November 3, 2007
The Denver Post ran an article stating that the numbers of wildlife watchers were way up; unfortunately, none of the watchers seem to care enough to help the wildlife they like to watch.This summer, bear-watching has been popular in the Aspen area. So popular that the Division of Wildlife (DOW)has declared the very presence of bears in town to be dangerous, necessitating their destruction.The best example of this was the very small mother bear with two tiny cubs that were spotted eating crabapples. They were very guilty of being eminently watchable, drawing large crowds for several days in a row. So many watchers showed up on the main Aspen mall that DOW decided to knock them out of their tree, drug the mother, tag her (a first strike, meaning death the next time she unwittingly drew attention), haul her away from the only home she had ever known where she carefully tended her children and radio-collar her, all for NO infraction.The next newspaper reported her in the city limits of Glenwood Springs, likely to be destroyed simply by her presence there not a nuisance bear, no trash-eating, no dwelling-entering, just radio-collared and unable to hide. Her sin? Trying to find a safe place for her two little cubs and bear food for them to eat. The cubs, of course, were doomed by a DOW bent on making them orphans. This likely has taken place already, unadvertised by a DOW that feels terrible about HAVING to kill a bear (or three).So what can you do? LEAVE THEM ALONE! A mother bear treed with her cub, whimpering while the mob gathers below is a heartbreaking sound. Humans scare them. These are shy, nuts-and-berry-eating animals that would just like to avoid starvation in this early winter, with a very limited food supply. Crowds harassing them is cruel. For souvenir photos, grab a newspaper. Local photojournalists have made dozens of cute photos and published them regularly. Buy a quality copy, if you wish take it home and show your friends. (It is clear to me that polar bears arent the only ones endangered.)If a bear is in your yard, LEAVE IT ALONE! Secure your doors and windows. Leave, if you must, by a different exit and lock the door behind you. If the bear is sniffing around your home, make noise, bang pots, play loud music, let your dogs bark (bears are afraid of dogs). Would you be dumb enough to get between a bear and the bears exit? Two recent cases of scared bears trying to escape humans that blocked their escape routes resulted in the obvious. The humans got injured, DOW was again forced to kill the bears in spite of how sad it made them.DOW has made a practice of publicity letting YOU know its policy. The bears may be gentle, but given any chance, DOW will be deadly. It has shown you scenes of bears being executed, bears being skinned, tiny baby bears being dragged in terror from their mother (just check the Aspen newspapers if you missed these). The Oct. 30 Aspen Times covers the execution of the bear that was trapped in an unlocked garage by a human and clawed her while fleeing. The victim admitted culpability and did not feel the bear should die. But the newspaper resolutely has called the incidents attacks. Sensationalism sells.What can you do? If you see a bear, smile and enjoy the sighting, but keep to your business and keep it to yourself. If you start the next incident, gathering locals, tourists, photogs and the rest, the wrath of DOW will eliminate yet another bear, and its death will be on you. If excitable visitors see one, tell them the truth we have always had bears wandering around town with no problems. The problem is that we have now cut down most of the large trees they used to hide in. Bears are more than willing to pretend that you are not there, if you will just extend the same courtesy to them.Cmon, folks, what we cant pretend is not knowing who the really deadly predators are. R. Magill is a resident of Aspen. Editors note: Soapbox runs weekly in Sunday’s Aspen Times.
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