Newton, Massachusetts – a suburban town in the greater Boston area which has a reputation for being a nice place to live and work. But not if you are a young, lost, frightened bear. On Sunday, Environmental Police shot and killed a young black bear who was stranded in a tree (not the bear in the photo). The report claims that tranquilizers were used and that they did not subdue the bear. Perhaps a young, healthy bear needs a larger dose so that it could be safely removed? Just a thought. The other glaring discrepancy about this story is that the reason given for killing the bear was a concern for public safety – that they were concerned that it would fall out of the tree onto the highway, causing injury. So what is their solution? To shoot the bear, CAUSING IT TO FALL which is what they were trying to avoid in the first place. Fortunately for them, the poor creature fell on nearby train tracks and not on the highway, but no thanks to the officials on the scene.

I have to say I am getting fed up with people living in suburban or rural areas who think the approach to wildlife is to kill them. To be fair, most of the discussions I have seen show a majority of people critical of this particular decision. But it speaks to a larger issue. That being, of course, our behavior. WE decide to move farther and farther out into areas populated by a variety of wild creatures, and then when those creatures behave in a way that is consistent with their nature, or, out of disorientation or loss of habitat, make more appearances in our backyards and parks, we feel the need to remove them. So the timeline goes like this: humans move into and develop areas where a variety of indigenous species live and have lived for a long time. Humans decide that they are afraid of these creatures, annoyed at them searching for food or mates (in other words, acting naturally), and then humans decide that the only reasonable action is to remove the creature from its own habitat, often times by killing it.

It’s Mark Bittman all over again. I recently expressed my displeasure at Bittman’s use of the term “vegan” to describe himself, even on a part time basis. Although he admits that terrible, horrific things happen to animals as they are being killed to become human food, he feels that it’s ok to eat them sometimes because people like to. Very different circumstances, same attitude. The animals are here for US. The environment is here for US. And when it is convenient or pleasurable to kill, consume, or manipulate the world and creatures around us, it is completely justified, as long as it is for something WE want. It has been almost 500 years since Nicolaus Copernicus figured out that Earth was not the center of the universe but rather is a tiny participant in a complex system embedded within other complex systems. I think we need another Copernicus, this time to remind the human species that we are not the center of the universe, or even the planet. We are a player in a system of life and ecosystems, and, if not for advances in technology, would be only a small player in that arena. That many use our advanced technology and knowledge to control, kill, and manipulate rather than to prosper, grow, and nurture the life around us is deeply, deeply sad. But there is still time to reverse the course – if humans have the will to do so.

Photo: Jon Sullivan via

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.