"I was walking in the woods the other day and overheard 2 bears chatting about how we humans have encroached on their land. The bears were quite concerned about how we humans encouraged bears with our irresponsible trash, bird feeders & our inability to educate ourselves which results in our fear. The bears were not sure how to address our lack of living in harmony with Mother Nature. I approached the bears & offered my advice: I said arm yourself dear bears with automatic weapons & conspiracy theories & fear mongering stories as that is what it seems most humans relate to nowadays. I told the bears to not trust us as we have lost our way with the natural world, we are selfish & egotistical. I told them there are few that they can entrust as their neighbors, but I am one and I welcome them as I did the other day as one of their own past through my yard caring nothing but a stroll through the trees on the land I pay taxes on, but share with them."- Charlene Anderson
This beautiful yet tragic story was born on our town's social media pages, in response to the angry virtual-yet-threatening-to-spill-into-reality mob that formed within a day, ready to execute a bear for getting into backyard chicken coops. I think this romantic return to backyard chickens and food gardens, along with the pull to live in the country is awesome at face value. But then, somehow, the forest is beautiful but not the animals that call it home. Neighbors love the river corridor, the cooler temps offered by the forest versus the heat of the pavement and noise of the city, but do not like the coyote and bear that live and raise their own families among us and before us. Offering invisible benefits to our own health and livelihoods. So many seem blind to the fact that we can thank predators like coyote for adapting to live among our mess, raise their young to balance rodent populations and reduce the spread of diseases like hantavirus and yes, even The Plague if left unchecked.
You've probably witnessed these posts, perhaps starting out simple enough: "Bear sighting on Forest Lane." Responses often include folks who are excited to know we still live in a time and town where black bear can roam as they have for over 2 million years on our continent. Then there are the fear based responses. Those living in their amygdala no doubt, literally saying to hide the children and small dogs. Inevitably the stories of wildlife as villains appear, and then a blood thirsty mob calling for the animals to be killed. I'm not writing as hyperbole, this is an actual sequence of events that happens monthly and is happening right now. I always take a deep breath, preparing to add logic, rational, science and hopefully empathy to the equation. And then when I see the comments become at least 50/50 advocating for understanding and co-existence instead of blood, or I see a beautiful post like Charlene's, I think maybe "it" will be okay.
Here's a few statistics on bear to end with: The last person killed by a bear in NH was in 1784. The chances of being murdered by a human than a bear is 60,000 times greater. Almost all black bear and human conflict are a result of unsecured trash, bird feeders, or livestock. Ie: human behavior. Bears play an important role in our ecosystems. As an opportunistic feeder, they help clean up carcasses of animals that die which prevents the spread of disease. As an animal that feed voraciously on berries and mast, they help plant and populate the trees and shrubs of our backyards and forests. Spiritually, bear often evokes energies of leadership and ancestry, along with the healing reminders to slow down and rest. The shock of excitement, fear, and reverence that pulses through my body the few times I have witnessed a bear in the wild lets me know that they may be one of the last true primal energies left in our backyard wilderness. And I will do everything I can to protect them and educate others.