Wildlife, fear, and real life


Politicians play to the incoherent fears of wimpy folks.
This is bad for protecting the planet and its wildlife-

Just two months ago many Americans feared they would soon be stricken by dread Ebola and those who survived would have their heads lopped off by ISIS. Fortunately a cure was deployed for both Ebola and the bloody blade of ISIS. The November election cured both.

The practice of politics consists mostly of talk –well, it’s best to say “communication.” A surprising amount of this talk is designed to manipulate fear in the public. Raising the fear level appropriately, or lowering it, or misdirecting it, are tools of the trade.

With the coming of the web, however, it isn’t hard to find some objective facts about what needs to be feared. There are statistics that enable us to find the probability of the possible ways of our demise. Now as a result people can know to worry most about heart disease because they can find their chances of dying from it are one in five. Next on the worry list is cancer, one in seven. Third is stroke, one in 23. Some kind of accident is one in 36, auto accidents being one in 112. Assault by firearms is one in 306, while accidental firearms discharge is one in 6500.

We can also learn what is improbable, such as getting hit by an asteroid is estimated at one in 200,000 to 500,000. Fireworks is one in 386,000. Really improbable is death by falling coconut — one in 250-million. Improbable too is death by terrorist attack. It’s one in 9.3-million. We could go on. Perhaps death by one’s lover sitting on your face (a growing concern of the U.K. government). Whoops! That one is not reported.

What about those big, mean animals? Death by shark attack is one in 200-million. I couldn’t find grizzly bear or wolf, but it is not hard to estimate grizzly bear attack for American to be about one in 225-million. I assume about 1.5 deaths by griz a year. The odds of becoming wolf dinner over the last 20 years appears to have been only one in 6-billion (just one case in the USA)! I calculated this using 300-million Americans and the odds of a fatal wolf attack somewhere in the U.S. once every 20 years.

Some anti-wolf activists call them “wildlife terrorists,” but the odds of death by wolf seem to be close to 6500 times less than attack by real terrorists in the United States, the latter still being very unlikely.

So, given that this information is now available at the click of a mouse, do people appropriately worry a lot about heart trouble and nothing about wolves? Do they change their lifestyle to save their heart, but not avoid outdoor recreation so to avoid wolf trouble? No, it turns out. Many people are wimps about about wolves, yet their fear is incoherent because they think little about their cardio, not even to worry how their fear of wolves raises their blood pressure.

Why is this so – people underestimating danger of real threats and overestimating uncommon things, even incredibly rare events like wolf attack? One reason might be, to quote a recent article by Gary Ferguson, the offerings of the Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. Recent listings there include “North America’s Top 20 Most Fearsome Predators,” a rerun or two of “Shark Attack,” and a couple of episodes of “Nature’s Deadliest,” or “Rattlesnake Roundup,” or “Yukon Men.”

It would be wrong to blame it all on the media because fear is not the media’s intent. The passive fear generated by them is just a way to make money.

Fear is the intent, however, when some cattlemen’s group predicts wolf attacks on people. They want people to fear for their lives, or more likely, those of “the little children,” when they think of wolves roaming in the hills. It is politically beneficial to them. They make similar predictions about other animals they don’t like.

This brings us to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) wanting to restart the plan to restore grizzly bears to central Idaho. We can bet this will be met with blatant fear-mongering. After all, the process was well on its way back at the turn of the millennium, when Idaho’s then- governor Dirk Kempthone stated that the grizzly restoration plan “is perhaps the first federal land-management action in history likely to result in injury or death of members of the public.” He continued railing against “bringing these massive, flesh-eating carnivores into Idaho.” He forgot they were already in Idaho, with a small population in both the Panhandle and in Eastern Idaho, in Yellowstone and adjacent country. He also forgot that grizzlies are omnivores, not carnivores . . . kind of like himself.

Kempthorne’s worries at the time, which seemed almost personal, seemed to cause the Bush Administration to stop the process. Now CBD wants a restart. Politicians and groups usually don’t truly fear big animals because they think they will get eaten though, they have other reasons to oppose them. The fear is meant for the public. Do they disrespect us when they use it, or are we as wimpy as they think and hope?

Unrealistic fear has major consequences for the outdoors, for conservation, and more are worrying about these.

Fear of harm coming to children has resulted in children not playing outdoors unsupervised. There is little unstructured access to it. This writer, being of a earlier generation, had almost total unsupervised time in the outdoors. This was during the days when the crime rate was much higher than now. Now, we have traded fun and fearless time in the sun (and familiarity) for watching “killer” fish and wildlife on TV indoors. This kind of child rearing makes it hard to instill love of the wilderness, though this has always been true to an extent, with most Americans never spending a night outdoors in the woods alone.

Climate change is something that should lead to great anxiety. It is very probable and already underway, but as we have seen, more than half relegate it to a low concern. It is perhaps like a smoker’s view of the dangers of cigarettes. “I want to quit, but not right now.”

It is true that those who hate endangered species are more than proportionately folks who say they love a high CO2 emitting economy. It is also likely true that the same are content with our alienation from nature and have no problem is Americans have an unreasonable fear of the outdoors.

So, I am afraid . . .


WI Man to pay fine for killing bear

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 11:54 pm | Updated: 11:55 pm, Wed Jun 4, 2014.

A Fall Creek man will pay a $2,443 fine for killing a bear in the town of Bridge Creek during last fall’s gun deer season.

Michael C. Mackey, 29, pleaded guilty in Eau Claire County Court to a misdemeanor count of killing a bear without a license.

Judge Michael Schumacher also revoked Mackey’s DNR license privileges for three years.

According to the criminal complaint:

A confidential informant told authorities a bear was killed Nov. 24 during a deer drive.

A second informant contacted authorities and said Mackey shot a bear and hid the carcass in the woods.

During a Nov. 29 interview, Mackey admitted to a warden that he shot a bear. He said he shot the animal in the town of Bridge Creek because it charged up a steep hill directly at him.

The warden, with Mackey’s help, retrieved the bear’s carcass from the woods.

After examining the carcass, the warden determined the bear wasn’t shot while charging Mackey. The bear was moving away from Mackey when it was shot.

Rescued grizzly bear treated for two broken elbows at Veterinary Teaching Hospital

The horses were moved, the police were alerted, and Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital was abuzz Tuesday as a rescued grizzly bear arrived for surgery to repair both elbows, which apparently were broken when the carnivore was confined in a concrete bunker as a roadside attraction in north Georgia.

“This is the most exciting case I’ve been part of during my two years of clinical rotations in veterinary school,” said vet student Barr Hadar, who would compile case notes on the patient thought to be a mix of grizzly bear and Syrian brown bear. “That’s what interests me in veterinary medicine, especially wildlife medicine. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Unexpected diagnosis

Last month, the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo., rescued “Marley” and 16 fellow inmates from a foreclosed “bear park,” where the animals were kept in cramped concrete pits and fed apples and bread by tourists. The bears were released into 15-acre natural habitats on the plains northeast of Denver, but sanctuary keepers noticed Marley, a 7-year-old female, would not put weight on one of her front legs, said Rebecca Miceli, who accompanied the impressive patient.

The 300-pound grizzly came to the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital crated and anesthetized on Tuesday morning. Examining radiographs, veterinarians soon determined Marley had not one, but two forelimb fractures estimated to be more than a month old; one break was badly infected.

“Our main concern is the infected fracture on the left forearm,” said Dr. Terry Campbell, a CSU veterinarian specializing in wildlife and exotic animals. “A draining, open fracture on a bear is anything but ideal, and we will need to surgically treat it immediately.”

Campbell knew the procedure would require the skills of an orthopedic surgeon. But was it a job for a large-animal or small-animal orthopedist? The decision: both.

“We have to determine: Is the bear more like a dog or more like a horse?” Campbell said before surgery, referring to the patient’s bone structure. “The truth is, it’s a bear. It’s not like either. So we, as a team of veterinarians, collaborate to find the best solution.”

Dr. Felix Duerr, small-animal orthopedic surgeon, and Dr. Jeremiah Easley, equine orthopedic surgeon, jointly handled the successful surgery. In the case of the infected forelimb, vets cleaned the infection, looked for necrotic bone, cleared scar tissue and inserted antibiotic beads to promote full healing. Duerr then provided shockwave therapy to accelerate the process.

Also essential to the case were Dr. Pedro Boscan, veterinary anesthesiologist, and Dr. Gregg Griffenhagen, a resident training in the specialty.

Much better quality of life

By Tuesday afternoon, Marley was recovering, and CSU veterinarians expressed hope that their unusual patient would have a greatly improved quality of life. Miceli, director of animal care at the Wild Animal Sanctuary, said she thought Marley could potentially live another 20 years at the home for rescued large carnivores.

For veterinary students involved with the case, the memory of Marley might last just as long. As the grizzly bear arrived, excited murmurs filled the hospital halls, and students swarmed the windows and doors of the large animal wing to catch a glimpse of an ear, nose or paw.

The equine unit had been alerted about the grizzly to prevent spooking among horse patients. A police officer was on standby, a standard precaution when a large carnivore is in the hospital, Dr. Tim Hackett, hospital director, said.

The students lucky enough to be on rotation with the wildlife and exotic animal service were able to observe Marley’s treatment up-close and to weigh in on options.

“Yesterday, we saw a guinea pig, a rat and a of couple ferrets. Today we get to see a grizzly bear,” third-year vet student Katherine Alley said. “This week is definitely turning out to be pretty cool and heightens my interest in pursuing a future working with exotic animals.”


“Kill ‘Em All Boys” Ringleader Gets 13 Months in Prison for Poaching and Animal Cruelty

Prosecutors obviously saw the potential for this hunter/poacher’s behavior to lead to cruelty against humans–Washington state officials also suspended his nursing license.


Poaching group leader gets 13 months in prison

Mick Gordon poses with slain cougar

By Dan Tilkin and KATU Web Staff

Oct 13, 2008   Story Updated: Oct 30, 2013

CATHLAMET, Wash. – The man considered the ringleader of a group of poachers who called themselves the “Kill ‘Em All Boys” was sentenced to a year and a month in prison Monday for illegally killing wildlife.

Mick Gordon, pictured below, pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree animal cruelty, hunting black bear, cougar, bobcat and lynx with dogs, second-degree criminal trespass and third-degree malicious mischief.

Washington Fish and Wildlife officers said the group used a device they called “the permission slip,” which is a metal bar used to break locks blocking access to prime poaching territory on timber company lands. They even had a videotape made of the bar in use because they wanted to sell the contraption on eBay.

Undercover officers infiltrated the group as part of the investigation. Later wildlife officers seized trophy heads and guns from Gordon’s garage.

Gordon, a registered nurse, was also accused of torturing one of his hunting dogs with a shock collar as well as not giving it care for porcupine wounds; the dog eventually died.

Prosecutors on Monday asked for an exceptionally long sentence, saying Gordon had “run amok.”

“I’m deeply sorry for what I’ve done,” Gordon told the judge. “It’ll never happen again”

Judge Michael J. Sullivan called Gordon an aberration.

“When I look at you and what you’ve done here, which seems to be a highly organized crime spree, I just don’t know how to put those two together,” the judge said.

The sentence was much stiffer than normal. In other recent animal cruelty cases, defendants received sentences of about 3.2 months on average.

Washington state officials have also suspended Gordon’s nursing license.

According to state health department documents, Gordon told an undercover officer he put a shock collar on a child’s neck, turned it to its highest setting and shocked the child. He also told the officer he despised his bed-ridden, elderly patients.

Stop Ontario’s Spring Bear Hunt

Stop Ontario’s Spring Bear Hunt – Action Needed!
URGENT!  Please send Sign-On letter!
Orphaned bear cub
Take action now!

Dear Friends of Wildlife

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s decision to allow a Spring Bear Hunt in Ontario will result in the death of hundreds of small bear cubs just like this one.

Attracting hungry adult bears with food bait when they are coming out of a long hibernation and easily shot by a hunter hiding in a nearby tree blind is a cowardly act made worse by the small dependent cubs that are left to die a slow death of starvation.  Sometimes hounds are used to track and tree bears for hunters to shoot. Wounded bears fall to the ground where the hounds attack them. Hounds may also attack cubs that are stranded on the ground without their mothers.

You and I can make a difference in stopping this morally-indefensible hunt. If you live in Ontario:    

  • Add your name to the Sign-On letter. Even if you have signed other petitions or sent a letter, please send this one as it will go to all Ontario MPP’s, sending a strong message that there is province-wide opposition to a Spring Bear Hunt.
  • Make the letter your own by changing the subject line, first paragraph or adjusting the order of others.
  • Second, send a response to the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) consultation. The comment can be as brief as saying you are ‘strongly opposed on moral grounds to hunting bears in the spring when they are caring for very young dependent cubs’ or you can add a different point or two taken from the Sign-On letter. Click here to view the EBR posting or go directly to the comment page.

Please forward this to family and friends who share your love of wildlife and use social media to get the word out, particularly among young people, because we know they care.

Ontario Wildlife Coalition

Now The Weather Channel is Promoting Hunting!

When did the phrase “How’s the weather” become synonomous with “Have you killed anything today?” Ever since the Weather Channel got into the act of promoting hunting, along with Time Magazine, the History Channel, Discover, etc., etc. Where’s it all going to end?

When I lived beyond a snow covered road in the North Cascades, the U.S. Forest Service decided to put in a snowmobile snow park near my cabin. I objected, of course, and when a snowmobile enthusiast asked me why I told him because the area will soon become overwhelmed by snowmobiles. He said, “If it gets that busy with snowmobilers, I’ll sell quit sledding.”

That scenario parallels the ongoing promotion of hunting. How many hunters will become frustrated and disillusioned with hunting when it gets so popular no one can stand it anymore?

17 Animals You Didn’t Know People Could Hunt – weather.com


Bored of hunting quail and deer? Try taking down an elephant or even a grizzly. Take a look at 25 exotic animals that can be hunted, at your own risk…
Time to Arm the Bears! http://www.armthebears.com/

“Time” Has it Backwards, People Are the Pests

By now, many of you have seen the outrageous Time magazine article egotistically entitled, “America’s Pest Problem: It’s Time to Cull the Herd.” If so, you probably shared my first reaction, which was:

How haughty to label the recovering animal species from whom we stole this land “pests” whenever they cross paths with the real pests, the most overpopulated and rapidly expanding, exploitive, environmentally reckless, imperialistic, pretentious, self-centered, self-important, self-aggrandizing, stuck-up, conceited, condescending –in a word, arrogant—urchins ever to emerge from the primordial ooze, namely humans.

As ethologist Marc Bekoff wrote in a recent blog post,
“There are so many things that are profoundly disturbing in [the Time magazine] essay I’m not sure where to begin or just which points to highlight. Some of the messages I received had quotes from this essay that at once shocked and saddened me. Kill, kill, and kill some more; that’s the only solution for righting the wrongs for which we — yes, we — are responsible. We move into the homes of other animals and redecorate them because we like to see them or because it’s “cool” to do so, or we alter their homes to the extent that they need to find new places in which to live and try to feel safe and at peace. And then, when we decide they’ve become ‘pests’, we kill them. Yes, technically we cull them, but of course the word ‘culling’ is a way to make the word ‘killing’ more palatable. To many people this sanitizing mechanism — using culling instead of killing — is readily transparent. But, a subtitle like ‘It’s Time to Kill the Herd’, would likely offend many people who find it difficult to grasp that that’s what we do – we kill other animals with little hesitation absent any data that this really works.

“We treat them as if they’re the problem when, in fact, whatever ‘problems’ they pose can most frequently, some might say invariably, be traced back to something we did to make them become ‘problems’.”

Well, I’m one of those who would definitely say “invariably.” On the other hand, I’m not real comfortable with the “we” part. Personally, I don’t consider the wildlife to be “pests,” I don’t fear them and I do not kill them. Ultimately, I don’t consider myself superior to the other animals.

Bekoff also writes, “Until we confront the indisputable fact that there are too many of us, we and other animals are doomed.” Talk about uncomfortable… Actually, my wife and I faced that fact decades ago and consciously chose not to add any more children to the burgeoning human horde.

The problem where we live is that, though we’re surrounded by prime habitat which we’ve left wild for the wildlife, we rarely see the deer, elk and bears who’ve had to adapt to locally rampant hunting and poaching pressure by only coming out of the heavy forest at night. The last thing the animals around here need is for Time Magazine to come along and promote more hunting!

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013