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Spokesman for the bears, Reno Sommerhalder, is back in Switzerland

He could have been a professional soccer player wearing sport shoes on the field – more than twenty five years later he enters the stage barefoot.

“I am always lost wherever I am”, said Reno to me when we first met before the show at the Kaufleuten on Tuesday night.

Flyer Sommerhalder book copyright vivamos

Flyer Sommerhalder book copyright vivamos

On the stage Reno did not appear to be lost at all. He entered with self-confidence and led the evening with great ease in front of a sold out room of an educated older crowd.

Why did he leave the wilderness and quiet town of Banff to return to the most populated place in Switzerland? Definitely not because Reno is tired of the peace and the magical landscape he found when he first moved from Kloten (ZH) to Canada in 1986.

Well, Reno Sommerhalder arrives from the Canadian Rockies at the end of December to talk about what he knows the best, the bear.  Since Tuesday January 10th he is touring the German part of Switzerland. It started here in Zurich and will end on March 10th in Bern at the Hotel Jardin.

He had a busy day before we talked doing some filming and interviews. When I arrived he was arranging loads of books on a table, which he would sign at people’s demand before and during the break.

Reno Sommerhalder signing books at Kaufleuten in Zurich

Reno Sommerhalder signing books at Kaufleuten in Zurich


His new book “Ungezähmt” (Untamed), just came out in October 2011 published by Wörterseh Verlag. Written by a ghostwriter, more precisely his brother Jürg Sommerhalder, it is 190 pages about his life until now going back and forth with his time spent in the Russian peninsula of Kamchatka working with bear expert, Charlie Russell and raising five abandoned bears.

I had to buy his book to know more about the man and life of the one who had captivated my attention in the first minutes of our chat.

I started wondering, why Reno really needed a ghostwriter when he can transport you so quickly into the place he describes so beautifully. When he begun talking to me about one of his first encounters with a grizzly bear in Alaska, I could picture the river where he was and imagine the bear catching and eating his salmon, his paws in the frozen water.

The same night I begun reading “Ungezähmt” and could not put it down.

It is now only published in German and I hope it will one day be translated into English. Reno said it will be probably not as it would have to be rewritten to fit with the interest of the American/Canadian population. Just writing another book is not Reno’s main concern. The shelves in bookstores are already crowded with books, he adds and “what I want is to make a difference.”


Bears taken during one of Sommerhalder tours - copyright Reno Sommerhalder

Bears taken during one of Sommerhalder tours – copyright Reno Sommerhalder


He wants to teach people how to live with bears and make a better life for them.

During the two hour multimedia show with a 15 minute break, Reno Sommerhalder comments on what videos and pictures are playing on the large screen. Most of the time there is music to accompany, Country, Russian or  just sounds. Of course he tells about his first encounter with a bear in a tent. He was naive to have left food around. And he talks about his search for Sky, the female cub he had raised in 2004.

He also reads passages of his book with a light foreign accent, reminding us Reno has spent a long time a way from his native Switzerland!

One does not get bored watching the bears play in the water or slide down the icy tundra in Kamchatka. From time to time you see Reno smile with the public.

But Reno knows how to be serious when it is important.

People have to remember bears are not Teddy Bears and could charge at you if they are  surprised.

If you are found of bears, nature or want to try something different this year, he offers guiding tours in 2012 in Finland, Kamchatka, Alaska and Canada.

In Canada in September he will bring you to memorable places like the Matterhorn in Switzerland, with grizzly bears as a bonus, he adds laughing!

Reno will be back in Zurich for more shows on February 4th, 8th & 9th at the Volkhaus. To reserve seats visit the website of Olalei here. For guided tours contact Reno.



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