Ipswich/Canada: It’s all about the bear necessities for wildlife researcher Phil Charles

AN OUTDOOR adventurer and wildlife researcher is enjoying the job of his dreams as he tracks the movements of bears through Canadian rainforests.

Phil Charles, 23, from Alderman Road in Ipswich, embarked on the adventure of a lifetime after completing a degree in animal conservation science at the University of Cumbria.

On being offered the opportunity to work with bears in the Great Bear Rainforest, in British Columbia, Canada, the researcher grasped the chance with both hands and hasn’t looked back.

He has now completed several stints in the rainforests, returning to the UK for the winter months when the bears are in hibernation.

Working with the Spirit Bear Lodge charity, Phil is following trails in the depths of the rainforest where he has managed to work up close with some of the “majestic animals”.

His current role is investigating the impact that a dispersing grizzly bear population and increased tourism is having on black and “spirit bears” – a sub-species of the American black bear which dominates the wilderness in the coastal territories of British Columbia.

“At a young age my parents and I would go exploring, looking for wildlife around Suffolk such as deer, snakes and birds of prey,” said Phil. “I love it and I have always had a passion for wildlife and they helped nurture that.

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“I love waking up and being excited to go to work. It is still such a thrill heading out into the territory never knowing what you are going to see.

“As we are a coastal community we have to travel by boat to the rivers and we see many marine species on a regular basis including humpback whales, killer whales, dolphins, porpoises and elephant seals.

“The bird life is incredible. Bald eagles are very common here and on land we have grizzly bears, black bears and spirit bears, wolves, cougars, wolverines, porcupines, mink, pine martens and lots more.

“The bio-diversity of the rainforest here is remarkable.”

Part of Phil’s role involves taking visitors on bear trails along the area’s 47 salmon-bearing rivers to give them “the ultimate thrill” of getting very close to the animals.

He added: “As a fully fledged guide I am out walking with bears every day and surprisingly for such a large animal they can get pretty close without you realising. I was charged by a grizzly for the first time a couple of days ago.

“It was a larger mother with two cubs and she was just letting us know who’s boss – like we needed telling!”

This is not the first exotic adventure for the keen Ipswich Town fan. Phil previously completed placements at the Bandhavgarh National Park in India to study tigers, and was chosen to go out to an international summer school in Greece as part of his degree.