Opinion

Hey Yellowstone, Spare The Bears

Derek Hunter Contributor

It might not be a popular opinion to take the side of bears accused of killing a man, but it’s mine. A female grizzly bear and her two cubs stand accused of killing hiker Lance Crosby, 63 from Montana, and are awaiting DNA results to see if they were, in fact, the bears that killed him. If they are, the National Parks Service is going to “euthanize” them, a polite way of saying they’re going to kill them.

On this issue, I am firmly on “Team Bears.”

Just like the early summer hysteria over shark attacks, being mauled to death by a bear is a remote possibility when you wander into where bears live. If the bears were breaking into people’s houses and mauling them in their sleep, I’d have a different opinion. But they aren’t. People are wandering into where they live and, every once in a while, someone gets killed because of it.

The price of swimming in the ocean is the remote possibility of being eaten by something that mistakes you for a fish. We all know this, and it’s a deal tens of millions of us willingly make every year without incident. Walking into the woods where bears live requires us to make the same deal, and many do. Crosby did, and he lost. Such is life.

The National Parks Service issues the following statement after the death of Mr. Crosby on their euthanasia policy:

“The decision to euthanize a bear is one that we do not take lightly. As park managers, we are constantly working to strike a balance between the preservation of park resources and the safety of our park visitors and employees,” said Dan Wenk, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. “Our decision is based on the totality of the circumstances in this unfortunate event. Yellowstone has had a grizzly bear management program since 1983. The primary goals of this program are to minimize bear-human interactions, prevent human-caused displacement of bears from prime food sources, and to decrease the risk of bear-caused human injuries.”

Well, if you want to prevent all “bear-caused human injuries” stop people from wandering around in the woods in one of the last areas of the country where grizzly bears live. Since that’s unlikely, make everyone who chooses to do so aware of the possibility of a bear attack.

The NPS already does that with signs all around Yellowstone, which begs the question, “If people are aware of the risk, and assume that risk, why should the animal have to pay any price for it not working out for the person?”

The obvious answer is they shouldn’t. Bears, wolves, snakes, and pretty much anything else in nature that can (and will, if necessary) kill you are wild animals. And, shock of all shocks, wild animals are…wait for it…wild. They act on instinct.

No one knows what the exact circumstances of Crosby’s death were, but it’s doubtful the bears stalked him, biding their time, and eventually ambushed him when they saw their opening. It’s much more likely that he wandered onto them, startled them, and the mother attacked him to protect her cubs.

That’s what animals in the wild do, they instinctively protect their progeny. Given the news of late, how much better would it be if we humans had a little bit more of that old instinct in us rather than the “blame everyone else” mentality of too many absentee or just plain awful parents?

Bears are bears, and everyone knows what bears “do” in the woods. If people choose to wander into where they do their business, where they live, they assume the consequences.

These bears aren’t going to “develop a taste for humans” or even a curiosity, or they would have already. Besides, with all the crap we eat, there is no way we’re delicious.

Spare the bears, National Parks Service. Tag them and let them go back to whatever else it is bears do in the woods. If they’re involved in another attack, then you can make a strong case against them. Unless and until that happens, the responsibility, as cruel as this sounds, rests fully on those who freely enter their domain under the assumption that having a thumb means we can be observers of the wild, not participants in it. Nature, clearly, disagrees.

If you are “team bear,” please consider encouraging others to read it by sharing this on your Facebook page, and you can sign this petition to spare the Yellowstone bears.