Patricia Randolph’s Madravenspeak: Bear biologist makes a devil’s bargain

Research bears Faith and Hope

Part I of II

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” ~ Baba Dioum

Over the seven years of writing the Madravenspeak column, and 18 years since being elected to the so-called Conservation Congress, I have watched in despair as more and more hunters and trappers are recruited and trained, military-style, to wage war on the dwindling wildlife in Wisconsin. When ego is tied to killing wildlife, it is a tough nut to crack. DNR policies are emptying our woods and making them violent.

As one reader wrote in, “We need a Citizen DNR to monitor all the abuse going on.

The DNR and hunters further degraded themselves in 2003 and 2006 by pushing legalization of fenced enclosures where captive baby bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons and rabbits have packs of dogs loosed on them 16 hours a day every day of their lives until killed by the dogs. This is family entertainment — dogs attacking helpless trapped wildlife, “training” to kill indigenous wildlife. There is no oversight and few of the supposedly required quarterly reports from the owners of these enclosures are filed.

Our wildlife are chased, tortured and killed out of sight.

Back in 2000, Tom Solin, lead special investigator for the DNR, invited me to be on the Captive Bear and Cougar committee to improve conditions for wildlife in this state. He told me that coyotes should never be included in captive hounding enclosures, as they cannot escape the fence or hide from the dogs. He told me they are torn apart on the ground. The improvements we made were gutted as soon as he retired.

Two bears can be put into a cement-floored 400-square-foot dog pen all their lives in Wisconsin (and many are). I met Jeff Traska while on the committee. He was a former bear hunter who had adopted a bear and pioneered the first open-top enclosure in Wisconsin, starting with one acre and a pond, now expanded to four bears in six or seven acres of woods. Traska describes himself as a “reformed sport hunter” who realized he was fascinated with bears. Part of his mission is “dispelling the myths and misconceptions that have led to the widespread, unnecessary persecution of bears.”

I asked Traska why the change of heart from bear killer to bear lover, and he said, “I realized I did not learn anything about bears after they were dead in the back of my truck.

Lynn Rogers, the famed bear biologist who has studied black bears longer than any person on earth, has made extraordinary compromises to try to help black bears. He wanted to be the Jane Goodall of bear research, observing them in their natural environments, and learning from them who they actually are. What he found astounded him. He found peaceful creatures, bluff-charging to try to get away from humans who have done them so much harm. He forged a fierce love of and close relationship with wild bears.

In 1968, Rogers, as a graduate student, started the first study of black bears in Minnesota. He wrote: “It was sponsored mainly by the Minneapolis Big Game Club and eventually by the NRA, the Wildlife Management Institute, the Boone and Crockett Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and various sportsmen’s organizations.”

Rogers describes the situation for bears when he started his study: “Bear numbers were low. They had been bountied for years. When the bounty finally was lifted in 1965, bear status became the same as rats. They were varmints to be killed at any time, in any manner, by any person 52 weeks per year (like coyotes are killed here now). The common practice was for residents to gut-shoot them so they would die away from residences, sometimes months later, without the need to bury the carcasses.”

Even as he was learning the peaceful, intelligent character of bears, Lynn worked with hunters to “elevate” the status of bears to trophy so that seasons would be established and rules set, rules that required powerful-enough weapons to kill rather than just wound. Lynn claims that he respected hunters and they respected his research.

It was a devil’s bargain that would come back to haunt him later as some of his favorite research bears, bears he and his students cherished, were targeted and killed by hunters with DNR approval.

Being killed for trophy taxidermy is still a death sentence. Now trophy-hunting bears is big business. In Wisconsin more black bears are killed annually than anywhere on earth. Some 60 to 70 percent of the males killed 2004-2014 were cubs 1-2 years old. That data correlate to a bear population crash, according to the top biologist in Minnesota.

Part II of this column, to be published Oct. 8, will explore how that cooperation with the DNR and hunters would change, from the hunter side, as the agency and hunters resented the growing knowledge of citizens learning the true nature of bears and falling in love with them.


Action Alerts:

Bear lovers can help create a Wisconsin bear sanctuary and education center on my property, 35 miles north of Madison. Several posts added to the Wisconsin Wildlife Ethic website over the past couple of months provide further information regarding plans for the bear sanctuary and education center, along with information on how you can help this project become a reality.

Please sign the petition to End Lion Farming in South Africa raising 8,000 lions for people to kill in fenced enclosures).

This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on September 24, 2017.

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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in Uncategorized


Tomorrow Night, October 4, 2017! NATURE Monthly Newsletter | Sept 27, 2017 | Baby elephants, foxes and more!

Nature on PBS is promoting a few of their wildlife shows. Highlighted below are those that I wanted bring to your attention. Please network and ENJOY! I will try to let you know of other PBS shows that may be of interest. For those of you who are interested in viewing the Nature website click here. Patricia



Next on NATURE…

Naledi: One Little Elephant


A moving story of how an orphaned baby elephant beat the odds.


 Fox Tales


Discover the Red fox, an intelligent and adaptable canid that is thriving in cities and pushing northward into the territory of its Arctic cousins.


New on the Blog…

Should I rescue stranded animals?

Experts warn that trying to rescue animals marooned by a hurricane could cause more harm than good.


Season 36 Sneak Preview

Catch a sneak peek of Naledi and other upcoming films in NATURE’s 36th season.



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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in Uncategorized


Patricia Randolph’s Madravenspeak: Letting hunters kill bear cubs is a priority for Trump and Wisconsin’s DNR


World famous bear biologist Lynn Rodgers with a wild research bear and her cub

It appears you could, through baiting, really wipe out the bear population very quickly.’’ — Dave Garshelis, top Minnesota bear biologist in 2017

Dave Garshelis, the top DNR bear biologist in Minnesota, said that their bear population has crashed due to overkill the past six years. However, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources continues to promote killing nearly twice as many bears here the past eight years.

The Minnesota Star Tribune reported: “Over the past two decades, Minnesota’s population of black bears has plunged steeply, from 25,000 to an estimated range of 12,000 to 15,000. Tighter hunting restrictions have aimed, without much luck, to reverse the trend.”

Instead of increasing quotas for 2017, the Minnesota DNR tightened them. With natural food supplies again in short supply this year, Garshelis said, “It took a while for the state to recognize that Minnesota’s bear population had crashed.” He also said: “They were very vulnerable last year. They were easy to bait.’’

Baiters drop tons of donuts and breads in Wisconsin woods, all summer long, disrupting natural feeding patterns of all wildlife. A crash in Wisconsin’s bear population is politically not going to be acknowledged — science and humane stewardship, of course, be damned.

Hunting is by far the biggest mortality factor for bears. The Minnesota DNR issued 9,500 permits in 2010, but only 3,850 last year, and 3,350 this year. Minnesota’s highest annual kill in six years was 2,641 bears.

The Wisconsin DNR continues to kill off nearly twice that many every year — 4,646 in 2012, 3,952 in 2013, 4,526 in 2014, 4,198 in 2015, 4,682 in 2016. The DNR is destroying wildlife in this state to recruit and satisfy more hunters to keep its exclusive power base as a killing business.

“When the age of harvested bears declines significantly, as it has in Minnesota, it’s an indication that the overall population is dropping,” Garshelis said. “In 2016, half the male bears taken here were either 1 or 2 years old. Half the female bears were age 3 or younger, meaning they never matured to reproductive age.”

For over a decade, most of the bears killed in Wisconsin have been less than 2 years old. When I started raising the alarm about this, years ago, the DNR kept monitoring age of bears killed, but stopped including that data in its “harvest” reports.

Wisconsin bears no doubt are also faced with natural food supplies in short supply, yet the DNR has issued the highest number of killing tags ever for 2017: 12,850. It is hardly scientific or humane, but hey, running dogs and killing wildlife is “just fun,” according to this Wisconsin Bear Hounding facebook video. Although the DNR imposes a limit of six dogs that can terrorize bears, one can see at least 12 in the video attacking a young bear.

Deregulation and no oversight are the DNR’s game.

The Minnesota DNR overestimated their bear mothers’ ability to create enough cannon fodder for hunters. Wisconsin continues accelerating the same mistake.

Recent articles in Esquire, “Freedom Means Shooting Bear Cubs While They’re Hibernating,” and New York magazine, “Trump Team Blocks Criticism of Bill Allowing Hunters to Massacre Bear Cubs,” show President Trump is focused on ending “tyrannical regulations that make it illegal for hunters to massacre baby bears, during their denning season, at Alaskan wildlife preserves.”

“Expanding access to national parks and public lands for hunting, fishing, and recreation is and remains a top priority of this administration,” said Heather Swift, an Interior Department spokeswoman.

The NY Magazine article goes on to say, “In addition to its provisions concerning bear cubs, the SHARE Act (Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act) would also allow hunters to kill baby wolves and coyotes during their denning seasons. The NPS (National Park Service) memo objects to these measures, noting that wolf and coyote pups’ pelts have ‘little trophy, economic or subsistence value.’ But as the National Rifle Association explains, the only people who would prohibit the killing of coyote puppies on these grounds are ‘animal rights extremists.’”

Lynn Rogers, bear biologist who runs the North American Bear Education Center in Minnesota, teaches the gentle, peaceful nature of black bears. As a tribute to a longtime bear supporter, Madelene Ostrowski, recently deceased, he posted her beautiful five-minute video tribute to his research bears.

As Rogers said, “I recognize that the DNR has stated that hunters and trappers are their primary clients. Those are the clients who buy hunting licenses and pay federal Pittman-Robinson taxes on hunting equipment — taxes that are distributed to the states according to the number of hunters. Those funds pay the salaries of many of the DNR’s wildlife officials. But taxpayers and tourists deserve consideration, too.”

And that has always been zero consideration.

Please ask your senators to oppose the SHARE Act and its companion bill, the Sportsmen’s Act, which expand trophy hunting and poaching access to wildlife on so many levels. The very organized hunting cartel will be voicing and paying its way to this long-sought legislation.

This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on September 10, 2017.

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Posted by on October 1, 2017 in Uncategorized


Patricia Randolph’s Madravenspeak: Look deeper than white supremacy — to terrors of human supremacy



“Bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bear’s days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours.” — John Muir

During five weeks from Sept. 6 through Oct. 11, 5,000 black bears will be killed with packs of dogs run on them since July 1, and bait set all summer. Most will die before they are 2 years old.

For $4.50 each, 112,985 wannabe bear hunters (over $508,400 collected) were entered in the bear kill lottery. The most licenses ever issued have been sold for the 2017 kill — 12,850 licenses at $49 each (another $629,650) — or $7 to lure a child 10 to 11 years old to kill a bear cub.

The Department of Natural Resources is anything but natural and nothing about protecting nature and wildlife for the greater good. Follow the money to the ultimate source of privatization of wildlife to those who kill. As long as the state and federal agencies are funded by hunting, trapping and hounding licenses and taxes on guns and ammunition, the general nonhunting public is excluded from any say.

The DNR operates an upside-down world that values wildlife primarily for its death. These wild creatures cannot organize to defend themselves, protest, or fight back. They are helpless without our defense, a defense that has never been there for them.

Biologist Lynn Rogers (shown in the picture with a wild bear), who founded and runs the North American Bear Education Center in Ely, Minnesota, has studied black bears for over 50 years — more than any human on earth.

The Guardian wrote an article in 2009 about Rogers’ work, saying: “In the years Rogers has tramped through the Northwoods he has abandoned just about everything he knew, or thought he knew, about bears. …

“And they are not ferocious. Rogers is adamant about that. He said he has never heard a bear roar or even growl, and that in all of his years of close proximity to the animals he has never been seriously hurt even though in his early years he displayed what he calls ‘bad bear manners.’

“The bears he knows are timid creatures. Defensive postures, such as swatting their large paws on the ground, are mistaken for aggression by many people.

“‘In my 42 years of working closely with bears (now 50 years) and testing every no-no, I have not found a way of getting a bear to attack. The more I push them the more they try to get away. They might want to nip and slap, but it is not an attack, it is just a way of fending me off so they can find a way to escape.’

“It’s humans who are the more dangerous animal, he said. ‘If you look at the statistics, one black bear out of a million kills somebody. With grizzly bears it’s one in 50,000. Among humans it’s one person out of 18,000 kills somebody. So you could see why I would feel a lot less comfortable in the city than in the woods next to a bear.’”

The Minnesota DNR, like the Wisconsin DNR funded on killing wildlife, has resented Lynn Rogers’ education about the peaceful sweet nature of bears. They do not want the public to protect wildlife. They refused to protect Rogers’ radio-collared research bears and worked with hunters to kill them. I wrote about the DNR’s war on Rogers’ research in October 2015, “Lily, a bear with a bounty on her head.”

This year, in Rogers’ newsletter, he wrote June 20, “I knew how hard the DNR worked in defiance of a judge’s order to eliminate our top bears in 2013. I knew Lily was the icon representing Lily Fans and all that we are doing for bears that conflicts with the DNR campaign to recruit hunters. I knew that Lily had done much to let people see the gentle way they care for their cubs. I remembered that the DNR had added revealing the location of her den site part of the DNR permit to place a den cam last winter, which would have revealed her location and the location of her territory where the DNR could focus hunting. I couldn’t risk her life that way. Working with the DNR, the local guide has surrounded my property with hunters each hunting season since the DNR began trying to end my research. Lily, the bear with a bounty, is the prized target of all as the documentary of 2013 showed.”

Only constant citizen pressure on legislators can end this madness. In an accelerating mass extinction, we need a DNR that respects not just wildlife, but all of us, with a first time democracy.

Interested citizens can sign up to receive the bear center newsletter and can view the bear web cam.

Originally published in the Madison CapTimes on August 27, 2017.


Posted by on September 17, 2017 in Uncategorized


Patricia Randolph’s Madravenspeak: Human kamikaze — our destruction of planetary life


“No matter how well-informed you are, you are surely not alarmed enough.” ~ David Wallace-Wells

There is such a thing as too late.

I attended scientist Guy McPherson’s presentation “Abrupt Climate Change” at the Wilmar Community Center on Jennifer Street in Madison July 14.

In November 2014, I wrote in this column about McPherson’s prediction of sudden irreversible and catastrophic leaps in temperature accelerating our extinction of species to include the human species. McPherson, a retired professor emeritus of natural resources, ecology, and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, is calmly sticking to his storyline of imminent doom. He hypothesizes that temperature increases may spike from 2 degrees to 25 degrees in short order. As therapist, evangelist, scientist and storyteller combined, he lays out our fate: Love deeply and prepare to exit.

As President Donald Trump dismantles the democratic agencies that somewhat protected land, water and wildlife in favor of extraction of more dirty fuels, he has similarly directed the Department of Agriculture to abandon climate change mitigation efforts for farmers.

Gov. Scott Walker, a Koch brothers tool, scrubbed climate change from the DNR website. It is impossible to trust anything about a DNR that denies, ignores and misrepresents the science of mass extinction and climate change.

Seeking viewpoints contrary to McPherson’s, I found Michael Tobis, editor of Planet 3.0. He holds a doctorate from the UW-Madison in atmospheric and oceanic sciences and has written a lengthy debunking of McPherson in “Doom, Doom, Doom.” Tobis is in the camp of those who think we need to stay hopeful to keep people motivated. But I found little hope in his arguments. They were mainly focused on challenging McPherson’s time frame, not the ultimate trajectory of destruction and suicidal oblivion of the human species.

Tobis, in his 60s, says he does not expect to see the worst of our civilization’s decline, but that if he were in his 30s, he would be worried.

I looked further and found “The Uninhabitable Earth,” subtitled “Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think” by David Wallace-Wells. It was published by New York Magazine on this past July 9.

Wallace-Wells starts off with the 40-year lag time between human damage and its consequent climate change: “The present tense of climate change — the destruction we’ve already baked into our future — is horrifying enough. Most people talk as if Miami and Bangladesh still have a chance of surviving; most of the scientists I spoke with assume we’ll lose them within the century, even if we stop burning fossil fuel in the next decade.”

He says that sea-level rise concerns barely scratch the surface of what lies ahead — even for today’s teenagers. Here is a NASA depiction of the increase in global warming from 1880-2016.

First and foremost, scientists are too reticent to scare the public with the truth of the projected devastation of rapid climate change. Given the climate-change denial of the U.S.’s so-called leadership and the habitual nature of humans accustomed to the climate abuse, little is changing fast enough to address worst-case scenarios. Wallace-Wells says that our failure of imagination to predict our own annihilation has kept us in denial, distracted, and too complacent before the complexity of the problems we face.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s policies are working to destroy our planetary home.

To summarize some of Wallace-Wells’ main points:

• The most recent report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (considered the gold standard) predicts a 4-8 degree rise in temperature by the end of the century.

• “The last time the planet was even four degrees warmer, Peter Brannen points out in ‘The Ends of the World,’ his new history of the planet’s major extinction events, the oceans were hundreds of feet higher.”

• “The history of the planet shows that temperature can shift as much as five degrees Celsius within thirteen years.”

• Four of the five major extinctions on earth were caused by global warming and greenhouse gases. “The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic, and ended with 97 percent of all life on Earth dead.

• “No plausible program of emissions reductions alone can prevent climate disaster.”

Wallace-Wells goes on to elaborate on unbreathable air, melting permafrost exposing humans with no immunity to unfamiliar diseases, and food production cut by rising temperatures — methane-farting cows being the most climate-damaging and inefficient.

“Already, more than 10,000 people die each day from the small particles emitted from fossil-fuel burning; each year, 339,000 people die from wildfire smoke.”

Wallace-Wells states that fossil fuels caused economic growth and climate change to explode. He predicts economic collapse with mass displacement, migration, increased wars, and rising dead oceans, acidified and poisoned, no longer absorbing carbon. As fish die, hydrogen sulfide is emitted. Dead zones “are already quite advanced in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and just off Namibia, where hydrogen sulfide is bubbling out of the sea along a thousand-mile stretch of land known as the ‘Skeleton Coast,’” he writes. “Hydrogen sulfide is also the thing that finally did us in that time 97 percent of all life on Earth died, once all the feedback loops had been triggered and the circulating jet streams of a warmed ocean ground to a halt — it’s the planet’s preferred gas for a natural holocaust.”

This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on August 15, 2017.


Please sign and network to social media this Center for Biological Diversity petition to keep Congress from sentencing wolves to death to score political points. If hunters succeed in getting this legislation passed, it weakens the Endangered Species Act, neuters the courts, and destroys wolves in the most vengeful ways.

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Posted by on August 26, 2017 in Uncategorized


Patricia Randolph’s Madravenspeak: Federal lawsuit challenges Wisconsin hunter/hounder entitlement law


“Venturing into uncharted territory, we need dramatically new leadership and government laws” ~ “Wild Law” by Cormac Cullinan

On July 17, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in federal court aiming to strike down a recently amended Wisconsin statute that “bans photographing, videotaping, approaching or even maintaining a visual or physical proximity to a hunter.” The law carries a penalty of up to $10,000 and nine months in jail. The law currently states that citizens cannot take more than two photos of a hunter on our public lands.

(If you see a hunter while hiking, lower your eyes and back respectfully away, murmuring, “I hope you kill a BIG one.” Do not look at him or her.)

Hunters, of course, can take endless pictures of each other grinning over our wildlife that they killed.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law, paying homage to bear-killing donors while attending the Wisconsin Bear Hunter Association Convention in April 2016.

The lawsuit argues that the law unconstitutionally restricts free speech and violates the First Amendment. I spoke to Matthew Liebman, director of litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, who said, “In order to have an informed discussion about hunting, citizens need to be able to document it.”

Joe Brown is one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He moved to Wisconsin from Texas in 2013 and took a job teaching at Marquette University. A documentary filmmaker, Brown has been filming the activities of Rod Coronado’s Wolf Patrol since 2014 as they have monitored the abuses of running packs of dogs on bears and wolves. The patrol documents illegal activity like baited hooks hung so that if a wolf would leap to get the meat, it would hang on the hooks to die an agonizing death.

The DNR used to want citizens to report abuses on its “tip line.” Now it is illegal to look at or document abuses.

Brown says that Rod Coronado’s work to end the atrocities being promoted by the DNR inspired him when he had given up. Joe writes, “I suspect that the weight of what Aldo Leopold called an ‘ecological education’ became too much for me. I simply saw too much destruction, and didn’t want to ‘live alone in a world of wounds.’”

I talked to Joe as he was awaiting a tow truck for his broken-down car. He referred me to his website, where one can see a nine-minute preview of his Wolf Patrol film, to debut in 2018.

In the wildlife issues on his site, Brown refers to the horrific attacks on wolves by federal and state agencies, reminiscent of their 1850–1950 persecution and the ignorance toward wolves and all natural predators.

Joe writes:

• “Wisconsin’s lax regulation of hound hunting produces an environment in which hounds frequently ‘run the woods’…. Hunters who lose dogs to wolves have been seen making threats to wolves on hound hunting social media sites. Common claims include, “if the feds won’t let the state control wolves, we will,” “S.S.S.,” or “Shoot, Shovel & Shut-Up,” and “S.O.S.,” or “Shoot on Site.” (NO WOLVES vanity plates on one truck)”

• “Wisconsin currently allows hunters to train their hounds in the forests from July 1st to April 14th of the following year.”

• “Wisconsin also currently pays hunters up to $2,500 for each dog killed by a wolf. Wisconsin is the only state to reimburse hunters for dogs lost to wolves.”

“lupusposse” commented on a Wisconsin Public Radio article about the Wolf Patrol monitoring of the bear hunt last fall:

“The Wolf Patrol and any other groups that might be keeping an eye on the human overexploitation of North America’s native wildlife serve a vital purpose by bringing the imbalance and that excess and unethical targeting of Ursus Americanus with its disrupting effects on wolves and other natural balances, to the public eye.”

On Joe Brown’s link “Why Rod’s story,” he writes, “I can also speak out against the unsporting, inhumane, and frequently barbaric hunting practices carried out on our public lands. There are real issues with wildlife policy in the U.S.” He writes, “I see a man (Coronado) that challenges mainstream America’s apathy and malaise.”

I asked Joe if Wisconsin citizens seem intimidated by armed men and women out to kill bears and wildlife using packs of dogs. Would citizens be afraid to report trespassing and killed livestock or pets? He said that the mindset of Wisconsin hunters is intimidation. “They throw their weight around.”

I asked him for a statement and he emailed me this: “I’ve lived all over the United States — New England, the South, the Mountain West, and the Southwest. I’m not going to say that Wisconsin is completely unique, but it does seem to be pretty ‘old school’ when it comes to hunting. Many other states have banned hunting practices that are still somehow celebrated in Wisconsin. Attitudes in northern Wisconsin seem a good 30 years behind the times, and this is pretty shocking given Wisconsin’s rich environmental history and the legacy of folks like Aldo Leopold and John Muir.”

On Rod Coronado’s Wolf Patrol website: “If you agree that it’s time to end bear baiting and hound training in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, please send an email now to forest officials at:

State Sen. “Toxic Tom” Tiffany is not only working to kill wolves but to poison citizens by promoting a new sulfide mining venture. Please stop him on both issues by calling 608-266-2509.

This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on July 30, 2017


Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized


Patricia Randolph’s Madravenspeak: The lady and the panther: Life-changing communication with animals


“I believe that humanity is suffering from a great separation sickness, a real disconnect from nature.” ~ Anna Breytenbach

What would it be like to be able to communicate with other animals on this planet? With two-thirds of all nonhuman animal life already destroyed by us, we are in need of redemption to save them and ourselves.

In order to speak to us, animals usually have to overcome a lot of trauma. Imagine being a Wisconsin woodland creature, having watched your young fawns or best friend shot in front of you. Imagine watching your mother bear run by packs of dogs and shot out of a tree, never to return to help you survive your first winter. Imagine walking along the creek in winter to find a young beaver in a trap, struggling to breathe and stay above the waterline, or a fox dying in a steel jaw trap.

Trust is the basis of all relationships. When one has been hurt, it takes a lot to forgive and trust again. But animals are faced with that hurt and challenge all the time.

An ex-policeman, Jurg Olsen, and his wife, Karen, set up the Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa in 2005, rescuing big cats often sold off to canned hunts by petting zoos.

Jurg writes, “Africa’s lions have virtually no more space left due to human invasion into their territories.

“Adding to this the huge amount of poaching that is taking place internationally and the black market trade in predator species body parts and you have a no-win situation for any big cat anywhere in the world.

“Researchers have estimated that lions will be extinct in the wild in Africa in the next 20 years, all tiger subspecies will be extinct within 15 years, several leopard species have only a few hundred left in the wild and jaguar numbers have dwindled from approximately 10,000 to less than 5,000 in the wild in a very short space of time. In the U.S. pumas are seen as problem animals and killed on sight and cheetahs are considered vermin by Namibian farmers.”

The Olsens rescued a black leopard named Diablo from a European zoo where he had been abused. For six months the leopard did not leave his night shelter and snarled at everyone. Jurg survived one encounter with the cat and one bite put him in hospital for a week.

Anna Breytenbach lives in South Africa and has devoted her life to interspecies communication. She believes that by understanding animals more deeply, we can begin to heal ourselves. She sends pictures and thoughts to animals and receives detailed information from them in return.

Jurg was extremely skeptical that an animal communicator could make any difference for this dangerous and hostile big cat. He said, “I honestly cannot believe that an animal can talk to a human.”

In this beautiful true story, Breytenbach was called out of desperation.

They made sure she had no information about Diablo’s past.

The minute the leopard saw her, he calmed down.

Breytenbach looked at the leopard and listened intently and then told Jurg that the cat had been conditioned by an unfortunate past and did not want anything to do with humans.

“He is immensely powerful and not just physically … but immensely powerful with wisdom and energetic presence and personality far bigger than anyone has ever appreciated about him before — and he commands a certain amount of respect for that. Not in a needy way but by virtue of who he is as a being,” Breytenbach said.

The animal communicator said that he had a very particular concern about his name — he did not like the association with the darkness, the blackness, the diabolical — and he wanted the name changed.

She then said that when asking about his past, “He expressed concern about two young cubs that were next to him. He is asking what happened to them with a great sense of care and concern.”

Jurg and Karen were stunned because they had forgotten, in the excitement and turmoil of moving Diablo, that there had been two young leopard cubs housed next to him.

There was no way for Breytenbach to know that except by communicating with the cat, as even they had forgotten about it.

Breytenbach assured the cat that nothing was expected of him at the sanctuary, and said it gave him a huge sense of relief.

For the first time, that very afternoon, the leopard walked out of his night space to explore the outer large enclosure.

Jurg decided to rename the leopard “Spirit.”

He felt he had nothing to lose by telling the leopard verbally that the two young cubs were safe. And then he said, “Wow — you are so beautiful.” The cat answered him with a short grunt 19 times. For the first time Jurg felt at ease with him, and that the cat was relaxed. “I don’t know what it felt like for him, but for me it was the most amazing moment,” Jurg said.

Breytenbach came back later that day to check up on Spirit and asked him about the communication with Jurg. Spirit told her that it was the first time that someone had directly expressed verbal appreciation for who he really is, not how they see him to be … and it really surprised him.

She said he is so relieved that nothing is being demanded of him. When he was grunting back, he was saying, “Thank you.”

Jurg said, ”It changed my whole life.”

He took Breytenbach’s communication workshop and uses those skills with all of the animals in their care.


The House Appropriations bill just emerged with a rider banning the Endangered Species Act from protecting wolves in the lower 48. The Senate will likely consider a similar measure. Contact your representatives and senators to oppose the measure. Tammy Baldwin, up for re-election, especially needs to hear from you. Please flood her offices with calls against delisting wolves.

Sign petitions to save Yellowstone grizzlies here.

More powerful, call your senators, representatives and the president and tell them to protect Yellowstone bears.

This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on July 16, 2017.

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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Uncategorized