Saturday, June 03, 2017

The Bear Truth

Social media was echoing with news of a black bear in a tree in Saskatoon. I felt sorry for it. Little did it know what it was getting into when it wandered that way.

Checking into the hotel in Revelstoke there were signs warning of a black bear in the area. After supper we went for a walk and happened to encounter the bear. It was happily chowing down on the fresh greenery. It looked up, weeds hanging from the sides of its mouth.

black bear eating weeds

People think of bears as such fearsome creatures. But they are not really hunters. Yes, they are strong with big teeth and claws. But the claws are mostly used for digging, and the teeth are most likely to be chewing plants. (Up to 85% of their diet comes from vegetation.) Of course, they will defend themselves, especially a mother with cubs, but if anything we should empathize with that. More people get killed by dogs (26 per year in the US) than by bears (3 per year in the US).

Black bears have better eyesight than humans, so it could probably see us better than we could see it, but after a short time it gave up looking at us and went back to its salad. The wind was blowing towards us so it couldn't apply its even better sense of smell. It was still aware of us and would glance up occasionally. It was a pleasure to watch it (and take photographs) in a natural setting. (Albeit near the hotel and highway.)

Meanwhile, back in Saskatoon, the bear was dead. Apparently it didn't respond well to the drugs to reverse the tranquilizer dart and was euthanized. Sad.

We are reminded that the land we inhabit was First Nations land before it was "ours". I'd like to add the reminder that Homo sapiens were hardly the first inhabitants. If anyone has a rightful claim to this land it is the animals (and plants) that were here long long before any of us.

Of course, that will be meaningless if you subscribe to the belief that Homo sapiens is "special" and that the earth was "given" to us to "use" (aka trash) in any way we feel like. Then again, that point of view isn't working out too well for us or our planet.

I wonder what will become of the bear we saw in Revelstoke. How long before it discovers the hotel garbage? Or some tourist gets too close trying to take a selfie with it and we "have to" kill it. Or it just forgets to look both ways when crossing the highway.

black bear

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