Thursday, August 13, 2015

Our National Parks Need A Zero Tolerance Policy For Animals That Kill Humans

Dale Matson

There is a new report of a Yellowstone National Park hiker being killed and partially eaten by a Grizzly Bear.

The article includes the following statement, “Campbell [a Yellowstone spokeswoman] said the bear would have a better chance of surviving if there had been witnesses when Crosby was attacked who could confirm that the animal was defending her cubs.” Really? So there is still justifiable homicide of humans allowed for grizzly bears in Yellowstone.

In 2011 a man and his wife were hiking together in Yellowstone on a trail and a sow grizzly killed the husband. The Huffington Post article headline blamed the man for being killed, “Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Kills Hiker: Couple's Screaming, Running Possibly Triggered Attack.” The problem with this is that within the article, park officials initially made the following statement. “In the immediate aftermath of the attack, park officials said the Matayoshis responded correctly when they encountered the bear along the park's popular Wapiti Lake Trailhead.”

Park officials determined that the grizzly sow was only protecting her cubs from what she deemed as a threat from humans. They thus allowed the bear and her cubs to remain free. I consider this to be a tragic example of poor policy and judgment.

That same month, a Michigan man was also killed by a grizzly.
"On Oct. 1 2011, hair and blood samples from the sow and her cubs were successfully matched to those found at both the Wallace and Matayoshi crime scenes. At that point, the group of federal, state, and local officials who decide on the fate of grizzlies involved in crimes—including Chris Servheen and Kerry Gunther—knew what they had to do. The Wapiti sow was to be euthanized the next day, on Gunther’s birthday."
The preceding is from a story in Slate Magazine April 2nd 2012.
By Jessica Grose.

If the same bear killed both men, then what about the flawed policy of letting the Wapiti bear go free after killing the first man? Why is it still a possibility that a bear could kill a human and be allowed to live? The chances of a bear that kills a person becoming a repeat offender are considerable. Read The Man-eaters of Tsavo.

Why are some apex animals given special protection status even when they are not endangered or even a threatened species? This is the case in Yellowstone National Park with Grizzlies and in California with mountain lions.

It is time for Yellowstone Park officials to reexamine park policy and to what extent they may have contributed to the recent increase in grizzly bear deaths of humans. First of all, there is a problem with park priorities. Officials seem to be more interested in Yellowstone as a game sanctuary and protecting the ecosystem from humans than as a park set-aside for humans. In the Yellowstone Act of 1872, Yellowstone was set aside, “…dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” How many people have taken Yellowstone off their “To do” list?

To what extent has the protected and increasing Grizzly population been exacerbated by the reintroduction of wolves?

Why is it not mandatory for hikers to carry bear spray when on the park trails? . Bear spray is required in Banff National Park in Canada and one can be fined $25,000 for not carrying bear spray. How about minimum sized hiking groups on trails? How about ranger led groups? Have park officials determined an optimum bear population?

It seems to me rather anthropomorphic and unnecessary of park officials to posit the intent of a grizzly. Protective and or predatory behaviors that result in the death of a human should result in the death of the animal. There is a slippery slope here also. If we can excuse grizzlies killing humans, where do we stop? How about mountain lions, black bears and even rattlesnakes?

It’s time to stop blaming humans. They do have a right to go into the wilderness and they have a right to protect themselves. Many letters to the editors insist that the wilderness belongs to the animals and humans are intruders. It is their fault if they are killed. They would say that we have no right to kill an animal that has killed a human yet I would ask how many of them eat meat. We are visitors but we are not intruders.

Ultimately the animals depend on us for sensible policies for their survival. Ask the California Grizzly.

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