Off the Press
December 14, 2010
By Kathleen R. Merrill
Good idea: live and let (local wildlife) live
Well, it’s been a month since some idiot shot a bear cub in the Issaquah Highlands and left him for dead. Charges haven’t yet been filed, but I am waiting for when they are.
And surely they will be. Because I would hate to think it’s legal to shoot a young bear cub and leave it moaning in pain, trapped in frigid water overnight because the bullet lodged itself in the bear’s spine, leaving it paralyzed. (The bear had to be put to sleep the next day because of his condition.)
And as if that weren’t bad enough, this moron shot a bear and left it wounded in a residential neighborhood. What if Mr. Bear wasn’t paralyzed, but just wounded and angry and then went on a rampage, hurting or killing someone? Then would charges be filed more quickly?
What if the shooter had missed the bear and hit someone’s child or grandparent or family pet?
I had a number of e-mails and phone calls from residents who were angry about the shooting. Several people said they had been enjoying bear sightings all summer — with many of them being a mother and two cubs.
“I hope this wasn’t one of my bears,” one woman told me. “I watched this one cub off and on for weeks. Sure, it was a pain to keep my garbage in the garage until garbage day, but I loved watching that bear climbing up tree trunks and hiking through the neighborhood.
“He was only doing what bears do — looking for food so he’d last through the winter.”
Another reader left this comment on our website:
“What an irresponsible schmuck. No responsible gun owner would shoot an animal and then just leave it to die a slow, painful death. I doubt there’s much of a book they can throw at him, but I hope they throw it.”
But my favorite comment, one that brought tears to my eyes, was this one:
“Dear black bear, thank you for those wonderful, entertaining evenings you gave us eating apples in our orchard. Please understand that the one who shot you and left you to suffer does not represent the majority of us. We are grieving for you tonight and will miss your midnight company.”
It’s people like that who make our world a better place, in my opinion.
I saw a mother and two cubs at my house several times this summer and early fall. It was a joy to peek out my sliding glass door one morning and see two cubs — who had to weigh between 150 and 200 pounds — peeking at me and my German shepherd from behind a tree not far from my back door, like we were playing peek-a-boo.
They were playful and sweet. Like other readers expressed to me, I sure hope that murdered bear wasn’t one of “my” bears.
All of the uproar over the shooting reminded me of a discussion I had a couple of years ago with Rocky Spencer before he died. (Spencer and his Karelian bear dog Mishka, working for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, hunted bears, trapped them and took them to be set free elsewhere, where they wouldn’t bother people and people wouldn’t bother them.)
“People get angry about bears being in their neighborhoods, in their yards,” Rocky told me. “But what people forget is that we’ve built our houses and schools in their neighborhoods, in their yards.”
Well-spoken, my friend. It seems we’d all do well to remember that.