Born and raised on a farm in South Western Ontario, Mike McIntosh values the natural environment and its wildlife which he started photographing as a child. Interested in wildlife and their behavior, Mike became fascinated about perceived dangerous “predators” and human’s misunderstanding of these amazing beings. Mike is especially intrigued by bears given their high intelligence and unique cognitive abilities. For most of his life, bears have been Mike’s focus
Mike has been to Kamchatka Russia, walked among some of the largest bears in existence, travelled to Alaska, the Rockies, observing bears and their behavior. The only weapons Mike feels you need in bear habitat is your brain and a can of pepper spray.
A frequent visitor to the Algonquin Park and area to enjoy and photograph wildlife and nature, Mike moved permanently to the north purchasing an old farmhouse with some acreage (89 acres) with a creek and pond in 1990. He met Audrey Tournay, founder of the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary (AVWS). Mike volunteered at the AVWS helping injured and orphaned wildlife specifically bears. It wasn’t long after assisting at the AVWS that Mike realized there was such a great need to help the Black Bears and Humans coexist. Mike decided he wanted to devote more of his time to helping the misunderstood bear. He decided to approach the OMNR in 1991 about his favored bears and told them he would like to help orphaned cubs, injured bears and also assist the public with “nuisance” bears, more correctly known as human-bear conflict resolution.
Thus in 1992, with the help of some local friends interested in wildlife rehabilitation plus the cooperation of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR), the Bear With Us Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Centre for Bears was formed by Mike McIntosh. It began with his first bear in April 1992, a big old blind bear from a zoo in eastern Ontario. This bear, who Mike and Audrey Tournay named Mishoomish , remained at Bear With Us until his passing. Since its inception, Bear With Us has assisted 340+ orphaned and injured bears return to the wild. Bear With Us is a permanent home to a select few bears that cannot return to the wild.
In 1999 Bear With Us was incorporated as Bear With Us Inc. and became a registered Canadian Charity.
Bear With Us Inc. and Mike McIntosh are authorized annually by the OMNR (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) to rehabilitate and release orphaned wild bear cubs, live trap and relocate perceived nuisance bears and keep black bears in captivity. Since 1992 Mike through Bear With Us has been doing just that while still holding down a regular job at a local automotive dealership.
Mike does speaking engagements to interest groups such as campers in Ontario Parks, local cub-scout packs as well as schools. To Mike, educating people through his presentation “Understanding Bears” is critical to assisting bears and people to coexist .
Bear With Us Mission:To promote the understanding and respect for the bear family, a species near the top of the evolutionary scale, a species in direct niche competition with the human race.
Fulfilling the mission: The four primary areas of operation for Bear With Us are:
1-Black Bear Rehabilitation; orphaned bear cubs and injured bears cared for and returned to the wild in a high state of health.
2-Bear Sanctuary; various species; A comfortable place to stay for permanent non-releasable bears such as ex-circus bears, zoo excess or illegal pet confiscations.
3-Education; (a)-Off location slide/video presentations for groups at Provincial Parks, schools, cub and guides, other young people’s groups, nature clubs and more. (b)-Comprehensive website, Facebook page and a special educational Facebook page for Molly Bear. (c)-One on one phone conversations and email responses to individuals with questions regarding bears.
4-Conflict Resolution; Assisting people and bears to coexist together. Individual consultation with people about how not to encourage or discourage a nuisance bear by removing food attractants, live trapping and relocating individual bears when other potential solutions have been exhausted.
Working to dispel myths and misinformation about coyotes, wolves, bears and cougars, Hannah Barron comments: “Accurate information never robs animals of their magnificence, but robs us (people) of our fear very well!” – Hannah Barron. A biologist specializing in wolves and other carnivores.
“Appreciate, view with respect, allow them to exist, to coexist. The bear will if we will”. – Mike McIntosh
“If you talk with the animals, they will talk with you, and you will know each other. If you don’t talk with them, you will not know them, and what you do not know, you fear. What one fears, one destroys.” ~Chief Dan George
“When we return wild animals to nature, we merely return them to what is already… theirs, For man cannot give wild animals freedom, they can only take it away.” ~Jacques Cousteau
“In our own spoken language, love and affection is well understood. In a mother bear’s language, care and affection is very well understood and felt by her cubs.” – Mike McIntosh
“To say, “Let nature take its course”, is unacceptable because human imposed injury is not natural injury. Therefore intervention regarding wildlife is the responsible action to be taken.” – Mike McIntosh
“I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by incredible beauty, enjoying wonderful relationships with wild animals most of us were taught to fear. We really need to get past our fear of the wild. It’s what sustains us, not what threatens us.” ~ Charlie Russell
“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum
“A problem for bears is not so much what we don’t know, it is what we think we know that isn’t true.” – Dr Lynn Rogers.
“One cannot have lived as long as I have, alone in a wordless world that was as wonderful as I had with my bears, without struggling to be courteous in the human world where most people think…that we are superior to every living thing.”- Charlie Russell