In Grand Teton National Park, wildlife watching is an economic engine worth more than $728 million. — National Park Service
Ending human-caused suffering of fellow beings, ending monetizing animals for their death rather than valuing them for their lives — that is the transformation that can turn the world right-side up and save life on earth.
It is the “great turning,” and it is long overdue in this crisis of mass extinction.
Bear is the superb perfection of evolution, able to quasi-hibernate for six months or more without eating or elimination while birthing and nurturing cubs in a den. Bears are a miracle of conserving energy, restraint of physical power, tenderness and fierceness, and motherly devotion to young.
Mother bears carry the miracle of all mothers — the ability to create another living being — conjuring up the gift of life, teaching and protecting their young. Their bodies are sacred safe space. Madonna and child. Mother bear and cub.
As John Livingston writes in his provocative book “Rogue Primate,” “Wildness receives a great deal of pejorative treatment in our society…. To be wild is to be ungovernable, which means unci
And that, man has determined, must be managed. And managed with persistent and high-tech violence. In this topsy-turvy world, killing is spun as conservation. Hunters proclaim themselves the top of their self-serving hierarchy, a status substantiated by dead bodies displayed over plastic foam, heads on walls, and arrays of weaponry. Men and women take selfies, triumphantly standing over the dead bodies of other animals.
All of it signifies how lost we are.
We, the majority, are complicit in continuing to let this tragedy intensify. Good men doing nothing.
The wild is conquered. The need to control these “lesser” beings at our mercy. Play a numbers killing game with killers at the helm. The weaponry cannot be countered by hoof and claw. The dogs, the bait, the semi-automatics, rifles and crossbows, primitive steel jaw traps, excruciating body-gripping traps, snares, expanding bullets and broad heads legally 7/8 inches wide or more to do maximum vascular damage. The plasticizing, consumptive, climate-changing utility of mass murder — all a wrecking ball of the sacred, the natural balance, the fragility of life.
The typical domination is male power — in politics, representation, extraction, wrangling cattle to slaughter, Wall Street, Washington and the halls of governance. The beings who are absent — the vulnerable, voiceless, powerless, subjugated, herded, tortured and murdered. The thousands of miles of wild fires burning and no mention of millions of wildlife burned alive — just of structures, just of humans. We are gobbling up the world, dissecting it, deforesting, destroying prairie and wetlands, oceans, wildlife, climate, and ultimately ourselves.
It is not enough, this illusion of power and mastery. Overkill of wildlife on the remnants of remaining wild land is not enough. Children are taught it is adult-approved and admirable to kill the innocent.
We are ghosts wandering listlessly, or frantically, through a glut of consumption, technology and self-imposed suffering.
Who stops this juggernaut? Not you?
Jane Goodall has joined forces with concerned citizens to buy up licenses to kill grizzly bears for the first time after 42 years of protection. The “Shoot ’em With a Camera, Not a Gun” movement started in Wyoming when Wyoming’s wildlife commission voted 7-0 for a trophy hunt on Yellowstone grizzlies as soon as they were delisted from federal protection and handed to the state. State agencies, funded primarily with fees and licenses for killing wildlife, have a warped priority of, well, killing as much variety and number of wildlife as possible.
Judy Hofflund, one of the organizers of the lottery protest against killing up to 22 bears, said in an article in The Guardian: “The bears are still so vulnerable. It’s crazy that seven people get to decide that these bears get to be hunted so soon. That feels pretty nutty to me.”
Similarly, seven Wisconsin Natural Resources Board people have designated 4,500 black bears to be killed next month. A record 12,950 licenses have been sold to run down and kill our bears with packs of dogs, using bait. That is 205 times as many bears to be killed in Wisconsin as in Wyoming, more than anywhere else in the world. It’s a shameful smear on Wisconsin’s legacy.
The Center for Biological Diversity, in a message after one signs their petition, states: “It’s tragic that the Trump is sacrificing these magnificent animals to appease a tiny group of trophy hunters who want to stick bear heads on their walls. This irresponsible decision ignores both science and the majority of Americans who want our wild animals protected.
Grizzly 399 and her three cubs are the subject of the new book “Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek.” She has been pictured with three cubs. Last year her lone cub was killed by a car. This year the 21-year-old bear has been seen with two new cubs.
Hofflund said that of her 10 to 12 grizzly sightings, she has seen 399 three times — including once when she saw a man in a crowd of people burst into tears because he was so happy to see 399 alive.
Grizzly 399, an experienced mother, beloved by so many people, is a target. Like Cecil the lion. Like the unknown black bears that will die in Wisconsin, their stories never told.
Petition to stop the grizzly trophy kill.
The Center for Biological Diversity petition and action page is here.
Help start a bear sanctuary/education center in Wisconsin.
This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on August 12, 2018.