While researching hiking regulations, I learned that often, when it comes to national parks, bear canisters are a requirement. All food and cosmetic items, anything that reeks of humans, have to be packed in the canister, and the canister itself has to be placed 100 feet from the campsite. It’s not just human safety these regulations are geared toward, but the bears themselves. The creatures love human food, especially sweets, and they learn to associate humans with the treats, which poses threats to humans. And the bears become inured to human presence, which changes their habits and habitations. Even worse, if a bear attacks a human, it is “euthanized,” a pretty term for capital punishment without due process. (In fact, one bear that was recently murdered turned out not to be the one that assaulted a camper.)
Bear canisters make good sense to me. Keep humans and bears separate. Keep bears wild. And keep both humans and bears safe. So I understand why it’s illegal to go camping in certain areas without a bear canister.
But here is where it gets insane — bear baiting is legal in many states. In the weeks preceding bear hunting season, hunters not only forego bear canisters, they are allowed to “bait” bears. They can leave piles of treats, such as donuts, fish, and rotting meat out in the woods, and if a bear takes the bait, they keep putting food out. This way, when hunting season starts, the hunter just has to go to where the bear is waiting for food, and shoot it.
How is that moral? How is that sport? And if it’s illegal for hikers to unwittingly leave food around to attract bears, how can it possibly be legal for hunters to purposely do the same thing?
During this pre-hunting season, bears are ravenously hungry, needing to put on 20 to 40 pounds in preparation for winter hibernation, so they take the bait. But what if there isn’t enough to keep the bear sated? Since the poor thing now associates humans with food, pity the poor hiker who happens to wander by.
Cripes. It seems as if the whole world has gone crazy. Well, the whole world except you and me. And I sometimes wonder about us.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.