The larger question embodied in the bear attacks.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 6 months ago

We have now had two less-than-deadly bear attacks that have occurred within a mile of each other. Beyond a doubt they bring up two questions:

  1. What do we do now?

  2. How do we view the larger problem?

As to the first question, I doubt that there is anyone who would argue with the belief that the bear must now be tracked down--and put down. Sad, but true.

But when it comes to the second question, that is where we so often stumble, where people dig in their heels, speak from pre-conceived positions, and refuse to consider the issue quietly and logically.

Plainly, our goals are to both preserve the wild and to protect human life and enable human activity. The hard part is finding a middle road between them.

There are three, and only three, solutions:

First is to separate humans and other species by setting aside wilderness areas that we may enter, but only as short time viewers who accept the inconvenience of strict rules made for the benefit of plants, animals, and wilderness we wish to preserve. We can do that with properly operated national parks set aside for that purpose.

Second is to create and maintain dual-use wilderness areas where humans may roam free and stay for longer periods of time, being in the wild and among wild animals in the way we once were in the past. There, we must accept the fact that our presence is destructive to the very things we love to be among, and must also accept the fact that we shall be forever engaged in a battle to maintain those areas as we use them.

Third is to bar plant and animal species which do not do well among humans from areas which are entirely given over to human occupation.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? And it is--within those areas. But as any ecologist will tell you, there is a principle taken from geology which applies: The greatest damage done is always at the interface.

Go look at a pier standing in a lake, river, or ocean. Look at the pilings above the water line and you will see that they are hardly worn. Look at them below the water line and you will see the same thing. But look at the water line, the place where air and water meet, and depending on their age, you may see pilings that are worn, rotten, and eroding away.

That's where we have a problem, at the point where humanity and nature come together. It is always at that point where we will find conflicts.

If we are wise, we won't expect perfection. And if we are even wiser we will avoid making decisions which allow either goal to interfere with the other.

Back to the bear. We do what we have to do, and we shake our heads and wish it were not so. But we do not begin making fixed rules about when bears can be shot or what campers must do. Common sense rules in those areas. Let it rule.


Pat Randall 4 years, 6 months ago

Don't kill the bear. He was there first. you can always use a gun that will put them out so they can be moved but not die. Zoos use them and also ranchers. People should stay out of wild animal territory or watch for tracks. If you see tracks turn around and leave. Don't throw a bedroll down in his territory or leave food around. They can even smell canned fruit that has never been opened and they will open it.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 6 months ago

"Don't kill the bear. He was there first."

Sorry, Pat. Even the most dedicated conservationist will tell you that there is a limit to what we can do for animals which adopt bad habit patterns. The problem is the legality of the matter. If you, as the responsible individual, make the wrong decision you are both morally and legally on the hook for it. On top of that, all it takes to erode away public support is to have someone killed by an animal which should have been destroyed. In the long run it is the animals themselves who lose when human life is placed in the balance against animal life. They cannot win. Public opinion can sweep away the patient, thoughtful work of decades.

"People should stay out of wild animal territory or watch for tracks. If you see tracks turn around and leave."

People feel that they "own" the wilderness, that it is their heritage--which it is. And we have to encourage them to feel that way. It is that feeling of being the guardian of the wilderness that drives support for its conservation. No one wants to pay for someone else's land. Once people feel that they are being banned from their own lands, their support is lost, and along with it goes the funding we need to keep programs going. The Forest Service has to tread a fine line. It isn't easy. We must have some National Parks with severe restrictions--Yellowstone and the grizzlies are an example--but to retain national support we also have to have open lands. We can't either put all the humans, or all the animals, in a cage. Doesn't work.

"They can even smell canned fruit that has never been opened and they will open it."

How true!

To end this post on a lighter note, I watched that once. I'll tell you about it.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 6 months ago

One time over in England, where Lolly and I and the kids used to often get out and see a little "wilderness," we went to Woburn Abbey. They have a really nice thing there, something we always enjoyed. There are areas, completely fenced off, and even roofed with bars, where you can drive in through a guarded gate in your car and be among wild animals. In one we went into there were lions--walking right up to your window and poking a wet nose against it. In another, there was a mix of baboons and cheetahs (never knew how they kept peace in there, but they did).

One time I watched a car full of human baboons going through the lion cage. The car was in Morris Mini (you can see them over here now). It had windows that did not operate on a crank. They slid open--left and right. The dolts up ahead of us in the mini decided it would be clever to just open a window a crack. A female lion--I love the look of female cats of any species--perked up her ears, strolled over and proceeded to pull the window the rest of he way open, and was on her way to opening the can and getting at its nice soft center when the driver took off. Fortunately, no one--especially the lion--was hurt. Some people just do not mix well with animals.

Woburn Abbey was very special place to us. You could actually wander among the animals in some places, but even then I saw people doing dumb things. Wild animals are not pets even though they may be right out in the open. Zebras, for example. I saw some dumb-adze teenager approach too close behind a zebra and get a big old two legged kick for his trouble. I don't think he will ever do it again.

They even had rhinos right out in the open, and no, we did not go into that area. I'm not quite that much of an animal lover.

Oh, almost forgot to tell you. I had a white Chevy Corvair at the time. I'll never forget the fun of having someone look at our car while we were back on RAF Upper Heyford, our home base, and ask me:

"Hey! What are those tracks on your car roof?"

How often to you get a chance to casually reply, "Oh, those? Those are baboon tracks."

And then casually stroll off before he gets to ask the next question. :-)


Pat Randall 4 years, 6 months ago

Tom, Maybe they should kill all the bears in that area. How will they know when they get the one that attacked? Take thier fingerprints?
It isn't our animals that are dumb, it is the people. Thier brains are in thier head to keep thier ears apart. Yes, I guess I am in a nasty mood today. It is caused by people not thinking. Oh poor me, I went into the forest unprotected and a bear bit me. My dad, husband or grandkids never went into a forest without a pistol or rifle loaded and they were usually on horses. They did see wild animals but never had to shoot one as they moved away and took a different way to get where they were going. Think first. How many people go out into the wilderness that are allergic to bees but never take thier bee sting kit with them?


Kim Chittick 4 years, 6 months ago

The most current news is that there was another bear attack in Tonto sometime early this morning. My information is that it was a man holding a baby. The man was air evac-ed to the valley. No word on the baby. "How will they know when they get the one that attacked?" DNA, Pat. Evidently they were able to measure the bite marks on the second attack victim and swab some DNA . In that way, they were able to ascertain the approximate size of the animal and now have it's DNA to match against future attacks. It is my understanding that the second victim was inside an unfinished cabin, sleeping. While I absolutely agree that we, as humans must be smarter and more vigilant when going in to the wild, I also feel that when a wild animal is so unafraid of humans and aggressive enough to attack, there is something else going on with that animal, and drastic measures must be taken. I absolutely deplore the idea of an animal being put down merely because it makes somebody uncomfortable. However, the fact remains that we are the superior creatures, and as such have a responsiblity to ourselves, each other, and to the other animals in the wild which may be suffering because of the behavior of this bear and we may not know it.


Kim Chittick 4 years, 6 months ago

Oh and Tom? There was a place in Southern California, similar to your Woburn Abbey. It was called Lion Country Safari. It was quite a treat to be able to drive amongst the wild animals. And always a bit jarring when one of them decided to stroll over, or play on, your car.


Dan Haapala 4 years, 6 months ago

Tom, Though I greatly respect you, I heartily disagree with your premis that man and beast and the wilderness should be seperated. Man was given dominion over the beasts and everytime people try to find a way to change that, disaster happens. Our forest fires are not happening because the forests are dry, it's because the forests are starving for water from over forestation. Too many trees, to little land, not enough harvest. Our world prospered because man learned to tame the wilderness. Those opposed to the taming ('environmentalists') believe we should let nature take its course. Nature; However, Will only do what man will not take up the space with life regardless of the result. Man must cultivate it and make it prosper. Northern Arizona University has one of the Worlds most noted authorities on the largest stand of Ponderosa pine forest in the world. Dr. Wally Convington. For the last twenties years he has been preaching that the stewards of the land are not taking care of, nuturing and replenishing the land. From about 1905 to 1980, Arizona experienced the wettest years in the states history. In 1905 the government stepped in, built the Roosevelt Dam, Established the Tonto National Forest (for the cultivation of pine trees for the railroad) and created a watershed for the valley of the sun, The Salt River Project. It worked for a while then they quit. Gave over the control to groups who saw Owls as more important than people and life. Trees as more important than people and life, grass as more get the message. Now, The trees, the grass, the scrub, are choking the life out of the land. Covington knows it. He's been preaching it. Stupid young innocents ignore and listen to their progressive, save the planet, it's a good cause, know nothing teachers and sadly they believe........We must wake up.....if not we, the people, will surely perish like a lily being taken over by weeds.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 6 months ago

"Oh poor me, I went into the forest unprotected and a bear bit me."

Harold Fish went into the forest protected, and the law bit HIM. :-)

I agree with you, Kim.

I love cats--all sizes. My life's ambition is to go hug a tiger. And I left those baboon tracks on my car as long as they lasted. I'll tell you one thing, though. A lion is a LOT bigger than you might think until one is three feet away. My! My!

"Tom, Though I greatly respect you, I heartily disagree with your premis that man and beast and the wilderness should be seperated."

Dan, I never meant that we and animals should be separated (go read it again). I only meant that in very special places, a few parks set aside as places where the rules were different, the animals would take precedence. In Yellowstone, for example. I would never go there because I could not be allowed to pack a gun, and I know how dangerous grizzlies can be. But I do not argue with the park rules because if we allowed people to carry weapons it would be not time before the animals were literally shot out. I tell you straight out, if a bear approached me with an aggressive look about it, it would be one dead bear. So I am okay with some parks having rules that lean over backward for the animals. I just don't visit them.

If you go back and read you'll see that the second type of area that I spoke of, the vast majority of the forests, are--and must be--dual use. It only makes sense.

As a lifelong conservationist I am all for two things:

  1. Use of the forests for cattle. Reason: they do not compete with browsing species, and despite false beliefs, do not pollute streams. They are, in fact, good for the forests. I have to add, of course, that too much of a good thing is destructive. What happened here in Arizona in some areas was gross over browsing. In a relatively dry area like ours, we have to stay within the known limits.

  2. Timbering. It only makes sense to thin the forests, and it should be an ongoing process, not just a quick solution for the failure to manage the forests over the years. Companies should be brought it, set up, and put to work on long term plans.

As to the spotted owl et al, our current laws were mostly put into effect during the Nixon era as a bone tossed to conservationists. Many of them make no sense because they ignore good science. For example, we declare species to be endangered which are endangered only in a small portion of their natural range. It makes no sense to waste millions of dollars trying to maintain the range of an animal which is in the large part flourishing. You have to use common sense. And it makes no sense to try to protect species which are endangered because of natural events, such as uplifting or changing rain patterns. It is far more sensible, and far more satisfying when you see the results that can be achieved, to simply relocate a self-sustaining group than to try to hold back nature.


John Naughton 4 years, 6 months ago


Wildlife officers from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services lethally removed two black bears Sunday evening from the vicinity around Ponderosa Campground in response to a bear attack that occurred there earlier that morning.

The first bear was a young adult male weighing around 160 pounds. The other bear was a very large female that weighed approximately 300 pounds and was dry, meaning that she did not appear to have produced any cubs this year. Dogs tracked the bears from a scent trail near the campground. Another bear was removed earlier (Friday) when it was trailed by hounds, from close to the site of the second attack near Tonto Village to the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery.

It was imperative that the bears be lethally removed because of the aggressive, predatory behavior a bear or bears exhibited when it attacked the three different victims in the past month. The only means of testing for rabies is by having the animal's carcass.

Game and Fish has conducted forensic investigations on all three victims’ personal belongings and camping equipment to recover DNA samples. Those samples, as well as some tissue from the bears that were removed, will be flown to the Wyoming Game and Fish Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory on Tuesday for analysis.

“Until we receive the results of the DNA analysis, we will not know whether these three recent attacks can be attributed to one bear or three different bears. DNA examination is critical in this case for helping prove or disprove a link between the attacks,” said Rod Lucas, regional supervisor for Game and Fish.

This was the third bear incident in the same general area in the past month, the second at Ponderosa Campground.

Game and Fish set bear culvert traps following the first incident on May 31, but had yet to catch a bear. A trap was set in the Ponderosa Campground at the time of the latest attack.

“By setting culvert traps in the area where the attacks have occurred, we are more likely to catch the problem bear and not other bears that are not creating public safety issues,” said Lucas. “Our wildlife officers chose their profession because of their love for wildlife and the outdoors. They do not enjoy destroying animals, but the burden of public safety and active management of wildlife dictates an aggressive approach, and efforts will continue until the offending animal(s) is found or it is no longer feasible to continue operations.”

Bear attacks on humans are rare despite Arizona’s robust population of 2,500 to 3,000 bears. Sunday’s attack is only the 10th documented bear attack in Arizona since 1990, but the third this year.


Dan Haapala 4 years, 6 months ago

Sorry Tom, broke my glasses last weekend and got impatient. Your response was perfect.


Tom Garrett 4 years, 6 months ago

Thanks, John.

"Wildlife officers from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services lethally removed two black bears Sunday evening from the vicinity around Ponderosa Campground in response to a bear attack that occurred there earlier that morning."

Strange, isn't it? No matter how much we agree that what was done was necessary, and not matter how much we argue mightily that it must be done, it still hurts to hear of it. The bears, after all, are just being bears. They have to eat--and to them we are food.

“Our wildlife officers chose their profession because of their love for wildlife and the outdoors."

That, I know. I've known a few rangers and I can attest to it.


No need to say sorry, except that I'm sorry you broke your glasses. We'd have made a good pair there for a while. If anyone is interested the eye is doing fine. Shakes a little, but it's okay. And--at last!--I'm down to only one drop in the eye three times a day.

By the way, you should see Sedona. I am not exaggerating when I say it is four times the size it was the last time I saw it.


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