In Sept 2021 Wild Bear Lodge ran its first week-long wilderness skill-sharing programme in the remote heart of British Columbia’s Inland Temperate Rainforest bringing together experienced Canadian nature guides and British and Canadian military veterans recovering from serious physical or mental wounds or injuries.
A joint endeavour between Wild Bear Lodge and the Invictus Games, the aims of Wild Bear Vets 2021 were two-fold.
It offered a platform for the veterans taking part to pass on skills they learned in the military – both hard skills such as outdoor survival, off-road vehicle handling and observation, as well as soft skills such as team work, building resilience and group conflict mitigation – to the guides of Wild Bear Lodge.
But it also served to broaden the veterans’ knowledge base as they learned new skills from the guides at Wild Bear Lodge which included animal tracking, flora and fauna identification, discussions of prey and predator behaviour and wildlife observation.
The ethos that underpinned the endeavour was to promote the veterans’ own transitions into successful post-injury civilian lives while, at the same time, passing on some of their hard-earned skills to guides who live and work in the Canadian wilderness.
The programme underlined the importance of nature conservation and the vital role that the world’s wild places play, not only as incubators of biodiversity and mitigators of climate change, but as sources of inspiration, places to recreate, and for their recuperative value.
Julius Strauss, the owner of Wild Bear Lodge who conceived the endeavour and co-led it, is a former war correspondent who overcame PTSD with the help of the wilderness.
The team leader of the veterans was Joe Humphrey, a former British Royal Marine, who was wounded in Helmand, southern Afghanistan, and now works as an outdoor and wilderness guide in the UK and Europe.
The expedition was funded in part by Wild Bear Lodge, and in part by the Invictus Games Foundation.