Yellowstone naturalist and conservationist Jim Halfpenny has received a copy of the investigation into the death of iconic grizzly bear Scarface, who was shot and killed outside of the park in late 2015. The final verdict: Scarface was killed by a hunter, without bear spray, returning after dark along a trail illuminated only by a head lamp. The report could not disprove that the shooting was anything but self defense.
While some questions will never be answered, there are two simple lessons we must carry forward to ensure this incredible bear’s death is not in vain. Though hard to enforce, there needs to be a concerted effort by lawmakers on both sides of the border to make carrying bear spray mandatory, especially when hikers and hunters are accessing regions of high conflict probability. Bear spray may well have saved Scarface’s life.
Of equal importance is the need for people of all walks of life to come together in support of creating buffer zones around protected areas. If Yellowstone and other large parks aren’t big enough to save a creature such as Scarface, then we must create development and hunting transition zones around these areas. This could have saved Scarface’s life and if we are to truly ensure that animals have at least some places in this world where they come first, buffer zones are a must.
Neither issue is easy, but both proposals should be able to overcome ideological, divisive politics in both Canada and America…if we all work together. And we must.
Scarface deserved to die on his own terms after all he gave Yellowstone, its visitors, and our world. We owed this iconic giant – and we owe all life – a place of their own. It doesn’t mean animals are more important than humans, but it does mean that we can and should demand better of ourselves. If we learn from our mistakes, as a citizenry, then we know a better balance can and will be achieved.