by Barry Kent MacKay
02 Dec 2016 12:26 PM PST
Polar Bear and Dog <http://www.bornfreeusa.org/images/blogs/canadianblog/polarbeardog_sm.jpg> © David de Meulles / YouTube
Finally, the same internet that has continually shown a video that has utterly charmed millions (but sickened me) has exposed the truth… although, I suspect that many will miss that and go on mindlessly grinning at the original images.
I’ll explain all of that in a moment. First, let me say that, as someone increasingly concerned about the fates of wild and domestic animals—working with dedicated professional colleagues sharing the value I put on all life, human and animal—I can never understand why people seem to think an animal’s “worth” is relative to how much he or she acts like humans, or unlike how the animal’s own nature dictates.
Polar bears are predatory. So, when videos emerged on the internet some time ago showing a bear seeming to play with a sled dog, I immediately wrote to a polar bear biologist. The expert told me that he knew all about it, including how many dogs have been killed by being left chained outside, helpless, in a region that is well-visited by polar bears.
“We’ve tried to tell that to people for years,” I was told.
The video does not show that part of the story.
The bear, overwhelmingly powerful, is in no hurry to make a kill. The animal first examines the unsuspecting dog, and that is the part the video shows: sniffing and petting only. It’s been viewed more than four million times. What the viewers don’t see is that the bear then chose another dog, possibly one of those on short leashes in the background, and killed and ate that one.
It’s intolerable enough to leave dogs tied up overnight without shelter as a roadside attraction at the Mile 5 Sanctuary near Churchill, Manitoba. But, feeding polar bears to attract them to the site makes it worse.
The owner of the property, Mike Ladoon, explained what happened by <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/polar-bear-dog-video-churchill-manitoba-1.3855128> telling CBC news, “That was the only day we didn’t feed the [expletive] bears, the only night we didn’t put anything out.”
But, it’s not just the dogs. Churchill is a community full of men, women, and children trying to live within the range of the bears. By acclimatizing the bears to human activity and teaching them that humans provide food, the risk of an attack by a bear on a human increases—and so does the chance that the bear, having no fear, will be shot.
It’s a delicate balance between living with the huge predators, benefiting from the presence of the bears as a tourist attraction (as thousands of people go there to see them), and protecting life, limb, and property of the people.
Charges have been laid against Ladoon, both for interfering with the bears and for his treatment of the dogs. Let’s hope the word gets out to those still smiling at the misleading video, not understanding how wrong it all is.