It’s just this simple: Leave the bears alone, please! |

It’s just this simple: Leave the bears alone, please!

There have been a number of meetings between bears and humans in recent months that have boggled the minds of wildlife officials and sensible observers.

People seem to be unable to get it into their heads that wild animals are not toys, that Aspen is not a big petting zoo with tame or domesticated beasts that are there to be mauled by small children and insensitive adults.

This point was brought home this week when a group of eager shutterbugs spotted a sow black bear and her two cubs roosting in a tree in Aspen’s historic West End neighborhood.

Rather than simply remark upon their luck in being able to witness such a sight, then move on with their lives, a group of gawkers gathered around the tree in an attempt to take pictures of the momma and her offspring.

According to a police officer called to the scene, the group aroused the curiosity of the cubs, who came down to see what all the noise was about. When the humans started chasing the cubs around, probably hoping to pet one, momma started getting a little excited on her own. And an excited momma bear, worried about her cubs, is not something to be trifled with.

Luckily, police were finally able to convince this crowd of fools that they were endangering not only themselves and the police who were there to help them, but the animals as well, and the people agreed to disperse. Although an officer reported that even after most people had seen the error of their ways and moved off, one insensitive man elected to walk right up to the sow and poke his camera in her face.

We human occupiers of this valley need to learn that we have responsibilities that go along with living in the high country, close to nature and far from the maddening crowd of urban America.

When we see bears, or any representatives of the wild species that were here long before we arrived, we should acknowledge their existence with nothing more than a smile, perhaps take a quick photo from a discreet distance and then go our own way.

We have already disturbed the lives and life cycles of these creatures enough. Why is it that some of us feel a compulsion to further force our insensitivity on them, to frighten them and harass them as though the only reason they are here is to satisfy our inner need to act like giddy children?

Until we realize that nature is not our toy or our tool, but a neighbor that must be treated with respect and understanding, we will continue to be stuck in the role of despoiler. We must leave the bears alone when we see them and let them carry on their lives in peace.

We know our readers may not be the guilty parties in these incidents, so we ask that you all pass the word along to any visitors who seem not to realize the necessity of leaving the bears alone – for everyone’s well-being.

Unfortunately, this principle must also be applied to the well-meaning but misguided effort to mount some kind of feeding program for our local bear population. The bears don’t have enough food to sustain them, thanks to a late spring frost and a dry summer that has depleted the stocks of berries and nuts in the high country.

Some locals, saddened by the likely outcome that many cubs and yearlings will starve in their dens this winter, believe it is our duty to dump food in the backcountry where the bears can find it.

The problem is that, even if we could somehow manage to provide them with enough food to do any good (a questionable concept), this would only make matters worse. Bears, already habituated to humans and used to raiding our garbage for their sustenance, would only become more dependent on us. Their life cycles would suffer from our interference.

Like it or not, the death of any number of bears this winter is part of nature’s way of keeping things in balance. We live in a high-alpine desert, and experts think that the bear population may be a little larger than it should be. If a correction is needed, who are we to stand in nature’s way?

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