SMALL TALK WITH GAIL MARSHALL
Photo: Stephen Collector
While living in the mountain town of Breckenridge, Colo., Gail Marshall, MBA’92, has held many jobs—marketer, saleswoman, financial consultant, author. In a region dominated by the hospitality industry, “you take what comes along,” she says. One constant for Marshall, however, has been a love of animals. This affection led Marshall to grow the state’s Bear Aware program, which teaches Colorado residents how to live with their furry neighbors and has saved the lives of countless American black bears.
Where does your love of animals come from? I’ve loved them since I was a kid. When my mom brought me home from the hospital, she put me on the floor and let our dog lick me from head to toe. It kind of stuck.
How did you become involved with Bear Aware? After reading an article about recent bear and human conflicts, I called the Department of Parks and Wildlife to find out how I could help. They had just started this new program. In the beginning, it was pretty basic. I hung up signs in troubled neighborhoods. Then in 2002, there was a terrible drought, and the bears were getting into a lot of trouble, breaking into homes. So I recruited help, and things started to take off. People asked me to come speak at different events. I started recording public service announcements. I’d go to schools, the library. It sort of continued on.
Bears break into houses? Bears break into houses. For bears, going after human food is a very easy way to get nutrition. In the summer, bears need about 2,000 calories a day. When they go into hyperphagia, which is the stage before hibernation, they need to consume 20,000 calories per day. If you sit down and look at a box of pizza and the calories, you will see why they go for this food.
Who is in the bear suit? That’s my husband, Jack. I do a Bear Aware float every year in Summit County’s July 4th parade. He wears the suit. As a joke, I added it to our wedding vows.
Do you have a favorite animal? No, it changes. I went through a goose phase. When I was an undergraduate, I rented an in-law suite in a house with teenage sons. One was raising chickens and geese, and he gave me one of his geese. I ended up falling in love with the geese.
Best advice? Oh, I’ve gotten so much advice. Don’t take life too seriously. As far as business advice, the chief of staff at an animal hospital where I worked said always think of succession. What is the next step? Use the past as a guide, but move forward. —Donna Coco