One artist's journey: Trying to live a creative life with grace, grit, gratitude...and a border collie.
(or perhaps I should say: greys, grit and gratitude)

18 August 2015

Bearing Hate...Baring Soul

Last night, I came home to a nasty comment on my FB share of a my last blog post about the recent tragic hiker/bear situation (See previous post: Of Men and Bears- Death in Yellowstone).  

The person, who claimed to “know” bears because of her experience (mostly on a couple of guided tours and an occasional trip to Yellowstone), said “I don’t buy this” and went on to berate me because of her “love” for bears.  The funny part was that it was pretty obvious this person had not even read the blog (or, if she did, completely missed the post's message).  So allow me to elaborate a bit…

First off, I LIVE in bear country.  At my current home, I regularly chase black bears out of my yard and encounter them on hikes and horse rides.  This time of year, I have to step out and check the area for bears before letting my dog outside…especially at night.  This is grizzly country, too…I haven’t seen one in the yard but I know they roam the hills near my house.  That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way, I love living here, in part, BECAUSE of the wildlife…but I also understand that my behavior effects the wildlife that I love.

Additionally, I have lived on the edge of Yellowstone for 14 years (and visited regularly for a decade before that).  For most of the time I’ve lived here, I’d spend days or weeks at a time living in the park observing, painting and photographing wildlife…grizzlies, in particular.  Like many of the photographers and researchers who spent extensive time with these animals, I have a deep affection and respect for them.  I have spent over a decade observing the very bear that supposedly was just killed.  Anyone who thinks that situation did not break my heart is delusional.  

People are up in arms (some are even making death threats) over the Park’s decision to kill one bear that killed and fed upon a hiker…but why don’t we talk about the large numbers of bears (and other wildlife) killed by speeding cars?   Why don’t we talk about the visitors and residents (in and outside the parks) that do not store food properly…or worse, actually feed the wildlife?  How many bears do you think have been killed because they became habituated or fed either inside or outside of the parks?  Not to mention the “game” animals that are illegally baited out of the park to be killed by hunters…grizzlies killed by hunters who felt threatened when a bear approached the gut pile they left.  
More often than you can imagine, the Park Service is put in the unfortunate position of having to kill bears because of bad behavior on the part of park visitors.  I do not envy them having to make a decision about this much-loved bear and her cubs.  In trying to do what, in their opinion, is best for all concerned they have been inundated with calls, threats, hate mail and virulent abuse.  Why would anyone respond in a positive manner to that?  Their job, is to look out for the wildlife AND the people.  The problem is that, increasingly, it is the sheer numbers of people who are causing most of the problems.  They cannot euthanize the people who behave dangerously, though.  

Over my years in the park, I have witnessed some grossly inappropriate human behavior, some frightening ignorance…and occasionally, outright stupidity.  We have all had moments when we could have acted better and decisions we wish we would (or could) have made differently.  Berating people, name calling and threats do NO good at any level.  You do not have to agree with someone to be kind to them.  People make mistakes, bad judgement calls, are at times ignorant (NOT the same as stupid) and sometimes find themselves in impossible situations….it is our nature.  

Do I think the hiker could have made a better choice?  Possibly (I wasn’t there and I don’t know what he was thinking).  What is done is done though and, sadly, he paid the ultimate price.  I do know that it does not help the bear or the situation to cruelly attack him post-humously in a manner that only adds pain to those who loved him.

Do I wish the Park Service could had made a different decision?  Of course I do!  Unfortunately, they have far more to consider more than a bear.  I have to trust that most of these people are doing their job the best they know how, they aren’t perfect…and I certainly would not want to be in their place.  It does no good to attack, berate and threaten them…if anything it hurts your cause.  

Would the bear have killed again?  Will the park be “safer” without her?  Who knows?  We will NEVER know.  

What I do know is that acrimonious rants and vitriolic attacks do not fix anything.  Be kind to one another.