Bear Attacks

Note: Photos courtesy of Gary Pumplin

In Memory of Kevin Kammer victim of the recent fatal Grizzly attack.

I have never done this before - allowed a post to be directed by a tragic event. However, it seems the appropriate thing to do. After all, those of us who live in bear country never leave the yard without at least the 'thought' of bears and wolves. I suppose it is similar to someone who lives in a less-than-ideal neighborhood thinking about their safety when they leave the house. However, I readily admit I'd rather face the bears and cats and wolves than the muggers and rapists and molesters which inhabit far too much of our world.

In response to Kevin's untimely death, I did a little research. After all, when you read about a man who leaves home for a fishing trip never to return to his wife and four children - because of an unprovoked attack in the middle of the night by a Grizzly sow and her three yearling cubs, it should make one stop and think. In addition, as a result of this event, those four bears are going to lose their lives. This is a no-win situation. It is tragic. It is heart rending. Could it have been avoided?

I will leave that question to others with more experience and greater knowledge to answer with certainty. However, I suspect the answer is, in part, 'Yes'. At the very least, after the 2008 mauling by a Grizzly in this same campground, it seems it would have been wise to limit the area to 'hard-sided' units. If this had been done, perhaps this tragic event would never have occured.

Yet, I believe there is more to it than that. When facing the aftermath of such things, it is not uncommon to hear someone say something like, "It's not the animal's fault. After all, we are encroaching on their territory." There is some truth in that. There is a territory issue going on here. But what I wonder is why no one ever says: "This could have been avoided if we had more accurately managed this top-of-the-chain predator's numbers."

Perhaps there are just too many animals for the wild space available. Perhaps the drive to 'protect' the animals has resulted in too many animals. After all, the Greater Yellowstone Area has not experience that much urban growth. Certainly we do not compare to the urban growth experience by even a mid-sized city. Furthermore, the Grizzly's are a proptected species. Thus there is no way to control their numbers (except by killing them when they do what they do naturally - kill). In addition, while I do not know 'why' these bears attacked these people, since the people were doing everything right, one has to wonder if, just maybe, the bears attacked for the most logical reason: food! After all, the 'ate' part of their victim.

Speculation. Pure speculation. But I do wish those in charge would begin to consider the well being of the animals from a slightly different perspective - the perspective used by the wise rancher when deciding how many animals to graze on his land. Perhaps there is more in common with an overgrazed pasture and an overpopulated wilderness than we are willing to admit!

My thoughts are pure speculation, however one thing is certain: As long as one lives and works and visits in bear country, it behooves us to know what to do to avoid bears and to do it! That does not always work, but then, there are more people killed by lightening (90) or by domestic dogs (15) per year, than are killed by bears (3). And, there are a lot more bears killed each year (average is about 20 since 2000), than there are people killed by bears.

So what should we do? I suggest, use your head, but by all means do not let this stop you from enjoying the gorgeous and wild country which remains in our country. I certainly won't!

Lady of the Lake

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