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   xoxoxoBruce  Friday Mar 4 12:52 AM

Mar 4th, 2016: Blaze

This is Blaze, a Grizzly in Yellowstone national park.
She killed Lance Crosby, a 63-year-old man working in Yellowstone as a medic for the summer.
Then she and her cubs ate part of Crosby, and buried the rest for later.
Yellowstone Park Superintendent Dan Wenk decided to kill her and ship her cubs to the Toledo Zoo.
Jesus, Ohio, that's some cold shit.

In the week between the death of Crosby and Wenk's decision all hell broke loose.

"Jack-booted executioner" is not a title that Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk ever aspired to own. But as a torrent of emails and phone calls began flooding his office last week—most from wildlife lovers in a desperate attempt to keep a mother grizzly bear alive—Wenk was given that label, and far worse.
Even legendary primatologist Jane Goodall, who has become a huge fan of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, reached out to Wenk from her home in Bournemouth, England, pleading with him to spare a sow whose tragic encounter with a hiker had elevated her into the realm of international cause célèbre.
"In my 40 years working for the National Park Service, I have never encountered anything like the emotional outpouring we received in response to the fate of this bear," Wenk said, acknowledging that members of his staff were also left shell-shocked.
Wenk consulted with bear-management specialists trying to decide if Blaze was a man-eater, or just a mom bear with cubs defending her turf.
And there was one other thing...
Only a few years ago, he spared another mother grizzly in Yellowstone just as those advocating for Blaze were demanding he do last week. In 2011, a sow with cubs, known to researchers as the Wapiti grizzly, killed a hiker named Brian Matayoshi. Upon encountering the bears, Matayoshi and his wife had made the unfortunate decision to run, inciting the grizzly to charge in pursuit and attack. While his wife looked on in horror, Matayoshi died. But the sow did not eat him. Since the bear appeared to have acted in a manner typical of a sow accompanied by cubs, Wenk made the decision to let the Wapiti grizzly and its offspring live.
But two months later along a trail in Yellowstone's Hayden Valley, eight miles away, a lone hiker named John Wallace was killed and his body partially consumed. DNA evidence demonstrated conclusively that the Wapiti grizzly and one of her cubs had been present at both encounters. More than half a dozen different grizzlies fed on Wallace.

Wenk came under enormous public criticism from those who claimed he'd favored the lives of bears over public safety, and he nearly lost his job.
That may have swayed his decision.

A bigger question than Blaze, Nat Geo wrote in August...
The incident comes at a pivotal moment in bear-human relations in the region. Later this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to formally announce its intent to take the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population off the federal list of threatened species and hand custodial management of bears over to Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

Those states also are expected to announce their intention to recommence trophy sport hunting of grizzlies, which had been suspended in 1974, shortly before declining numbers put the population in management triage.
Restoration of grizzlies in Greater Yellowstone region is considered one of the greatest feats in American conservation history. During the early 1980s, grizzly numbers had dipped to fewer than 200, and they continued to fall. Aggressive management action over decades focused on keeping bears out of trash, reducing deaths caused by humans, and doing everything possible to keep female bears of reproductive age with cubs alive. Those actions yielded a population that today is estimated to be between 700 and 1,000 grizzlies.
I'm kinda scared to look up what was decided.

Snakeadelic  Friday Mar 4 08:29 AM

Tourists and bears will ALWAYS be a bad combination.

I realize the human victim here was not a tourist--but he was there working to make a wilderness area tourist-friendly. The re-introduction of grizzlies in the Bitterroot Valley is still a huge hot-button issue locally, and accidents do happen. Several years ago a big ol' biker on a big ol' Harley collided with a 600-pound grizzly up near one of the many passes in the area; both died at the scene if I remember correctly. I've photographed the tracks of a very young bear--I thought it was the trail of a large raccoon at first--half a block from my apartment and only a couple hundred yards from the town's high school! Probably a black bear...we hope.

I think a lot of the problem comes from two sources: how long it took us to get aggressive about people and garbage and feeding 'beggar' bears (and other large, dangerous, food-aggressive wildlife) and the current attitude among humans that only WE and what we can get out of something are important; if a species has little direct value to humans it's much harder to protect. Grizzlies belong to the category known as "charismatic mega-fauna", so massive efforts are made to help them because it brings tourists with cameras and fees in hands to our national parks in the West. Try getting that level of public support, or tourist interest, for a four-inch salamander smaller around than a Sharpie pen!

Personally I think we screwed up BAD in the early years of the national park system, leaving too many city folk sure of their safety in wilderness when they've had no training whatsoever how to interact with the wild. This is why I do not go on long solo walks, photo-op-hunts, or rockhounding ventures in real wilderness. I am NOT trained for that, not ever likely to be a good shot particularly with a large-caliber gun, and I'm not going to lend my carcass to the argument about people vs. bears, at least not that way. Never mind that most of the local mega-fauna are aggressive if they feel stalked or cornered! We have bear, moose, elk, whitetails, cougars, coyotes, bighorns AND mountain goats, any of which could put and end to me in about 10 seconds flat and all of which have been known to attack humans even if not locally. The difference between my camera and one in the hand of an urbanite tourist is that mine will never be used to annoy dangerous animals on their turf.

That is the thing we forget the fastest about genuinely wild animals--to them, the entire world is about survival of the species & individual. Some of them will attack to get rid of us because we get too close to dens or babies, some to take something we have because "if I can take it I can eat it" is a totally valid strategy to a bear as much as to a bison, and some will view us as predators have viewed humans for thousands upon thousands of years--made of meat.

Beestie  Friday Mar 4 08:50 AM

Maybe we should replace the bears with cardboard cutouts of bears. I don't think anyone has ever been eaten by a cardboard cutout.

And the wolves, too.

But seriously - I think Africa provides an example of how this is really supposed to work.

And one more thing - why is it one guy's decision?

glatt  Friday Mar 4 09:32 AM

I'll admit I'm no expert, but when a bear kills a person, I think it makes sense to kill the bear. The attacks are so infrequent, and there are enough bears that it's not going to decimate the bear population to do so. And once a bear is no longer afraid of humans, it's going to be more likely to do it again. Even if it's a mama protecting her cubs.

I hold as self evident that if you are weighing a human's life against an animal's life the human life wins.

xoxoxoBruce  Friday Mar 4 09:52 AM

Yellowstone is a unique park because of it's geology. The wildlife is a nice sideshow but I wonder how many people come to see the wildlife? How many come to see bears?
As I understand it, the idea was to keep Yellowstone as close to original... at least when the white man discovered it... without endangering tourists. But when that was decided people were mostly non-urban and had a little sense about wild animals.
My favorite Yellowstone story is the ranger catching a woman painting her kids face with honey to get a picture of a bear licking the kid's face.

And one more thing - why is it one guy's decision?
He runs the park, who else would?

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