Thursday, July 07, 2011

Human vs. Wildlife

From the accounts currently available, it sounded like a tragic accident. The man was hiking with his wife and startled the bear, prompting her to rush the couple in defense of her young ones. The woman escaped with only minor scrapes but her husband was fatally injured. My deepest sympathies go out to the wife and family. 

That said, I’m surprised that more attacks don’t occur every year, given the sheer numbers of people traveling through the park and the ever-shrinking geographic area in which the animals find themselves confined. 

We saw several examples of people getting too close to animals; I think folks are so excited to see wildlife outside of a zoo that they forget that both people and animals can be harmed by close contact. 

Example No. 1:

 It’s illegal to get within 100 yards of a bear, nevermind 25 feet. No wonder the park has to dispatch a ranger to the area whenever an animal is spotted by the road. 

Example No. 2:
 Read this lovely account of a woman that was charged by a bison last year in the park. Not only was she waaaaaay too close, but somebody nearby was throwing sticks at the animal. The video is pretty interesting and she’s lucky that she escaped serious injury. 

And lastly, Example No. 3:
I’m not sure if a bison looks at somebody on a motorcycle as something that it could tackle (figuratively and literally). In Africa, the lions didn’t view the open-sided safari vehicles as threats [or, more importantly, as tasty bento boxes]. However, the minute somebody stood up in the vehicle [and by doing so, identified themselves as a potential meal], the lions were instantly interested. Consequently, there was a sit-down-at-all-times rule that was strictly enforced.

Regardless, I would have been pretty freaked out to be the occupants on the motorcycle that is in front of the red jeep and directly adjacent to the bison. This guy was big and brazen. Way too close for comfort. 

That said, we were on the website for the McNeil River Bear Sanctuary in Alaska the other day…. and we really, really want to go*. How hypocritical is that, Peeps?!

* It’s not quite as awful as it sounds: the Dept. of Fish and Game only allows about 300 people each year to visit the park and you are accompanied by a ranger at all times. Rules are strictly enforced and people are not allowed to closely approach the bears. No visitor has ever been mauled. Yet.