Friday, July 30, 2010

Bears Will Be Bears

Early Wednesday morning, a mother grizzly bear with three cubs attacked a sleeping camper at a campground near Yellowstone National Park, dragged him 25 feet from his tent and mauled him to death. The bears then attacked campers in two other tents, injuring but not killing them. Wildlife officials said the attacks were surprising because none of the campers had any food inside their tents.

The sow was euthanized today after DNA testing proved that she was the bear who had attacked the campers. An autopsy will be performed to determine if there was a medical reason for her unusual actions as bears normally do not commit unprovoked attacks on humans. The fate of her cubs has not yet been decided, but some fear that their mother has taught them predatory behaviors. Grizzly bear mothers spend up to 3½ years showing their cubs where and how to obtain food. They are highly intelligent animals whose ability to form mental maps and remember locations may exceed that of humans. The lives of these cubs may be spared if a zoo will accept them because they are very young.

While I feel terrible for the loss of life in this incident, the fact remains that we humans are encroaching on territory which has always belonged to other animals. And as we develop more and more of those lands, we leave them with less and less area in which to find their food and to live comfortably.

I have always cringed at the arrogance that places us at the pinnacle of Creation with the implicit entitlement to control and destroy all other creatures as we please. Animal species including ours are interdependent to an extent which our "modern" culture has largely forgotten; what hurts non-human animals ultimately hurts us, too. All creatures play a role upon which all other creatures depend, whether or not we are aware of it.

I think that these particular bears must have been desperate for food to attack humans because bears are predominantly vegetarian. Executing them is just another attempt to reassure ourselves that we are still in control, despite all evidence to the contrary. Sometimes I think that like Pooh, we are Bears of Very Little Brain.


Amy said...

I so agree with you - it isn't the animal's inherent nature to "attack" unless they're threatened (ie cornered or their young are in danger). That certainly is a beautiful photo of a mama and cub.

We can live together if we exercise common sense and are reasonable - but then there are always exceptions?

Molly said...

Hear, hear! Just today we were disgusted to hear that there is a hunt on for a wily, ten foot gator who has a taste for yappy little dogs allowed to run around, leashless, and unsupervised, by their people. Seems to me [and I'm no fan of gators!] they were here first. Pretty arrogant of us to say which species should live and which should die. I have yet to hear of a gator, or grizzly, who abuses their own young or their mate. And yet, instead of lining up child molesters and wife beaters and shooting them forthwith, we defend them.....I think we should send them camping and let the grizzlies get them!

Maria said...

I find this very interesting. I wonder what caused them to attack?

nick said...

At the end of the day, it was just very bad luck. The campers assumed they were safe but the bears for whatever reason went on the attack. As you say, wherever humans live alongside non-human animals with their own needs and behaviour, there is always that risk. Humans in general are an incredibly arrogant species when it comes to respecting the rest of the planet's inhabitants.

The Good Cook said...

There really are no winners in this story are there? One camper dead, two others seriously hurt, mama bear killed and cubs will either be killed or spend their life in captivity. Sad story all around.


Sad stories will continue until we learn to back off and out of the areas that belong to the larger and wilder animals.

It's not like we don't have enough area to 'camp in' (we can do that in the back-yard safely fenced in with nothing but a hoot-owl to scare us).

You can't expect to shove nature and her creations around. Mom-Nature made each 'creature' with certain intelligence; instinct, adaptive genes, but only up to a point.

Then again, I'm reminded of a woman who just shot her daughter this week; a man who wiped out his family of last week, and if man is capable of murdering its own species, I guess it thinks little of eliminating anything else that gets in his way.

Jo said...

There have been several instances of unprovoked bear attacks recently, including by both Grizzlies and Black bears. In almost all cases, the victims were asleep in their tents. And a few days ago Jack Hanna, the famous zoologist, was attacked by a bear in Montana. Hanna had to use pepper spray to chase the bear away.

Maybe it is possible that wild animals are not afraid of humans anymore, and rather are getting fed up with us encroaching on their territory. The wild animals recognize us as the intruders. I don't blame them.

And then you get idiots like Sarah Palin who shoots wolves from airplanes. Wolves are magnificent animals, but as long as humans don't respect the other creates with which we share this earth, we can expect some retaliation.

Jo said...

I meant creatures ... but you knew that. :-)

secret agent woman said...

It grieved me to hear this story, both for the bears and the humans. We have left so little for the wild, what are we expecting. And yet, if it were someone I knew who was hurt, I don't know how I'd feel.

Just to let you know, I've had to change my blog's URL. This avatar links to the new site.

mischief said...

“Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the Forest that was left out by mistake.”

- Winnie the Pooh

heartinsanfrancisco said...


We infringe on their habitat and then are outraged and vindictive when they act like the animals they are. There really need to be human-free zones.


Abusing ones own kind is mostly in the province of our species, for we are incredibly special.

I love your suggestion about child molesters and wife beaters. Maybe the large, hungry alligator needs to expand his palate.


Animal behavior is always interesting. I wonder, too.


As the saying goes, "if you swim with sharks..." Those people knew they were in bear country, which doesn't make what happened less tragic, but also fairly predictable.

Good Cook,

It's sad indeed when the best alternative for orphaned cubs is life in captivity. Loss of life is especially heartbreaking when it wasn't necessary.


I agree with you. If we are capable of murdering our own species, even our own family members, why would we quibble at slaughtering wild animals? Violence, like charity, begins at home. Until we learn respect for each other and ourselves, we will continue to have difficulty living in the world with other creatures.


It's both arrogant and stupid to expect non-human animals to act like humans, and especially to defer to our obvious superiority (in our own eyes.) The very traits that make a bear a very good bear would make him a bad human, but until we stop judging animals by standards which do not apply, we will have incidents like this one.


For a long time, I've just had your url bookmarked because you didn't want it on blogrolls, but I've seen it on several others so I added it the other day to mine. (I wasn't visiting you as often as I like because it's easier to click on one which is on the blogroll.) I'll change it again but would like to know if it's ok to display it.


“If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

Winnie the Pooh

Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brown said...

Very eloquently expressed. I wholeheartedly agree. Although I am generally inclined to rejoice when animals attack humans on account of our illusory superiority, or our ill-conceived mistreatment of them, I am quickly reminded that such a retaliation almost always ends in the termination of a perfectly normal animal. Tis a shame...

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Yes, we sometimes need to curb our enthusiasm and consider the big picture.

Here in California, they regularly send out posses to kill mountain lions who are clearly confused when developers build housing in their territory. Even when the animals haven't threatened anyone. It's always the non-humans who pay the price of "progress."

Ian Lidster said...

Bears do what bears gotta do. So, why do we feel compelled to 'execute' them? They've committed no crime. Are we trying to set an example for other loutish bears that might be hanging around? It's sad and I see no real resolution.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Just another desperate attempt to control the natural world, and like most such attempts, doomed to failure. But the human ego is great, and all the other animals pay for it.

Together We Save said...

So sad... animals must have room to live.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


They are literally being pushed off the planet. It's so very sad.

Thank you for your visit.

Anonymous said...

Our family has spent quite a bit of time in Glacier Park, where Grizzlies are relatively frequent companions to the human visitors. I have been shocked to see people out of their cars, a mere few hundred feet away from the bears, taking photos from tripods. Then we blame the bears when these bozos are attacked. Culling the herd, I believe it is called. Sounds harsh, but really......
It is also my understanding that you don't need to have actual food in a tent to draw the bears, but even the smell of food which has been in the tent, and perhaps the smell of food on clothing, sleeping bags, etc from past contact with food can be smelled by the bears. Their food gathering abilities are necessary for their survival, and we don't appreciate those skills at our peril.

This is my first visit to your site. I plan to return. Can't post comments on blogger sites except as anonymous, I am on a wordpress blog.


heartinsanfrancisco said...


It's so nice to "meet" you - thank you for coming by.

I grow more incensed all the time that animals are blamed for being animals, and punished for human stupidity. The concept that humans are intruding on them seems like sacrilege to most people, and the logical conclusion of such folly is that soon there won't be any animals in the world but those in zoos. We have blundered tragically, and there needs to be a widespread change of heart to set things right.

Mercurious said...

I believe I heard a followup to this story that indicates a photographer was baiting the bears in order to film them, which may explain a lot here.

A short while ago, I was heartened to hear about the wildllife policy in Denali National Park in Alaska, where if a human is attacked, the park management reaction is to then ban humans from the area for awhile so that the behavior can't become ingrained. The wildlife takes precedence, generally, which is possible because Denali is a huge territory.

Probably not possible in the lower 48, where there are simply too many people in relatively small parks, but wouldn't it be nice if that was the usual approach?

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I hadn't heard that. How awful! There should be severe penalties for photographers who exploit animals and are really responsible for the subsequent deaths of both people, and then the animals in retribution.

The policy in Denali is a model which all parks should follow. As for there being too many people in the lower 48 to implement it, I think that is even more reason to do so.

Angela said...

Have you heard the "rest of the story"? A wildlife photographer had actually put food out near the campground in order to attract the bears for pictures. I haven't heard if they charged him with anything, but I'm going to check.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


I hadn't heard that, but will Google it for details. It's perfectly unconscionable that this person caused death, both human and animal, out of selfishness. You would think a wildlife photographer would know better. How awful!