Joy of Bears

One of the traditions of my PCTA crews campouts is to listen to Ranger Keith Dawley's Black Bear advice. These iconic creatures are pestiferous in most of our high country parks and national forests; and any party may well be visited... In defence, we clean up and defend any trash, box all food and scented items in iron boxes, never have food where we sleep, and even pour dishwater into sumps. Net result is that they may still come for a visit: this year a juvenile dug up our sump in broad daylight to eat what tiny scraps persisted in the pumice sand. On another trip a mature specimen stuck his head into a young woman's tent. My question was: even with more than a decade's escalating enforcement of suchlike precautions, what progress do we see? Realistically, for every careful--and carefully supervised --group like ours, there are 20 less diligent gypsy camps around gigantic RV's sagging on their poor suspensions with oleaginous snackfoods. As Lorne Greene would intone, were he still able: 'Palm Oil! It's Bears Natural Food !'. Certainly it will serve to restore the adipose tissues quickly after a long winter's fast.
This is on top of the impact of settlements like Mammoth. A Local Guy from June Lake told me that it's much more together in that much smaller town; where the citizens might quietly shoot any troublesome beast. Both Law and Sentiment preclude any easy recourse to suchlike efficacious response in Mammoth. And Mammoth is the norm. It accordingly seems hopeless.

But I'm still so impressed with the difference in the Mendicino Highlands. In 25 years hiking there I've seen hundreds of Bears; but always briefly, as they flee in terror. Twice I've inadvertently been close to a Mother and her cub--and seen her far outstrip her progeny in running away. The last time, the poor baby was left behind and climbed a tree. I backed off 50 yards, and in 15 minutes she crept back to retrieve her child.

What makes the difference, in my speculation, is the occasional presence of Hunters. Likely very few of these--with the very important exception of a small number of poachers--bag their trophy. To anticipate the howls of rage: there are markets for bear components, and money lying on the ground for the ruthless to pick up. But we can live with Bearclaw Adornments, we can in fact thrive without consuming ursuline gallbladder; so these nimrods could be properly discouraged. Limiting the hunt to the incompetent would put only the tamest bears at risk, while merely edging the wary ones a bit deeper into the woods.

I am sensible of my regrettable tendency to risk giving offense in my posts; so I shall apologize in advance. But if you are appalled , please outline your alternatives. One of my patients--an old cowboy, a skillful and successful hunter-- once told me with a quaver in his gravelly voice about the culmination of his first and last bear hunt. After hanging his kill to clean and skin, he removed about 1/2 his new rug before being shocked at how much it looked like one of his children. He wound up putting it back together and burying the restored carcass in a proper grave. So there! But would you rather see hundreds of these harried about our urbanized parks, only to be euthanized in the back of a Forest Service van?

Posted by icosahedron icosahedron, August 01, 2011 15:53



"oleaginous snackfoods" - :)

Posted by sirielizabeth over 9 years ago (Flag)

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