Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lunch with Badge Man

Two pictures from a hike this morning. No bears are visible.

Last summer, when I was out in Colorado, I explained how a bear becomes a bad bear. A bear that digs through trash, lumbers too close to humans, or ignores the ample "Bear left" road signs and ambles into traffic, or otherwise seems just a bit too unafraid of our species, gets sedated and dragged to the middle of nowhere, with an ear tag as a souvenir. The second time, the bear earns another ear tag. The third - well, bears have only two ears, and not nine lives, and certainly no lawyers. So the third time a bear gets too chummy, they make damn sure it is his last.

Sadly, the injustices against the ursine community were fur-ther laid bear during a recent lunch with Uncle Junior, the local sheriff. I should preface our exchange with background information about a local who was an animal lover. She loved the local animals. Like our beloved old next door neighbor, Helen, she loved to feed the crows. Like many residents, including us, she had a hummingbird feeder. Like many people, she loved to feed other birds. Like some people, she also loved to feed the chipmunks. Oh, and also, she loved to feed the bears.

You think you know where this is going, don't you? You think that lady has to be nuts, and there's something berry fishy in that bear diet coming up: her. You think our local black bears are just wild animals, and would maul her the moment her picnic basket ran dry. You think I'd be amused by such black humor, by the pandamonium that any tail of feeding a bear must en-tail. You think I'm the kind of person who would not even paws before mocking a whole polar system just to try to paint a kodiak moment or write a witty claws.

But you don't know me. You don't know where my story is going. Yes, she really did feed the bears. A lot. And no, they were not mindless savages. She had many bear friends. Local bears knew her and would visit her regularly to be fed. Routinely, bears would go to her home and eat from her and leave peacefully. So there.

One year, the local ranger visited her home. He dropped a bombshell: feeding bears is a bad idea. And there was more: she should stop! She kindly thanked the ranger, but continued feeding the bears.

You think the story gets grizzly, but don't pooh-pooh it yet. She remained ungashed for another year. Not the least boo boo. Bears grew up and told their honeys about her, and the excited bears and their hyper mates beelined to her home. He kindness would in-cub-ate another generation of baby bears, whatever they are called. End of story. So there.


Oh, so anyway, back to that other story. "Hey Junior," I said.


"Heard you were first on the scene at that bear eating."

"Oh, yeah. That was last year."

"Luck finally ran out, huh?"


"And it was a full-fledged eating? Not a biting, or mauling, or even eviscerating?"


"So that's like instant three tags, right? They hunt that bear down immediately?"

"Yeah. Well, I did."

"You shot the offending bear?"

"Yeah. We had to get three of them."

"Three bears ate her?"

"No, but it takes a while for Animal Conttol to verify the right bear. And until then, there may be a dangerous animal out there."

This seemed quite reasonable to me. I mean, I think the safety of humans should indeed be prioritized way, way over bears'. But others may disagree, and hence we have the tale immediately following this casual exchange.

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