Don’t be Dumb: Wildlife is “Wild”

PHOTO: A black bear yearling that has only recently been left by its mother. Couresy, Tom Bergman
PHOTO: A black bear yearling that has only recently been left by its mother.
Couresy, Tom Bergman

Each year, hundreds of Americans are injured and some are even killed by wildlife. In many cases, these unfortunate events are through no fault of the victim, however, in a handful of situations these tragedies could have been easily avoided had the guest to the great outdoors remembered one very simple, but all important fact: wildlife has its name for good reason, it’s wild!

Last summer, my family and I were traveling on the Blue Ridge Parkway through western Virginia when we came around a curve and were greeted by one of the most breathtaking sights I had ever seen – a momma bear with two tiny cubs busy at play in the middle of the roadway.

Visitors to the Parkway are aware that it’s quite possible for some type of animal to be blocking the road over each hill – in fact it’s the whole reason people like me take this route – so the bears were in no danger, as they would have been in on other roads.

In no time at all, quite a few cars were stopped on either side of the bear family and were enjoying what may be for many a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a large black bear playing with her two cubs only yards away – completely oblivious to the reality that they were the center of attention to a dozen or more people.

Protected by our vehicles, there was very little danger for any of the motorists who, like me, were gawking over and photographing the rare sight from the safety of their cars.

Suddenly, my gaze was robbed as I caught a glimpse in my rearview mirror of the woman who was parked just feet behind me exiting her vehicle. Apparently, she was not content with seeing the wild bears from the comfort of her Toyota RAV4 and instead wanted a more close up view of the animals at play – a real, real close up view.

Before I had time to rationalize what was going on, the woman was walking alongside my door and showed no signs of slowing as she hurriedly approached the bears in hopes of getting that all important Facebook photo.

I hastily rolled down my window and advised the woman to get back in her car before she got herself killed and in the mix of the ensuing raucous the bear family quickly darted out of the road and climbed up a tree well over the hillside.

To my astonishment, the woman was angry with me and blamed me for scaring off the animals, totally naïve to the danger she had placed herself in and was compounding with each new step her high dollar suburban running shoes were making toward the wild black bear and her cubs.

More than 81% of Americans now live in urban areas, the most in the nation’s history. And though I have no qualms with people living wherever they desire, I’m afraid that we’re now seeing the result of multiple generations being so far removed from nature – too many people have forgotten the simple reality that wildlife is indeed wild.

If the 81% statistic is correct, it means that four out of five Americans now live in human-created worlds far removed from the basic realities of life on planet earth. This manmade world provides those who dwell within its clearly defined borders a false sense of control when in reality, life on this planet is anything but controlled or even controllable.

The water in their faucets magically appears and the garbage on their curb magically disappears and very little thought is ever given as to just how remarkable of a system mankind has developed to give us the luxuries we have come to expect as normal everyday life in America.

Sadly, Disney has taken the lead in convincing our children that all animals are cute and cuddly and that bears, snakes, wolves, deer, and lions are good hearted creatures who simply want peace… Who knows, if you’re lucky, they may even break into singing a show tune if you approach them!

Obviously, most [or at least I hope this to be the case] adults know that wild animals don’t talk and they certainly don’t sing, but I’m afraid what should be an equally basic truth has been lost: Animals in the wild are not pets, they are wild animals that could very well kill you if you let your guard down.

As we approach another glorious summer, I wish to commend those who are making plans to go out and enjoy the great outdoors – getting back to the basics of life is incredible and the forest is a great place to begin. With this being said, however, it is also critical for the visitor to nature to remember they are the guest and their very presence is an encroachment into the territory of wild animals — animals that are to be admired, respected, and yes, feared. In short, the kind of animals you simply won’t find in a typical children’s cartoon.

Go out and enjoy nature this year, just don’t be dumb… Wildlife is Wild!

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