It’s been over a week since the tragedy in Yellowstone that cost a hiker his life. Nothing will ever bring back the man who was loved by many, but much can be done to ensure lessons are learned to prevent such a tragedy from being repeated. Most especially, work remains to ensure that the two bear cubs involved in the attack are given a chance of living out their lives in the wild, rather than in a zoo.
Ghost Bear Photography has been vocal in our disagreement with Yellowstone National Park’s handling of the case, beginning with the killing of the grizzly sow responsible for the attack and, more recently, the decision to send her two cubs of the year to a zoo in Toledo, Ohio.
As we’ve repeatedly stated, we empathize with the difficult situation Yellowstone faced and don’t believe for one second that those tasked with identifying solutions have ill intent toward bears. That being said, we believe that in a healthy democracy and in a globally celebrated wilderness, such as Yellowstone, there must be room to critique policy and advocate for new thinking.
In this case, new thinking begins by reviewing current hiking rules and implementing simple policies – such as mandatory bear spray (read more here) – that can prevent further deaths, human and bear. They should have been changed after the 2011 attacks and we share in the responsibility for having not spoken out earlier for changes. But there is no excuse for failing to act now.
Equally, we must demand better of ourselves, as a society, and bring about new procedures for dealing with animals involved in conflict. We will never agree with the killing of a grizzly sow who has lived near people for twenty years and never shown a hint of aggression until she killed a hiker while defending her cubs (read more here). What we can do now is make sure that we help decision makers have better options when faced with situations like this.
We’ll never know why Yellowstone failed to do their due diligence by not investigating the viable option of rehabilitating the cubs involved in this attack. But what we’re learning is too few jurisdictions in America consider rehabilitation when dealing with orphaned or problem bears, even with the proven track record of success in Canada. That must change and that can change with the fate of the two cubs involved with this attack.
Though plans are to have them sent to a zoo – a devastating choice given the volume of research that has proven that wide ranging carnivores suffer in captivity – there remains a window of opportunity to convince the park and the US government to embrace rehabilitation, starting with this case.
Though we’re volunteers and Canadians, we have been speaking out and encouraging you to do the same, based on the information that has been made available to us, the research we’ve conducted and the advice we’ve received. Most importantly, we’ve felt strongly that we’ve had to do whatever we could to stand up for what we feel is right and be part of a reasoned, proactive discourse in order to forward the vision of balance we advocate. But we don’t have the resources to lead this campaign and, as such, we’re overjoyed that, starting today, the respected and reputable Canadian-based, internationally-focused organization Zoo Check is getting involved. With so many voices, there needs to be a more coordinated effort to create change and that must come from an organization with a long history of working on similar issues and doing so with successful results.
We will continue to do what we can to support new rules, advance new thinking and make sure that neither the hiker or the grizzly sow died in vain. And we will continue to relay all news and information that is made available to us, but mostly we’ll be focused on helping the experts, Zoo Check (and other organizations that are and will become involved) be successful with our shared aims and we hope you’ll join us.
Ultimately, with good intentions, we’re hopeful that all stakeholders can work together to learn from this tragedy and, indeed, create a better balance between people and nature.