Bears Will Be Bears

by David G. Thorne
As a youth Hexhamite had the acquaintance of a chap who was fond of responding to obvious questions with the hoary old chestnut, “Does the Pope sh*t in the woods?” How we all used to laugh at that one. I was thinking about the old boy the other day and wondering if he was still alive, as he was a chronic alcoholic.

This maudlin meander down recollection alley was prompted by a couple of recent news stories which cannot have passed unnoticed. You will recall the “tragic” attack on two bambinos by a fox, which had the tabloids and Boris “Mad Dog” Johnson screaming for the eradication of urban foxes? How quickly we forgot the years of campaigning to end foxhunting!

Last week a gleefully hysterical media reported that investigators were using DNA evidence to identify a bear which had attacked and killed a camper and mauled several others in Yellowstone Park. If convicted the unfortunate bear would be slaughtered by  “Wildlife Officials.” 

Both incidents were undoubtedly frightening, and in one case fatal, for the humans involved. But the real tragedy was the public’s aberrant reaction to the animals involved. Stop and think for a moment. What sort of sentence would an assault carry? How about a murder? Not long enough possibly, but we can be fairly certain that it would be proportional.

Yet, two incidences of animals behaving perfectly naturally, carried an immediate death sentence and in the case of  foxes, calls for wholesale eradication. Is this a rational response?

Wild animal attacks are rarely unprovoked, unlike humans who are quite prepared to bludgeon each other to death for the sheer hell of it. Animals attack when they are  hungry, their territory is invaded or they are protecting their young. However, they do occasionally beset and kill humans for reasons we cannot understand. Let’s keep a sense of proportion.

Should we destroy animals for killing humans? No! It is an absurd response. Animals have no concept of right and wrong. The anthropomorphising of animals persuades us of “killer sharks” or “man-eating tigers”, which don’t exist. Animals follow instinct opportunistically, nothing more. Besides, in every case of animal attack – foxes, bears, “dangerous” dogs, killer gerbils – the blame always lies to a greater  or lesser extent with humans.


It offends me mightily that humanity destroys the habitat of countless species, then labels them vermin for having the audacity to impinge on our activities as they search for food and shelter. Cretins brutalise pitbulls to make them fight, but the “dangerous” dog is blamed. City slickers get back to nature, disturb a few bear cubs and reap the consequences, but somehow the bears are at fault? It’s preposterous.

Humans may like to think that they are smarter than the average bear, but they would do well to remember that Yogi does more than sh*t in the woods. If you camp in bear country, you are just a pic-a-nic basket wrapped in a sleeping bag.

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