Bear Update – a rant

The picture of the bear in the blog is probably the most commented-on entry. We hadn’t seen the bear for a while during the summer, and thought that perhaps it had moved to higher country to beat the recent heat. But it was back on Friday. We could tell by the crowd of people sneaking through our backyard with their cameras out.Unfortunately, the bear ambled across our backyard and then stopped near our neighbor’s porch. Afraid that our neighbors had accidentally left something on their porch that the bear was getting into, three of us set off to check it out and chase it away.

It’s a tricky business “chasing” a bear. On one hand, the bear lives here, and I believe in leaving wildlife alone, especially big wildlife that can knock you from here ’til Tuesday without a second thought. On the other hand, once a bear learns that houses have garbage and all kinds of yummy food, and that people aren’t really that scary, it starts ripping out windows, threatening people and making a nuisance of itself. They try relocation programs, but most often the bear returns to its old territory. Then, someone shoots the bear.

Sure enough, the bear is next to our neighbor’s porch, getting into their garbage, so we start yelling and throwing pinecones, sticks and rocks. It’s reluctant to give up on its feast, so it moves away hesitantly. We are very close to it, when we realize that there is someone on the porch, a woman and her toddler, watching. We explain that we’re chasing the bear away from the garbage, and the woman says, “Well, it’s only fritos.”

My mouth drops open (how can people who live in bear country be so ignorant?), and someone explains the logical progression from feeding wildlife when YOU want to, to feeding the wildlife when THEY want to, to killing the “problem bear”. A man intervenes, makes some excuses that I don’t really believe, and we turn around and walk back to our house.

Tom thinks I just need to calm down about the whole thing, but it makes me so angry that people can’t be responsible enough to live with wildlife. They are making some progress in Yosemite. Rangers have an agressive education campaign, heavy fines for “improper food storage” (leaving food out or in your car), and I’ve heard that they’ve been shooting bears with rubber bullets (that hurt, but don’t injure the animals) to teach them to fear people again. So, maybe there’s hope for our backyard bear in spite of everything.