The Death of Ursa Minor
When I wrote the hub “The Lion in the Darkness” in 1999, I had hoped that I would never again experience such a tragedy brought on by the cold-hearted conscience of human reasoning. But it seems to be a continually relentless cycle of brutal behavior when the human animal, with all of its “knowledge, education and sensitivity” crosses paths with one of God’s creatures of the wilderness. This recent incident that I am speaking of occurred here just outside my small Appalachian town in North Georgia.
My wife and I had spent a short while running errands in town and were headed back to our small home in the mountains, about 3 miles north of town. About half way up the mountain, the oncoming cars were flashing their lights at me to warn me of a hazard that was up ahead. What we found was a devastating site to see: a young black bear, less than a year old and less than 100 pounds was lying in the middle of the road in a puddle of his own urine. He was sitting in a prone position with his head up, dazed and looking around. I thought that perhaps he had a broken pelvis or hind leg.
Nobody was stopping to help him, save for one person in a truck that said he called 911 (I personally have the feeling that he was the driver that hit him). He soon took off leaving us to look after the bear cub. I parked my truck on the shoulder and directed traffic around him while Carla, my wife, tried in vain to find a veterinarian that would take him in, but was not having any luck.
The little cub eventually mustered up the strength to stand up. He stood in one spot on the center line for several minutes getting his “bearings” as I guided the cars through one by one. Many people expressed their concern as they passed, some stopped to take pictures. Little children were looking in awe at the baby bear. The little bear began walking in circles, looking around, staying in close proximity to me. I believe that like the mountain lion I wrote of in 1999, he felt safe and knew that I was there to help him.
Soon the local authorities showed up. I think it was all of them. I counted at least four patrol cars, all occupied by at least one deputy. The deputies were aware of Carla’s efforts to find a safe haven for the cub and were offering suggestions, they seemed truly concerned. We tried to contact the Fire Chief, a family friend that takes in and rehabilitates wild animals. He already had one bear in his care. Sadly, he had no more room for another bear. The deputies had no other option but to call in the county Animal Control Officer.
The feeling that I had in my heart was not good. Carla and I were both scared for the little cub.
Upon arrival of the officer, the little bear sensed a need to remove himself from the middle of the situation. He slowly ambled over to the roadside kudzu and lay down in its cool and encompassing greenery, concealing himself. This act alone told me that he still was able to reason, think clearly and act on his own well thought out decisions. This little bear was in better shape than I had originally thought and was a perfect candidate for rehabilitation.
I walked to the kudzu and knelt down. I was face to face within inches of the little guy. He looked at me with his sad but clear, sparkling eyes as if he was saying “Don’t let them hurt me!” I stroked the top of his head between his ears. His fur was coarse but soft. Such a beautiful animal.
The county Animal Control Officer walked up and stood next to me and looked at the young bear. All that he could see was his face peering out through the blackberry bushes and kudzu. He had no knowledge of the situation up to that point. He didn’t witness the bear walking around and making decisions of where to go. With his limited knowledge of the situation, he made the decision to put the bear cub down. I tried to reason with him. I told him three times that I would take responsibility for the bear’s rehabilitation if he could just get him to a safe place. He had a large cage on a trailer in tow behind his vehicle, so he was well prepared for such an event, but still he insisted on killing the bear.
The officer walked to his truck and retrieved a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with slugs. Again, I pleaded for the bear’s life, and he said there was no way I could be responsible for him, he said it was “a lifelong commitment that (I) couldn’t make”. This man did not know me. He did not know if I could care for the bear or not. I told him that there were agencies that would take the bear in for rehab. He said “No there’s not. Not around here!”
Once more I tried to reason with him. I pointed out that he was fine; he just had his bells rung and was in shock. “Please let him go!” The insensitive officer had an answer for everything. “If I let him go,” he went on, “a month from now, he will be lying injured on someone’s porch or in their yard and I’ll have to kill him anyway. So I am going to do it now.” With that said, he turned around and shot the little bear in the head and walked away as if taking a life meant nothing to him. As he walked away, one of the deputies shouted “He’s still moving!” The heartless officer cocked his weapon again and pumped another shot into the bear. “That got ‘im!” he said, as he walked off.
From the line of stopped cars that trailed up and down the mountain road, I could hear the exclamations of the unwitting witnesses to the horrible spectacle that had just unfolded. Children who were moments before in awe at seeing the young bear were crying in confused shock.
I walked back to my truck. My wife was in her seat crying. “How could they do that?! How could that, that….jerk be so insensitive?!” I didn’t know what to say. One phrase popped into my head: “trigger happy.” I even cried myself.
The Animal control officer was either grossly misinformed or he was too lazy and uncaring to do the right thing. There ARE animal rehab agencies nearby that would have been more than happy to take the small bear cub in.
We learned a valuable lesson through all of this. If you find an injured animal, don’t call on those who are paid to protect and to serve. You’ll just be disappointed. Call a rehab agency. They do exist and some will even pick up the animal themselves. It is a shame that a county agency would hire such an insensitive and ignorant person and charge them with such a position of high visibility and responsibility.
Copyright 2014 By Del Banks