Bearing Arms Against Bears

Ken AshfordLocal Interest1 Comment

The west end of Winston-Salem, where I live (just over the city line in Pfafftown) is being subjected to urban sprawl.  We've got a few housing communities being built (although God knows why in this crappy housing market); we've got a new shopping complex with a Harris Teeter, etc.

A few years ago, these were all heavily wooded areas.  It wasn't unusual to see wild turkeys or grouse or the occasional deer (annoying though they can be).  But now, with things being built left and right, the wildlife has no place to go.

It all started yesterday, where there were reports of a bear in the neighborhood near mine.

And the Winston-Salem police responded by, well, shooting it dead.

And now it is the talk of the town.

The police are responding to the controversy by claiming that the bear fell out of a tree and they "had" to shoot it to put it out of its misery.  But people aren't really buying that.  I'm not buying it.  Bears climb trees; they're good at it.  This particular bear just happened to fall out of the tree while police were there?  I don't think so.

The question on people's minds is: why didn't they just shoot ther bear with a sedative?

Here's some choice comments from the Winston-Salem Journal, from the bear defenders (many of them sarcastic).

This bear was reported to be armed and dangerous with WMD. Therefore, his invasion into a local neighborhood qualifies as an act of terrorism and will not be tolerated.

"Cunningham said that police would have preferred that a wildlife agency handle the situation, but said officers had to deal with it immediately because the bear was in a populated area." I still can't find where the wildlife agency "refused" the call – just sounds like they couldn't get there fast enough to suit the cops. So, why not just follow the dang thing instead? The cops ARE the ones armed, right? They do still carry radios, right? Follow the bear, keep an eye on him, and keep in contact with wildlife agencies so they can find him – good grief! "We didn't think it was worth it to wait for the bear to become hostile," Cunningham said ~ you're kidding? Sounds like the bear wasn't hostile yet, but hey, let's kill it just in case ~ c'mon guys! Yeah, the cops have a hard job, and a times a very dangerous one. But stories/actions like this do not help the image of law enforcement

oh no! more bears in the area? gosh send out the militia and kill em all before we all are doomed.

Typical police reaction to wildlife of any form. Shoot first. The bears are hungry and foraging for food in what used to be their home. Now its ours. The humane solution would have been a coordinated effort by Animal Control, Police and State Wildlife officials to relocate the problem bear.

Based on what the defenders of the officer here are saying, I suggest we kill everything that's wild and consider no other alternatives. If something doesn't belong, kill it. Seriously, everyone knows that bears are wild, but there were options – unless you want to believe the bear was attacking humans while the officer went to his vehicle to get the shotgun.

And most everybody else was writing: "OMFG!!!  It was a BEAR for crying out loud!!  A BEAR!!!!   Run for the hills!!!"  Here is one of my favorites:

Having a wild bear at large in a suburban neighborhood unaccustomed to dealing with these powerful animals is a recipe for disaster. I would have liked to see the bear captured or tranquilized, but that is probably an unreasonable expectation given the very limited local resources for dealing with an animal that is almost unknown in Forsyth County, which is easily 50-75 miles beyond the normal range for bear in our state. Furthermore, a bear that is seeking food in garbage cans and backyards is already desensitized to humans and more likely to pose a threat in a human-bear encounter.

Right.  The bear was going through the garbage — how gauche.  Obviously, you can't reason with a garbage-trawling animal.  Best shoot it.

The simple facts are that, yes, bears are wild animals.  Yes, they can be dangerous.  Yes, they can — in theory — attack and maul someone.  But, with that said, there needs to be some perspective:

  • You are 12 times more likely to die of a bee sting than a bear attack (120 times more likely compared to a black bear)
  • You are 10 times more likely to die from a dog attack than a bear attack (45 times more likely compared to a black bear attack)
  • 1 person out of 16,000 commits murder but only 1 grizzly bear out of 50,000 ever kills someone and only 1 black bear out of one million does.  
  • There are about 750,000 black bears in North America and on average there is less than one black bear killing per year.
  • For each person killed by a black bear attack there are 13 people killed by snakes, 17 by spiders, 45 by dogs, 120 by bees, 150 by tornadoes, 374 by lightning, and 60,000 by humans.

People in Asheville are used to this.  Winston-Salem people can adjust as well.