I Rise to Defend Black Bears

I Rise to Defend Black Bears

Your honor and august members of the jury of the great gun-toting state of Connecticut, I have been engaged by Yogi, Boo Boo, Smokey, Teddy et al. to defend them, and their flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters, in a class-action suit against imminent assault, evisceration, dismemberment and death — not to mention having their heads displayed on rec room walls.

If you haven't heard, Connecticut is moving toward instituting a hunting season on black bears before they decimate another unsecured garbage can or mangle yet one more overflowing bird feeder (sunflower seeds are expensive!).

Let me begin by averring that my hirsute clients value their freedom (and their heads) every bit as much as you do. The vast majority of our Nutmeg neighbors, Ursus americanus, mind their own business in the forest primeval eating nuts, berries and assorted roughage, like a conscientious vegan from Avon or any of our tony suburbs. When they spy (or smell) a member our species, they high-tail it deeper into the woods, generally before we see them.

I will concede that black bears have been known to ingest meat products when the opportunity arises, just as you and I do. For example, if they come upon a fawn, they will gobble it up like a Happy Meal. Although this may make you squeamish about poor defenseless Bambi, consider this: Deer are a way bigger nuisance in this state than bears and are responsible for thousands of car accidents each year.

Keeping down the annoying deer population is one reason that we have a deer hunting season. How's that working out for you, my fellow Steady Habituates? I don't know about you, but I haven't seen a deer in about 20 minutes.

So let me see if I have this right: The plan is to shoot the bears that are helping to keep the deer population in check. Does that make sense to you? I submit that a bear may have saved your Lexus from horrible disfigurement.

Some will try to convince you that bears are scary and have designs on our pets, livestock, spouses, toddlers and 401(k)s (scratch that last one, that would be Wall Street bankers). Let me tell you a story about a big bad mama bear, who lived (and may still live) in a wooded burg not far from Hartford. What big claws and teeth she had. I know. I touched them.

Conventional wisdom has it that female bears defending their cubs make Bruce Willis seem like a milquetoast. If that were the case, I wouldn't be writing this screed today.

A few springs ago, I accompanied a stalwart crew from the then state Department of Environmental Protection on a mission to locate and tag a mother and her cubs, three as it turned out. The point man located the den (the missus was sporting a radio collar) and saw his target. She saw him as well. He loaded the tranquilizer onto his long spear and proceeded to jab her with it, caveman style.

Well, this 300-pound mother flew right past the brave, unarmed civil servant like an Olympic sprinter. She stopped, just up a hill, some 50 yards away to see what this two-legged nuisance was up to. I watched her closely as the drug took effect and she slumped into unconsciousness.

So much for bears will rip your face off if you mess with their cubs.

What bears will do, I admit, is hang around places where food is habitually made available to them. Remember dumps? They would go there, but when we closed the dumps, they went elsewhere. The most logical solution to discouraging suburban bears is to make our garbage, dog food and birdseed unavailable to them.

You may be able to shoot bears (and deer) in the wilds of Barkhamsted, but you can't blast away at them on the suburban streets of Simsbury and Farmington. A hunting season would target the wrong bears.

Let me conclude by noting: If being a nuisance were the criteria for capital punishment, precious few of us would sleep soundly at night.