Wildlife in North America is under pressure, both from hunters and poachers and from habitat loss. Bears and other large animals naturally wander across an enormous range but increasingly they are safe only in isolated, protected parks that are hemmed in by human development and the imprisoned bears are in danger of becoming inbred. If only the islands of safety could be connected by corridors of preserved habitat to allow free movement by animals like bears, then an enormous problem in conservation would be solved.
Karsten Heuer’s journey was intended to show that such a system of parks and corridors is feasible. He set out in June 1998 from Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, on the beginning of a 3,400 kilometre hike that would end, 18 months later, in Watson Lake, Yukon Territory. Along the way, he faced personal problems, including the breakup of his relationship with the woman who had planned the journey with him. He came to terms with difficult public relations problems when he spoke to loggers and others with a stake in the economic exploitation of wild lands. And, above all, he overcame extraordinary physical challenges: ferocious storms, avalanches, apparently impassable rivers in full flood, and bears that mistook him for dinner.
Accompanied by occasional human companions and a remarkable border collie named Webster, Heuer demonstrated that there is nearly continuous wilderness up and down the length of the Rocky Mountains, much of it still occupied by bears, all of it still salvageable if the right decisions are made soon.
Karsten Heuer took a leave of absence from his jobs as a park warden and contract wildlife biologist in Banff National Park to undertake the Y2Y hike. Winters he works as an independent biologist studying the movements of wolves, lynx, and cougars in the Rockies.
“It made my heart proud to read this book by Karsten Heuer, a man with a great imagination and an even greater dream.”
–Don Starkell, author of Paddle to the Amazon and Paddle to the Arctic
“Karsten Heuer has experienced the adventure of a lifetime – crossing icy rivers, fending off attacking bears, overcoming corporate misdeeds – in support of a beautiful idea. His story stirs the blood. Yet it also gives gentle pause for thought. This book is a genuine Canadian classic that belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who cares about wildlife and wild places.”
–Ben Gadd, author of Handbook of the Canadian Rockies and Raven’s End
“Everyone should go on a long walk through untracked wilderness at least once in their lifetime, and you need look no further than Karsten Heuer’s new book to understand why. Walking the Big Wild is more than the account of an extraordinary expedition, it is the spirited tale of an inner journey that entertains, informs, and inspires. Heuer seamlessly blends his considerable talents as a keen observer and knowledgeable naturalist to bring the landscape around him to life. This starkly honest and deeply personal account is a compelling cry for a new ethos in land management and wildlife conservation. It will also make you want to put on your boots and head for the woods.”
–Bruce Kirkby, author of Sand Dance.