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Do what’s best for bears

Dear Editor:

Looking back on 2004, I am particularly ashamed of the way we treated our bears. By no means were they unusually problematic. An examination of newspaper archives shows that they have always been here foraging, with numerous other years when natural food sources were in short supply. It also shows that in no case was there an actual incident of human harm arising from the resulting encounters with them.

Black bears are normally gentle, shy, and tend to avoid encounters with humans. Locals are well aware of this, based on previous experience.

Nonetheless, we made this a miserable year for bears. Every time one was spotted, it was chased, mobbed, photographed, bean-bagged; human stupidity was rampant. Parents were seen pushing their children closer to bears in order to be photographed with them. On several occasions, I listened to bears whimpering in fear, as humans mobbed the trees they were trying to hide in.

With lots built out lot-line to lot-line, and large trees being cut down, bears can no longer move through town unseen. Unaccustomed to seeing bears, newer residents are intimidated, making panicked calls to authorities for no reason.

Used to be that those who were lucky enough to spot a bear would just smile and walk on, perhaps saying, “Didja see that?!”

Now, let’s all try to spread the word and do a little public education, in case we’re lucky enough to have any bears left. Solution? Start a feeding program in the wilderness in bad years, with donations of food and defrayal of its distribution costs. It will not happen without united effort. It was OK to do it when the goal was to bait and kill them.

For those of us who want to assuage the guilt created by these sad happenings, I have a suggestion. Wild Animal Orphanage of the Animal Sanctuary of the United States, in San Antonio, Texas, has rescued 13 bears after 12 years in a research facility in Illinois. This was costly. They also care for hundreds of other animals of many species. They are a nonprofit, depend on volunteers, and keep their overhead to a minimum. You can check the website at wildanimalorphanage.org

A donation to this sanctuary would be appreciated by all the bears and other animals there, as well as the people who are helping them. It is tax-deductible and they even take credit cards. They are at P.O. Box 690422, San Antonio, Texas 78269; telephone (210) 688-9038. They need your help. Happy New Year.

Becca Magill

Aspen


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