Who Bears the Blame?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Recently, an 11 year old boy was killed by a black bear while he and his family were camping in Utah. The bear apparently dragged the boy from his tent while he slept. According to reports from CBS, park officials have killed a black bear in the area that they assume is the one responsible for the attack. I feel terrible for this boy's family and it is a tragedy but honestly, this really burns my ass.

To start with, these people are camping in a wilderness area. It's not like they're setting up tent in the middle of a city park. What do we expect wild animals to do when we encroach on their spaces, leaving them no where to live, limiting their usual predatory areas, and cutting off access to their food supplies? If you don't want to risk getting eaten by the local wildlife, don't sleep in the great outdoors where there are SIGNS POSTED saying that the area you've chosen is known to have bears! Why should this bear be killed because of our actions? Yes, it attacked and killed a young child. That's horrific and my heart goes out to his family. But the bear wouldn't have ventured into a populated area if we weren't so hell bent on having these sorts of "recreational areas" so we can feel as though we're roughing it.
There are stories like this all the time. We hear a lot of them in Alberta due to the proximity of the mountains, especially the uber-popular national parks (Banff and Jasper) which attract thousands of tourists every year (winter and summer). Each time something similar happens, we whip out our guns and hunting dogs and have us a good ole murder fest. We're invading their space. If you're going to risk camping or hiking in the backcountry or even a national park campground, you have to assume the risk of encountering wildlife. Take note of the signs posted - they're there for a good reason. Follow the rules, especially when it comes to the storage/disposal of food.

The way things are going, I'm surprised someone doesn't simply suggest we have a massive bear hunt (Alberta has an annual bear hunt but please do NOT ask me about it) and wipe all the bears, cougars, and mountain lions out completely so we no longer have to worry about them ruining our good times while we go camping in their back yard. Oh, and while we're at it, we might as well get rid of all the elk, moose, and deer which come into the Jasper townsite and because none of us pay attention to the warnings, charge at the tourists who approach them during rutting season. God, people are stupid. Some days I'd rather take my chances with the bears than have to deal with yet another rural hick with a gun.


Wandering Coyote said...

I am totally with you on this one. I live in bear country and it doesn't take much to be smart about this. I wonder if these people had left a bear attractant out...garbage, food, or something smelly. When people are lax or oblivious, the wildlife always suffers, and it isn't right. And of course, people are going to see that CBS article and vilify the bear, only causing fear and paranoia, when all you really need is respect and smarts.

SME said...

Gawd, I don't know whether to be more angry or sad. It's pathetic that people know so little about the world around them that even big yellow warning signs don't make any impact. I don't do any backcountry camping, and I'm still scrupulous about not interfering with bears' territory in any way.

Red said...

Hallelujah, sister, I totally agree.

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