Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear, Alaska style (aka “a fed bear is a dead bear”).Posted by Donna Freedman on Jul 13, 2010 | 11 comments
From an Anchorage Police Department press release:
“On 7-8-10 at 10:17 hours, Anchorage Police officers responded to the report of a woman chasing a black bear on the 200 block of Yellow Leaf Circle. Upon arrival, officers found that a woman…had indeed been chasing a black bear which had jumped the fence in her front yard and snatched up her pet rabbit in its teeth.
“The rabbit, known as ‘George,’ had been…known in the neighborhood because its back legs were paralyzed and his owner had fashioned a two-wheeled cart so he would have mobility.
“… George’s owner, upon hearing the cries of her rabbit, chased the bear in her stocking feet across several yards and down an alley before the bear reportedly turned and confronted her.
“The bear left the area with the rabbit.”
And this is why I love Alaska.
Now: Where to begin?
- Should it be with “Tell me about the rabbits, George”?
- With the paraplegic bunny and its makeshift wheelchair?
- Or with the pursuit of a wild animal to take away its food source?
In the abstract, I am sorry the woman suffered the lost of a pet. That said, I can’t help taking a few swings.
Quality of life
The name. If one of my bunnies became paralyzed, I’d re-name him “Stu the Rabbit.” The idea of a rabbit on a cart is, to me, as unnatural as the notion of pet organ transplants. In nature, any animals that are even a little bit slower than the rest get vacuumed up by predators. That whole circle of life thing does its revolving around the grim reality of “nature red in tooth and claw.”
Of course, once I’d plugged “potage de lapin” into a recipe search engine I might not actually be able to eat the critter. (You should never name your meals.) But I would at least start to think about quality of life and whether the animal should be euthanized.
We can’t know how the rabbit felt after losing the use of its hind legs. Maybe its front legs and paws hurt all the time. Certainly people who use non-motorized chairs are at risk for tendinitis and other health conditions that result from pulling your weight (and the chair’s) around all day.
Or maybe it was perfectly content to drag itself around the yard all day. Who can say what constitutes contentment to a creature with a brain the size of a breath mint?
It’s important to note, though, that “contentment” is a human construct. Rabbits live instinctively. They don’t think, “Whew, I sure am glad that my owner rigged up this little cart so I could live an extra six months or so.” If rabbits seem happy or sad, it’s because we’re projecting our own emotions onto them. It’s called anthropomorphism, and it sells a lot of pet-care products.
The locale. Anchorage is a city with black and brown (aka grizzly) bears, among other creatures. Anyone who thinks we can live “in harmony” with nature has been watching a little too much of the Disney Channel. You can do everything harmoniously and still end up mauled or dead because a bear stepped out onto the trail just as you happened to walk or bike past.
Or, maybe, because you went out to catch the school bus and surprised a bruin investigating the pizza boxes overflowing from a neighbor’s trashcan.
I suppose it was the owner’s business if she wanted to build a little cart for Bugs and let him hippety-crawl around her yard. However, that yard is in an area known to be frequented by bears. According to the police press release, a neighbor said this particular bruin has been “a problem” in the neighborhood. Residents were concerned about their kids.
So the pet owner puts ol’ George out in the front yard and faster than you can say “Meals on wheels,” Yogi has hopped the fence and scored himself a pic-a-nic.
Which brings us to…
The counterattack. I’m no wildlife biologist, but I know that you should never approach a wild animal. Even squirrels need to be left alone, so stop lobbing those peanuts from your park bench. Wild animals are unpredictable – and they should stay that way, not become acclimated to humans.
As for trying to take away a bear’s food source: Well, I’d think twice before even trying to take a bone from an elderly lapdog. Animals are hard-wired for survival. To go on surviving, they need food. They will often defend that food – and when a bear decides to fight, it’s not pretty.
The biggest issue for me is that the woman did more than risk her own life by taking out after the bear. She also could have:
- Caused injury to neighbors, since she pursued the bear across several yards
- Caused a police officer to be injured while responding
- Helped acclimate the bear to human contact
That last is the one that gives me pause. These animals are supposed to want to keep away from humans, not go one-on-one with us – and maybe wind up winning. If bears are going to live cheek by jowl with city residents (which current policy seems to suggest), then the residents need to behave themselves. We need to make sure the animals know to stay the hell off our property.
One way to do that is to make our landscapes unattractive to bruins: No unsecured garbage, no pet food stored outside, no fish cleaned on a picnic table that’s only casually hosed off afterwards. Leaving a helpless (and tasty!) animal out in the open in bear country is like strewing the sidewalk with Hershey bars and then complaining that kids keep making off with them.
The kids don’t know any better: They see something they want and they take it. Bears aren’t that much different than kids. Not to anthropomorphize.
Up here they say “a fed bear is a dead bear.” Garbage bears may wind up being shot because they can’t resist that trashcan buffet or the bucket of sunflower seeds someone left on the porch. They’re just doing what animals do: Seeking food and returning to where the pickings are easiest. It doesn’t get much easier than a paraplegic pet.