It is quite common these days in small towns located near forests and mountains to have animals come into town looking for food. I was just performing in Woodland Park, CO and late that night, on the way back to where I was staying, we saw not only a bunch of deer but also a fox. We hear stories all the time in Albuquerque about bears coming down from the foothills during dry times looking for food and water. The more our cities encroach on their territory, the less these animals fear us. The mistake some people make is in assuming that means the animals are tame. They are not tame. They are wild animals. Even a deer, if it feels threatened, can do pretty serious damage to a human in the process of defending itself. Those mothers I mentioned above knew what they were doing. Did I mention that the man was an idiot?
There are a lot of stories circulated about visitors to Yellowstone National Park who get mauled because they feed the bears. There’s a story about a fellow who wanted his wife to take his picture sitting on a buffalo. When he tried to mount up, the buffalo proceeded to stomp him to death. In the best version of the story, the man is a Frenchman. I’ve heard tales about people trying to approach and “befriend” a moose…my friend, Ross Knox once tried to rope a moose but that’s another story. I was discussing this issue with some friends recently and we wondered if some of this craziness can be attributed to those of us who grew up watching cartoons such as Yogi Bear, Bullwinkle and Rocky, and Bambi. Those little cartoon critters are SO cute! The thing you need to know is that none of these wild animals watched those cartoons.
Several years ago, my wife and I were in Sequoia National Park, a truly amazing place. There is a long meadow in the park with a trail encircling it and we took the several mile hike around it. The meadow is not that wide and at one point, we looked across in horror to see a family, both parents and young teen-age children, approaching a black bear that was rolling in the grass of the meadow. By the way, the bear had its cinnamon coat at the time and was beautiful. They apparently wanted to get some close-up shots of the bear to post on Facebook or something and were probably only fifteen feet away from it. Fortunately, there didn’t appear to be any cubs around but of course, you never know…until it’s too late. My wife made a comment about how dangerous it was and a hiker who happened to be walking by at the time said, “Oh, it’s all right, they’re practically tame.” My wife, who is not one to suffer fools quietly, explained that, in fact, they were wild animals and were capable of killing you. The woman walked off in a huff. Of course, we were in California. Maybe the bears in LA are tame.
Last week, I wrote about people being disconnected from nature, which to me is a sad thing. This week, I’m writing about people being ignorant of nature, which is a dangerous thing. This ignorance can lead to people getting hurt and even killed. I have little sympathy for some of those folks when they’ve been warned and choose to ignore the information they’re given (that sign, “Don’t Feed the Bears” means DON’T FEED THE DAMN BEARS!). What really makes me mad is that often, when they provoke an attack through their ignorance, the animal is captured and killed. I could have said “put down” or “euthanized” but in fact, they’re killed. They are being true to their nature and following the rules of wild animals. When we come into their domain and ignore those rules, bad things can happen. You might want to spread the word to people who will be traveling to wilderness areas with which they are unfamiliar that those cute little critters are really wild animals. Not mean, not evil, just wild. Respect that.