CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- IN THE mixed-up world of animal-rights activism, logic sometimes takes a back seat. The latest example comes from California, where activists have been thwarting wildlife officers' attempts to trap and relocate nuisance bears.According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, activists have staked out culvert-style traps to frighten away bears attracted to the bait inside. They've also smeared the traps' entrances with Pine-Sol cleanser, which has a scent bears don't like.
All this is taking place in and around the resort community of Lake Tahoe, where bears have been raiding residents' cabins in search of food.The activists say they don't think it's necessary to trap and relocate nuisance bears, or to euthanize those that have become habitual offenders.That's right. The activists are completely discounting the knowledge and experience of trained wildlife officers whose job it is to assess whether nuisance animals should be trapped or destroyed.Clearly the activists believe that they, with their degrees in art appreciation or theater history, and their vast experience as pizza delivery drivers, somehow are better qualified to make that call.So they choose to help nuisance bears roam free, even if it means risking Tahoe residents' lives.With any luck, no one will end up getting hurt or killed. After all, the bears in question are black bears, not grizzlies. Attacks by black bears on humans are relatively rare.But they do happen.Do any of those activists truly think that a 400-pound black bear, stuffing its face with groceries from someone's pantry, wouldn't take a swipe at the groceries' owner if confronted? And don't they realize that a single blow from the paw of a large black bear can easily snap a human's neck?Truth is, they probably don't know those things.What they think they know about bears came from television or movies, where animals are almost always the heroes and humans are almost always the villains. They believe animals are capable of human-like thoughts and emotions.And they believe the world would be a better place if humans would simply leave animals alone. No hunting. No livestock. No pets.
It doesn't seem to occur to them that we live in a world inhabited by 6 billion people. Humans' presence has altered the landscape - altered the balance of nature - in ways too numerous to count.If animals were left completely alone, there would be unintended consequences.Within a few generations, most of the animals' fear of humans would disappear. Herbivores would come to view humans' farms and gardens - remember, humans wouldn't be eating meat anymore - as easy food sources. Large carnivores such as bears, wolves and mountain lions would come to view weak, slow-footed humans as prey.In other words, the same conditions that spurred humans to exert dominance over animals would have recurred. Humans - the smart ones, at least - wouldn't allow themselves to starve simply to feed Bambi, or allow themselves to be torn apart to feed Yogi.They'd start killing animals again.And chances are they'd start eating the animals they killed. After that, they'd start hunting and domesticating animals for livestock and pets.
The late, great newspaperman L.T. Anderson had a term for the Tahoe activists and others like them - "the Terribly Concerned."Only in the minds of the Terribly Concerned is the welfare of cabin-raiding bears more important than the welfare of the people whose cabins are being raided. It's a mentality I simply cannot fathom.