Friday, July 30, 2010
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.