Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Two people that have been in the news during the last year had the unique distinction of being consumed by wild animals, one figuratively, the other literally.
Peter Benchley, the famous author of Jaws,
spent the last decades of his life working towards the conservation of sharks which are being eradicated from the oceans.

The other person was killed and eaten by one of the Grizzly Bears that he felt compelled to wrecklessly live alongside in the wilds of Alaska.
Timothy Treadwell, whose mission in life to protect Grizzlys from hunters and poachers and his ensuing and predictable demise, was masterfully preserved for all of time in the documentary film,
Grizzly Man.

Both of these men tapped into our primal fears and have generated countless discussions about our modern role in Nature. The quandry of protecting creatures that will eat you is a perplexing proposition for homo escapeons (modern man), especially in resort/tourism destinations.

There are plenty of wild and domestic animals that kill humans. Here is a partial list of large multicellular animals that kill humans;
Dogs, Elephants, Cape Buffalo,Lions, Crocodiles,Hippos, Tigers.
There are also many smaller creatures that can also kill humans; Snakes, Jellyfish, Spiders,Octopus,Stonefish, Killer Bees.
Unfortunately our status as dominant planetary uberspecies does not preclude us from being killed by some of the other 2million species that we share the planet with.

Every year millions of sharks are unceremoniously de-finned and tossed into the sea to drown and sink into the abyss in order to supply Asian restaurants with shark fin soup.
Big game hunters target giant bears and kill them with efficient high powered rifles from a hundred yards away to create rugs and macho photo opportunities.

In both instances homo escapeons kill far more sharks and bears than the reverse.

Benchley unwittingly unleashed a vendetta against Great White Sharks that has only recently been curtailed by the discovery of their diminished numbers.
The Great White became a mythical monster that probed our beaches looking for victims.
To his credit Benchley worked hard to dismantle the fables and portray the fish for what it is, an apex predator that has outlived our species by hundreds of millions of years.
Believe it or not the Great White is hunted as a food item by Orcas which love to eat the shark's giant liver.

Timothy Treadwell and his tragic demise offers us a rare glimpse at the tenuous truce that prevailed between himself and the wild, giant, bears.
He did not carry a rifle and was armed with only his wits and pepperspray and yet somehow manage to survive for over a decade (during the summer months) of living within yards of these one thousand pound omnivores.

You cannot help but watch the documentary without squirming in your seat and wonder how his luck held out for so long.

In the end his girlfriend also paid the ultimate price for crossing the invisible line with him...
wrong place, wrong time, wrong bear.

During the 60s my family vacationed at a lakeside campground that was a few short miles from a garbage dump crawling with black bears.
After supper kids in their pajamas would hop in the car and Dads would drive off to the dump to watch the bears rummage through last weeks supper. It was a terrible situation, several of the bears were shot every summer as they wandered into the campground in search of food.
It was not uncommon to hear the report of a rifle at dusk and then follow the clamoring of the curious vacationers on their footrace to witness the dead bear getting tossed into the back of a truck.

I will never forget one particular evening when I escorted my younger cousin to a fence lined public washroom.
My patience was wearing thin after waiting for several minutes when I heard the banging and crashing of aluminum garbage cans from behind the fence....

Like a bolt of lightning I watched my cousin zoom past me yelling
Before I could move a young bear ran past me and straight up the nearest tree. It is fair to say that all three of us were equally scared.
After what seemed like an eternity the cub inched his way down from the tree and bolted for the safety of the forest. That was as close as I ever wanted to get to a wild bear for the rest of my life

Today however I would love watch the world's most dangerous ursine, the beautiful Polar Bear, but only from the safety of a gigantic Tundra Buggy.

Timothy Treadwell would not have lasted five minutes sitting around trying to talk to Polar Bears.

That simple fact says something quite remarkable about his Grizzlys.

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