Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bear vs. Hiker

Oh boy, this is sad in every way imaginable:

Teen charged with manslaughter in shooting of hiker

MOUNT VERNON — It was foggy around 7:30 a.m. when the teenage brothers were dropped off at a Sauk Mountain trailhead by their grandfather to hunt bear.

In some places, the two boys from Concrete could see only about 20 feet in front of them, according to court documents charging the 14-year-old with first-degree manslaughter in the Aug. 2 death of a 54-year-old hiker he mistook for a bear.

According to court documents filed in Skagit County Juvenile Court on Friday, the two decided it was so foggy they'd just hike up the trail rather than hunt, but they brought their rifles with them "just in case."

On their way back down, the 14-year-old and his now-17-year-old brother saw movement and a "black outline" on the trail about 100 yards ahead of them, according to court documents.

The boys both had rifles with 3X-magnification scopes and both looked through their scopes for "a few minutes" before the younger said, "It's a bear, it's a bear," and, "I've got my cross hairs on it," court documents allege.

The older boy agreed and told his brother to go ahead and shoot, according to police and prosecutors.

Rest of the article

I've been following this story for a while. As a person that frequently hikes by myself (or with a dog), I've thought about the dangers of a solo outing. The factors that I'm concerned about though are typically not from humans. In Orange County there have been a few maulings and deaths from mountain lions. We also have rattle snakes (not a life-threatening problem) and unpredictable weather. Mostly I'm concerned that, in true-Sonja fashion, I'm going to stick my foot in a hole, break a leg, and have to crawl down the mountain.

Bailey, of course, is another matter. He's big (100 lbs), black, and looks like a bear. When hiking in the Angeles National Forest during bear season, he gets dressed up in an orange safety jacket.

Unfortunately for the hiker, neither the fact that she was with a buddy or wearing a bright blue jacket was enough to protect her from an eager (and very young) hunter. While it may be legal for a 14 year-old to hunt without parental supervision, it doesn't make it right. Frankly, I blame the grandfather more than the kid. Not only was he without a responsible adult but he didn't follow accepted hunting procedures. Accidents like this are relatively rare, thankfully. Hunters are much more likely to shoot other hunters (think Dick Cheney) rather than non-hunters (but in all fairness, it should be noted that these accidents, too, are relatively rare). Unfortunately, hunter/hiker interactions have never been cordial and this incident won't help. Very sad for both families.