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Death of a Man. . . Death of a Bear

Here’s an important post to share. As many of you know, I live in a grizzly bear recovery zone. Although we had a brief and lucky encounter with a bear this spring, we seldom see the bears in this area, and attacks are uncommon.

Yellowstone is different. It is a park, a wilderness where anyone can enjoy what it has to offer. And sometimes what it has to offer is deadly. Last week, a man and now a bear, have both lost their lives. This is the most intelligent and balanced essay I’ve read on the incident and wish to share it along with these words from conservationist and educator, Aldo Leopold:

“All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.”
~ A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There


  1. Joy says:

    What an elegant article. As much as we all want answers – who/what is to blame, what could have happened differently, how do we keep this from happening again – there are no easy explanations. It’s not easy and it’s not fair. The bear was being a bear. The humans were being human. There are no answers, there is just a reminder that life is life.

    • Charli Mills says:

      We’ve become so extreme in our armchair opinions that we forget what it is to live and that life is full of complexities. Not every occurrence has the villain we want to blame and spout off about. Keith did a great job of explaining many of the threads that create this sad story, and he did so with dignity for both those who lost their lives.

  2. A. E. Robson says:

    Mr. Crowley has penned an interesting piece.

    There is no easy balance between man, the wilderness and animals that live there.

  3. Norah says:

    Thanks for sharing this article, Charli. If you hadn’t shared it, I definitely would not have seen or read it. What a sad and difficult situation. This morning I was listening to a discussion about culling sharks. There have been a number of attacks on, and deaths of, surfers recently. I think there are similarities with this bear case and much to consider.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Just like a bear is a bear, a shark is a shark. Yet we encroach upon where they live (and eat) and somehow expect them to be modern bears or sharks. It is not easy to make these decisions, nor clear if they will have an impact. I would not have thought of this issue reaching sharks, so you have informed me!

      • Norah says:

        Who knows what connections my mind will make! It’s its always looking around for something to grasp on to! It is a difficult issue and I’m not sure what is the appropriate response. Hearing what others think helps to formulate an opinion; one that is reasonably informed, I hope.

  4. TanGental says:

    Such a thought provoking post. I wonder where this urge to find a responsible entity comes from? I just read Sue Vincent’s post on the issue of our long running urge to control nature. This feels like part of why we want to blame; if there’s control, there’s someone/thing in charge and we can then blame them. As societies become more secular and less dependent on its gods and the ability to blame them, the greater the need for a responsible entity closer to home. If I tripped up as a child it was an accident. Now we look to some body responsible. Do we put that on the lawyers? Probably but fundamentally shit happens, as here and no one and nothing changes that.

    • Charli Mills says:

      As Sue Vincent wrote, “we like to have things neat and tidy.” I don’t think that need has changed within us, but with so many people wanting to fondle the wilderness, someone is bound to get bit and waves of protest ensue as if someone must accept a pointing finger. All because it is too hard to understand the complexities involved. That’s where I think Kieth Crowley did a good job of addressing the many aspects involved with this sad situation. And no matter what, shit does happen and will happen again.

  5. Sarah says:

    Thank you for sharing this well-thought out article. This incident is one I know very little of, and it opened my eyes to the dangers of being in wildlife in your area. The fact that the bear was “known” makes this even sadder–you would think the bear would have learned the “rules” for living among humans, but bears don’t have an ethos about prey. (I wonder whether humans have as much ethos about food as we like to think, but that is a topic for another day.) It is so sad that two beings had to lose their lives over rules that are not their own.

    • Charli Mills says:

      To a bear, a food opportunity, is just that — an opportunity. Twins to feed, winter coming on. prey in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bears don’t know boundaries or rules. Even we humans who say we know boundaries and rules; we are so good at bending them to our wants, professing needs. Ethos about food would be a great discussion! Coming from a ranching background and working in the organic food industry, I can say that there is misunderstanding about food systems. People like their packaging, but I find beliefs are often mixed up because of disconnection. We want to “feed” the bears yet we are on the menu! No fault of the bear. But people can’t project teddy bear feelings onto a beautiful, majestic, wild and hungry creature.

  6. jeanne229 says:

    Yes, interesting piece. Tragic for both the hiker and the bear. Still, I feel perhaps even more sympathetic to the bear. It was in its habitat doing what it was naturally wired to do. The hiker knew the risks of being in the wild. The bear could not be expected to know any “rules” pertaining to humans. Not sure what the answer is, if any. It’s just about certain that hikers will still hike in the wild (and bathers will still swim in shark-infested waters, etc.) . Some will sadly die in encounters with the creatures that live there.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Did you read in Norah’s comment that they are culling sharks because of attacks on surfers? It’s another encroachment of humans on wilderness. My understanding is that it was sad for the Yellowstone staff involved with putting down the bear. Yet, it was not the hiker’s fault. We as a society have to take accountability for our own risk-taking. We don’t; we sue. Because of previous lawsuits, the bear had to go. Yet we continue to blame in social media rants without recognizing that this attitude of blame has more to do with why the bear had to be put down. I’m sad for the bear, the man and the Yellowstone employees.

  7. Sherri says:

    I agree Charli, an incredibly moving and intelligent, balanced article on a tragic subject. This truly is a no-win situation for all concerned. I don’t really know what else to say…but thank you for sharing it, we need to know these stories, absolutely.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I thought his essay worth sharing because it is a reminder that we can think and we can feel, but we can’t change bears and people will always be human. And that’s why I hesitate to start a compost…in bear country. Seems like putting out a neon food sign.

      • Sherri says:

        Great point, wow, yes… ‘we can’t change bears and people will always be human.’ And I can definitely see why you wouldn’t put out compost… 😮

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