Of Bears and Men

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Image courtesy of: http://amountainjourney.com

The bear went over the mountain

The bear went over the mountain

The bear went over the mountain

to see what he could see.

And all that he could see

and all that he could see

was the other side of the mountain

the other side of the mountain

the other side of the mountain

was all that he could see.

The bear went over the river…

(Sang to the tune of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”)

I learned this song so I could sing it to my son. He would smile until his eyes become two flat lines in his chubby face, while generously showing his toothless gums.

One day, while feeding my very own almond-eyed baby bear, I remembered part of the cover story in the National Geographic’s May 2016 edition:

“Le 7 août 2015, à Yellowstone, un garde a découvert le corps en partie dévoré d’un homme, près d’un chemin de randonnée, non loin d’un des plus grands hôtels du parc national. La victime, Lance Crosby, 63 ans, du Montana, occupait un emploi saisonnier d’infirmier dans une clinique du parc. Ce matin-là, ses collègues avaient signalé son absence.

L’enquête a révélé que Crosby était parti seul en randonnée, la veille, sans emporter de spray anti-ours, et qu’il avait rencontré une femelle grizzli avec ses deux petits. L’animal avait tué et en partie dévoré- ses oursons avaient aussi eu leur part…

L’animal a été capturé. Une analyse d’ADN a prouvé qu’il était impliqué dans la mort de Crosby. Partant du principe qu’un grizzli adulte qui a goûté de la chair humaine… est devenu trop dangereux- même s’il n’était pas responsable de la rencontre fatale- on a administré un sédatif et un anesthésiant à l’ours avant de l’abattre.”

(“On the 7th of August 2015 in Yellowstone, a guard discovered the partially eaten corpse of a man near a trekking trail not far away from one of the biggest hotels in the National Park. The victim, Lance Crosby, 63, from Montana, seasonally worked as a nurse in the park’s clinic. That morning, his work mates sounded the alarm for his absence.

Investigations revealed that Crosby went to trek alone the night before without applying anti-bear spray, and that he had an encounter with a female grizzly and her two cubs. The animal killed and partly devoured him- her offspring had their share as well…

The animal was captured. A DNA analysis proved that it was involved with Crosby’s death. Considering that an adult grizzly who has tasted human flesh has become too dangerous- even if it was not responsible for the deadly encounter-, the bear was given a sedative and an anesthetic before it was shot to death.”)

WHY?

What was the point of killing the bear?

Oh the irony! wildlife reserves (national parks, safaris, etc…) were built and are maintained because progressive minds wanted to preserve that portion of untamed earth, while letting ordinary citizens enjoy it as well. However, when the “savage” side of this project shows itself and as a result claims a human life, these same progressive minds intervene and apply their rules to something that was supposed to be left “pure” and “natural”

  * * *

According to the information I found, the genus Ursus which gave rise to the Grizzly Bear has existed for more than 5 million years ago. Meanwhile the earliest remains of  the genus Homo where humans belong, dates 2.8 million years ago. This means that bears have populated the earth millions of years before humans.This also means that it was our race that invaded their territory, pushed them further back to the mountains and reduced the expanse of their habitat to parks and other “protected” areas. Already, we have committed this first transgression: we knowingly trespassed the their territories.

The bear-human relationship has oftenly been deemed unsafe, causing numerous “Bear Awareness Programs” to be conducted to avoid future damages. However, the fact remains that bears act out of instinct: usually shy and not known to actively prey on humans, most attacks “result from a bear that has been surprised at very close range, especially if it has a supply of food to protect, or female grizzlies protecting their offspring” (Wikipedia).

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Image courtesy of: http://www.defenders.org

On the contrary, men act out of judgement. An example is that according to them, people should be protected from any harm and should not be exposed to a risk such as an animal attack. Thus, the animal that caused the death of one of a person should not be allowed to live any longer, lest it puts another human life in danger.

I don’t see anything wrong with the principle, except when we place it in a context where an attack occurred inside the natural habitat of the animal- where it was supposed to roam freely and live as it should. For me, trouble starts when these kinds of incidents (because I believe they could be prevented), happen in places where people are supposed to have been briefed about the risks and dangers of not following the recommended precautions.

  * * *

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that men have always tried to dominate nature- the first human beings started with animal domestication and plant cultivation. Men did it and are still doing it because men could.

In the same way, the female grizzly fed on Crosby because it could: the two-legged animal was alone, with no weapons or thick clothing to protect himself… Indeed, it was one of the few moments when the natural order of things came to pass: man, once reduced to being a part and not master of nature, was subjected under its laws. It did not last long, though. For as soon as this was discovered, men quickly reacted and sought justice for the loss of a human life.

This manner of seeking retribution made me realize that the Yellowstone National park is mainly located at the US Federal States of Wyoming, extending up to Idaho and Montana. These are 3 out of 31 states where  death penalty is still applied (the other 19 have already abolished the Capital Punishment). Which means that if the inhabitants of these areas punish their fellow humans by taking their lives, how much worse will they treat an animal? a creature easily classified as second-class citizen?

Instantly, I reflected about occasions when we find that man is capable of granting leniency towards certain groups, like those under the legal age and the mentally ill. The reason seems obvious: they cannot be held responsible for their actions. Digging deeper, we find a humane consideration placed upon terms such as “minor” or “insanity”; which could also be connected to an “inadequate psychological and/or emotional development” leading to a lack of basis for making sound judgements (to discern right from wrong). This is why they are given “lighter” sentences when called to answer for their crimes.

Thus, it bothers me so much that the female grizzly was given the same punishment as an adult, mentally fit man who killed another. Animals act mostly on instinct. The only criterion they apply to discern right from wrong is their need to survive. That is the only way they are wired to react and this makes them unable to judge situations the way we do.

I can’t stop asking questions… If we are open to assessing situations according to the context and the characteristics of the parties involved: why was the bear sacrificed? was there really no other way of managing the situation? Furthermore, didn’t anyone try to find an alternative for the bear? Most importantly, what happened to the cubs?

Now, I often think about the executed female grizzly- suppose she was just going over the mountain to see what she could see? and all that she saw was the other side of the mountain harboring either a potential danger or a promising meal for her and her cubs; all that she saw were two-legged creatures populating that side of the mountain, and how these beings try so hard to place her kind under their own rules; and the last thing that she saw was the barrel of a gun. She must’ve been dismayed.

The day of Crosby’s death was a sad day because a human life was lost. Death, especially one so absurd, is always distressing. But I find no reason to purposely end the life of an animal for having followed its natural instinct: perhaps to procure food for itself and its young or perhaps to defend itself from threat.

More questions arise: What’s next? will they kill another bear or a wolf if it took another person’s life? how long will they keep doing that? how long are men going to force their will on something so complex as nature? how long will it take for men to (at least sometimes) humble themselves before the mystifying and sophisticated system in which they are part of?

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Image courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” I wonder where this leaves mankind, we who love to boast about how far we’ve evolved; we who insist on our superiority over animals because of the soul we possess…

 

Sources:

  1. Quammen, D. (2016, May). Yellowstone, le vrai Far West. National Geographic, 40-65
  2. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/states-and-without-death-penalty
  3. Wikipedia

One thought on “Of Bears and Men

  1. Pingback: What’s on a reader’s mind (1) – colorfulifesite

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