Three dead bears: Who are the real animals?
A painful and violent reminder grabbed me by my throat Friday and shook me into a horrific awakening, bringing everything crashing back into perspective. People are capable of being the most unbelievably heartless, cold-blooded murderous creatures on the planet.
I had just returned from a speaking engagement with 82 delightful second grade students in Glenshire, students who want to learn about bears so they can help the BEAR League inform the public on how to peacefully coexist with our four-legged neighbors.
The minute I entered my home an urgent message came through from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office asking me to respond to an address where three bears had just been shot and killed (see story on page A6). I recognized this address as one I had been called to by the homeowner less than a month before.
At that time this guy had called and asked for help, stating that he thought a bear was under his house. I had rushed right over and discovered a very calm couple standing out in the street saying they had left an access door open under the house and apparently a bear had gone in and had found his way into the house through an unsecured trap door leading into a hall closet.
I went inside and found that a bear had indeed gained access to the inside of the house and had eaten pretty much everything she could find, wrecked some of the furniture and then the raccoons had joined the party and finished up by leaving the cabin in shambles. I went under the house through the closet trap door and found a very sleepy bear, laying on a red comforter she had carried from one of the upstairs bedrooms, with her head on a pillow she had taken off the couch.
She raised her head a bit, looked at me briefly and then lay back down, completely unconcerned with my presence. I didn’t see her two yearling cubs sleeping in the bedding behind her as they didn’t even awaken.
I went out to the street where the couple stood waiting and explained to them what I had found and told them how common this is and that I would get the bear out immediately. They both acted horrified at the suggestion and told me they didn’t want to bother the bear, after all, as the man said, “The bears were here first. They belong here. We are the intruders.”
I was dumbfounded and couldn’t comprehend what I was witnessing: These people’s house was trashed and they didn’t want the bear disturbed? We discussed options and then went to work to block the closet trap door so no more animals would be coming inside and then the man asked me to keep an eye on it for him and said he would just wait until spring to clean up and do the repair work.
We talked on the phone several times, he asked nicely each time, “How’s my bear doing?” and seemed pleased to hear that I had not found any fresh bear prints leaving the area. All seemed well.
Then the call from the sheriff’s office came. I got to the scene within minutes and found three, how shall I say this, very spooky looking men holding guns with blood smeared on their faces and clothing, three shaken officers, and three dead bears, a brown mom and her two blondish cubs.
The owner of the house had decided after all that he didn’t want the bears to be left to sleep like he told me and had called the California Department of Fish and Game. They had given him a depredation permit to kill and he had hired these three hit men who had crawled through the closet trap door and opened fire on not one but all three sleeping bears.
They were wounded and tried to run out the other way, away from the killers, but were shot numerous times as they attempted to escape. The snow was now blood-soaked and the ravens were arriving.
I had offered to chase the bears out just three weeks before. I do it all the time, no one has ever been hurt, we board it up properly and the bears do not come back. It didn’t have to be this way.
This was a revenge killing for the damage done to the cabin. But the bears gained easy access to this house because the cabin owner left the door open. How many times has the BEAR League reminded people to securely lock up crawl spaces under the house? Answer: countless times. Please listen, we know what we are talking about and we are trying to help you live here safely.
And remember, it’s you who have chosen to live where there are bears. If you have any questions or concerns our number is 525-7297, e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and Web site is http://www.savebears.org
Ann Bryant is the director of the BEAR League.
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