Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Our current bear policy is this: If you mess with us, we kill you. OK, it’s not quite that harsh. We usually give them one chance to mend their evil ways. If they get caught doing something horrific, like eating out of a garbage can, we tranquilize them, tag them and haul them way out into the woods. If they come back, then we kill them. No explanation, no Miranda rights, no last meal; we just kill them. There’s not even respect for natural selection. We eliminate the smart ones. There has to be a better way.
I have no statistics to back me up, so I will speak generally. In approximately the entire duration of the earth, there have been about zero cases of a bear killing a human being in this valley. This includes the pre-touristical era, which covers the 5 million years of mankind’s existence before oil was discovered in Texas.
The thing we are missing here is a great opportunity to save something besides bullets. In case you haven’t noticed, the bears are a great attraction. Yes, they can be destructive to property, but does that cost outweigh the potential for them to generate revenue? The trade-off might be worth it. If, as we might reasonably suspect, a weekend at The Little Nell costs more than a couple of Jeeps, then it makes sense to allow the bears to rip the Jeeps to shreds if those acts draw a few visitors to town to watch them do it. Can we hire a consultant, please?
The problem is fear itself, and we are afraid of it. After watching a bear destroy a car, a tourist may well come to the conclusion that the furry beast might be able to tear a limb or two from a human being just as easily. It’s the perception.
What’s the solution? Proper training. It is proven to be practically impossible to teach people to stay away from hungry bears, so the bears are the ones we need to teach. The good news is that this will not involve months of college, which is exceedingly expensive and no guarantee of meaningful employment after a degree is conferred. All we need to train the bears are shock collars. Don’t be alarmed. We’ve been using them on dogs for years, and we love dogs. If you remind yourself that it is for their own good, seeing their fur stand on end when they misbehave is barely scarring to your psyche.
It’s all about technology; thus we can pretty much leave the training of bears to computer chips. They cost a lot less than professional bear instructors or any of the other slackers who make up 47 percent of our population. The scheme would work like this: We shoot the bears with darts that make them fall out of the trees and land on their heads, hopefully knocking them senseless. Before they recover and try to initiate the process of converting us into giant, oddly textured piles of scat, we fit them with collars and transmitters that can fire non-lethal but definitely attention-getting jolts of electricity into their central nervous systems on command.
The other thing that needs to be done is placing a shock sensor on everything that we don’t want the bears to go near. The city can sell these units for a nice profit. If you have one in your car, as soon as a bear outfitted with the shock collar comes within three feet of it – whammo! – he’s on his butt wondering which bus hit him. Place a sensor on your front porch – keplewee! – every time a bear tries to come knocking at your front door. You can put the sensors on trash cans, on compost piles, around your neck – basically anywhere a bear might pick up the pungent smell of something it might like to chew on.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Shock collars give us complete control over bears, and as we all know, having complete control over nature is the only way we can co-exist with it. Bears equipped with shock collars become an amenity to the town, not a nuisance. Without the slightest fear of being mauled, locals and tourists will be free to observe the bears up close. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some of the bears might be trained to open their mouths wide enough on command so that a child’s head could be placed safely inside for that ultimate Christmas-card shot.
Who’s not going to spend a little extra around here for that?
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For the past five-plus years I have sat in a big chair in a small office on Hyman Avenue watching life in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley play out in front of me.