in a park, going on a hike, or enjoying a camping trip, it’s important to remember that local wildlife, especially bears, LOVE to eat and will eat your food – not healthy for them! – unless you keep that food safely packed up and properly disposed of!

Eat Up, Bear!, by Terry Pierce/Illustrated by Nadja Sarell,
(Apr. 2021, Yosemite Conservancy),
$8.99, ISBN: 9781-951179-01-4
Ages 3-6

Author Terry Pierce was kind enough to answer a few questions I had. Enjoy!

MomReadIt: Hi there and thank you so much for writing Eat Up, Bear! I love that you’ve written a fun and informative book about keeping both bears and people safe. What inspired you to write Eat Up, Bear for a young audience?

Terry Pierce: Thank you for inviting me to talk about Eat Up, Bear!, Rosemary. It’s a small book that packs a powerful message. My inspiration for this story came from my love of black bears. I’ve hiked and backpacked my whole life and have had many amazing bear encounters in the wild. I’ve seen bears in trees, in ponds, even bears in my camp! One time, I almost ran right into a fledgling bear at a blind spot on a trail. That was exciting! All these encounters led me to have an enormous respect for them, knowing these are gentle creatures who really just want to eat and be left alone.

And therein lies the focus of Eat Up, Bear! Black bears LOVE to eat! Their natural food sources are things like berries, grubs, nuts, grass, and occasionally fish. But they’re also opportunistic eaters, meaning if humans leave food out a bear will eat it. And this is bad for both bears and humans. Obviously, bears should eat natural good-for-their-health foods, not chips and hoagies! Beyond concerns for the bear’s health, when a bear becomes dependent on human food, it can behave more aggressively in its efforts, becoming a “problem bear.” Bears have been known to break into cars if they see food inside, or rummage through a campground looking for unattended ice chests or food left out on picnic tables. This can be a huge problem for bears and people! Sadly, if a bear gets too aggressive, it is put down, so proper food storage can help prevent the death of a bear.

So, when I saw Yosemite Conservancy’s call out for board books, I immediately thought about writing a book about using proper food storage to help keep bears safe and healthy (people too!). Our goal for the book is to entertain and educate little campers everywhere and show how families can do their part to help keep bears wild through respectful coexistence.

MomReadIt: You mention a variety of ways people can enjoy nature, yet keep wildlife – especially bears! – safe from people food (which keeps people safe, too): latching boxes, packing their food well, locking up their coolers, and disposing of trash. Are there any other things to be aware of, when planning a day or camping trip, to keep everyone and every bear safe and sound?

Terry Pierce: Planning is the key word. Plan your trip ahead of time, including learning about wildlife you might encounter during your visit. You can visit the National Park Service website for specifics about the location. For backpackers, an essential item is a “bear canister” for storing your food. In the old days, hikers would hang their food in storage sacks from a tree branch at night, but now they’re required to use a bear canister (a heavy-duty plastic container with a locking lid that’s bearproof).

It’s also smart to make sure you leave no food (or evidence of food) in your car while you’re out enjoying nature. Bears will look in cars and can smell food even if it’s out of sight so roll up your windows. I once saw where a bear had ripped off a car door just to get three peanuts accidentally left on the dashboard! As Eat Up, Bear! says, “Bears are hungry. Clever, too! Take care or bears will eat your food!” The book is a good way for families to learn together the various ways to store food properly and keep everyone safe.

Last, in established campgrounds, such as those in Yosemite National Park, campsites have food lockers to store food when not in use. These lockers are bearproof and right in your campsite, making in convenient for campers to use. Keeping your food inaccessible to bears will keep them safe. For more information about bears and food storage, here’s a NPS link: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bears.htm.

MomReadIt: Keeping the area safe for people and bears also means keeping the area safe and clean for everyone to enjoy. Over the last year in particular, people have turned to the great outdoors for a safe space. Do you have any suggestions for people that may be new to hiking, camping, and picnicking that will respect nature?

Terry Pierce: Yes, this is true! The pandemic has caused people to take to the great outdoors to enjoy life in a naturally social distanced way. And it’s wonderful to see so many families heading to the outdoors, exposing their little ones to nature early in life. But sometimes, when folks aren’t familiar with wildlife and the outdoors, mistakes can happen.

As I mentioned above, check out the area you plan to visit ahead of time, so you’ll be prepared. Also, check the weather conditions as they can make or break an outing (especially if you’re not prepared with proper attire).

The other thing I recommend is to be respectful of the outdoors while enjoying it. Immerse yourself in nature—listen to the birds, watch for animals, pack out all your trash, absorb the beauty and carry it with you. Turn off your music and phones and take in the sounds of the forest. Slow down as you drive so you have ample time to brake for wild animals. Resist the urge to take selfies with wild animals in the background. People have been injured doing so! Remember, wild animals are exactly that—WILD. So be respectful of them and their home while you visit.

And last, if you have little ones, prepare them in advance by reading books with them. Eat Up, Bear! is terrific book for the smallest of campers and hikers, not only for its message but Nadja’s Sarell’s gorgeous illustrations show what a camping experience might be like. Yosemite Conservancy has an online store with many wonderful children’s books: https://shop.yosemite.org/collections/youth.

Thanks so much to Terry Pierce! Visit Keep Bears Wild for more tips on staying safe – and keeping bears safe – when enjoying the great outdoors this spring and summer.