November 1, 2007
I am very sad to read of the taking of yet another life in this warfare against our gentle neighbors, the bears, whose only sin is that they have nothing to eat and are starving. Isn’t it natural that when they find an unsecured entry into a place where they can smell food, they will take advantage? Wouldn’t we do the same if we were starving?
The article in The Aspen Times of Oct. 30 (“DOW kills bear that attacked woman”) talks of the “bear that attacked … an Aspen woman.” There was no attack! What actually happened, as I understand it, is that the woman surprised the bear in her kitchen in the middle of the night and the bear, desperate to escape, clawed at the obstacle in his way. It was not an attack, and I believe even Judith Garrison, the injured woman, says so herself.
Randy Hampton, spokesperson for the Division of Wildlife in this area, is quoted as talking of “this bear’s aggressive behavior.” What is aggressive about a starving bear entering an unsecured entrance to get some food, and then trying to escape when he hears someone coming?
Hampton speaks of the bears as predators. The dictionary defines a predator as “a carnivorous animal that hunts, kills and eats other animals in order to survive,” whereas bears are described as “omnivorous mammals” that are 90 percent vegetarian. Hampton says that “these powerful predators can become dangerous when lured to developed areas by human food sources.” As long as we humans ignore the fact that these creatures’ natural food supply is nonexistent this year and they are starving as a result, the bears are going to continue to try to find food wherever they can find it in order to survive. Isn’t that what we would do?
Hampton continues: “in the past some bears … have become very habituated to human-sourced foods [and] have stayed out all winter long.” He seems to imply that bears are choosing not to hibernate because they are having such a good time eating human food. The truth is that bears cannot hibernate if they haven’t had enough to eat and been able to store enough fat ” and that is why some of them stay up all winter.
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The Division of Wildlife says that the killing of these bears “is the law,” and they have no choice to do otherwise. I have not been able to find a rule or regulation on their website that states as much, and I question this statement. Is it a legislated rule or regulation, or simply a matter of expediency?
Emblazoned on the side of a bear trap, I read the Division of Wildlife’s motto: “For the protection and preservation of wildlife.” In other places in the world, we hear about and are moved by efforts to save the local wildlife ” chimpanzees, gorillas, etc., also powerful animals, but in Colorado we choose to kill our wildlife instead. How sad, for them and for what we have become.