The Legend of El Patron

Book Review by Barb  Laine

This is a charming, entertaining, and educational little book, written by RMOWP member Virginia Parker Staat. It brought both tears and chuckles – what more can a reader ask? Although written for children eight to 14, it’s a lovely story for all ages. It’s also a true story, and includes delightful illustrations by Andy Ramon.

El Patron, or “The Boss” as translated, is a feisty fellow, wild and free. But he’s also starving, and annoyed when finally captured. In describing his plight, Virginia relates how wildlife researcher Bonnie McKinney managed to save this renegade bear from certain death after he destroyed several cabins and trailers in his quest for nourishment. 

Of course it wasn’t easy. Bonnie kept setting traps and El Patron kept tripping them and stealing the food without getting caught. But Bonnie persevered and eventually captured him, recorded his data, fitted him with a radio collar, and released him into the wild. Unfortunately he continued his wayward ways and had to be captured again. To commute his death sentence, Bonnie found him a home at Living Desert State Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico. El Patron’s determination to be free brought more tribulations, but the equal determination of the people of Carlsbad to provide for him is the crowning touch to the story.

Along the way Virginia gives us many nuggets of “Bear Facts,” exploring the unusual natural return of black bears to West Texas, how wildlife research teams deal with bears including the use of radio telemetry, how bears prepare for the long – or not so long in West Texas – winter, and the all-important warning that we humans can help the bears and in fact all wildlife by keeping our areas free of edible refuse and storing foodstuffs for ourselves and our domesticated animals securely.

We in New Mexico love our bear tales, beginning with Smokey Bear in 1950, and I thank Virginia for adding The Legend of El Patron to our bear lore.

The book is available at