Stranger Among Bears



Tame series isn't that exciting for a show about bears.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Vandergaw's life with the bears and the way he feeds them isn't only illegal, but dangerous. And the show makes much of the fact that his practice of spending bear season interacting with wild bears could be endangering both the bears and other humans -- but there isn't any clear proof that his bears are the ones causing trouble elsewhere in Alaska.


Scenes of bears attacking each other; cameraman Richard Terry gets a nasty bite on his foot from a bear, and there are several close-ups of the bite. Also pictures of Vandergaw and his trophies from his hunting days.

Not applicable

There's the rare bleeped word, but you can't really tell what they are.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this nature show about a retired teacher's interactions with wild bears could give kids the wrong idea about how to approach animals in their natural habitat. Although Charlie Vandergaw has spent 20 years learning to interact with beras and clearly knows what he's doing, what he's doing is illegal and dangerous. That point is somewhat driven home by images of things like bears attacking each other and a cameraman getting bitten. There's not too much other iffy stuff for kids -- strong language is rare (and bleeped when it does occur), and there's no sex, drinking, or product placement.

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What's the story?

Retired schoolteacher Charlie Vandergaw has been going out to his remote cabin in Alaska every summer for the past 20 years to live and interract with the local bear population. It's a controversial visit, since Alaskan state officials -- in an effort to stem the increasing number of bear attacks in the state -- have made it a crime to feed the animals. But Vandergaw, who loves petting and playing with the wild animals, doesn't believe that he's doing anything wrong.

Is it any good?


Aside from the fact that Vandergaw clearly knows how to handle bears, there's not too much to be learned about bears and their behavior from STRANGER AMONG BEARS. And while there are moments of excitement and interest -- such as when some hunters trespass on Vandergaw's land, and he chews them out and then befriends them -- the show is mostly pictures of Vandergaw hanging out with bears.

Ultimately, it's all a tad dull. Not overwhelmingly dull -- just dull enough for a third-grader to get antsy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what they think the show's goal is. Is it to educate viewers about bears? If so, is it successful? If not, what do you think the producers hope viewers take away from watching? Families can also talk about how shows like this are made. Do you think all of the footage is filmed in order? If not, how does editing things change the story, even for reality shows?

TV details

Cast:Charlie Vandergaw
Network:Animal Planet
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-PG

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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