Bear country’s futile battles | AspenTimes.com

Bear country’s futile battles

Tony Vagneur
Aspen, CO Colorado

If you habitually check the small stories deep within the paper, you would have seen that a man in Alaska killed a grizzly bear last week when he came home and found one of his domestic pigs in the bear’s mouth. Apparently the bear was a pseudo-gourmet, for he had selectively passed on the pasty-pallored and stringy-muscled man of the North, preferring instead a little fresh, cloven-hoofed pork. And I always thought old Grizz was a nondiscriminating beast when it came to his diet. At least that’s how I imagine his breath to smell. But in the sense of net worth to our natural world, I wonder whose life is more meritorious, the pig’s or the grizzly’s.

Just recently, The Aspen Times front page proclaimed that a man in Lazy Glen took it upon himself to kill a yearling black bear, no doubt because he feared the tiny little runt might morph into a pig-killing grizzly and inflict no end of havoc upon the man and his neighbors. If you’ve ever seen a young bear of the type killed in Lazy Glen, it would put you more in the mind of a juvenile dog than a fear-inducing bear, but then, it’s all in the eye of the beholder, at least according to the DOW.

We do some stupid things when we start believing we somehow have the right to pronounce a death sentence on other living creatures, but seldom do we look back, and seldom do we ever learn the lesson that such nonsense might teach us. Like addicts (and I’ve been one), there are any number of rationalizations that make it okay in our minds to become judge, jury and executioner over animals in our realm.

The sad part, I suppose, is that most people who kill other living, wild creatures (out of hunting season) is that these are usually the same people who fancy themselves to be modern-day Daniel Boones, sorry excuses for true men of the West. Somehow, a static-riddled synapse makes the connection between masculinity, freedom, the smell of gun powder, death, and heroes. I understand it ” have even been there in my youth ” but have come to realize the folly of such aberrational thinking.

People who have fearful, knee-jerk reactions to bears and other wildlife remind me of Bernard Goetz, the milquetoast-appearing, slight-of-frame, glasses-wearing New Yorker who shot four young black dudes on the subway simply because he had a gun and was afraid those bad black guys were thinking about attacking him. Good thing he didn’t go to the zoo that day or he might have wreaked havoc with the polar bear exhibition.

Three or four years ago, my uncle Victor found a bear in his kitchen, sitting in front of the fridge, helping himself to anything he pleased. Vic called the cops and while he waited for their arrival, the bruin apparently sated his appetite and sauntered out of the house on his own. Hearing the story, I berated Uncle Vic for calling the law, reminding him that habitual “bear” offenders are given a death sentence. Vic’s reply seemed to make a lot of sense: “A.J. (what he always calls me), when you find a bear in your kitchen, you can handle it any way you want.”

The above-mentioned assassins of the ursine species might say the same thing as my uncle, but somewhere I doubt they have really given it much thought, other than in visions of their place in a macho world. Vic had a couple of high-powered rifles in his gun cabinet that day, more than capable of bringing down the intruder, but being a man of the West with integrity, he chose not to use them.


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