(Appearing in The Daily Camera, LTE):
Boulder lost another black bear recently. To man-made policies governing her existence. To human nature, and to desperation. I along with countless others feel angry, sad, and discouraged. Today, I breathe a deep sigh. I find the world far less beautiful without wildlife in it.
All should not be lost, however. We can learn from her death.
How could we have saved Bear 317? Surely, her two cubs en route to Wyoming mourn their loss. We are all angry, sad. And looking to blame someone. It’s what we do when we lose something we love. We blame: our neighbor, the student leaving Abo’s pizza crusts in the back of his Land Rover. The DOW officers taking her away to her death. The transients along Boulder Creek leaving Dunkin’ Donuts boxes and Coca-Cola cans creek side. Someone must be responsible for her recent state-mandated demise.
Sad, and true. With loss, comes blame. I am not immune.
But, really, we should be blaming ourselves. We as a people — Boulder or otherwise — should be blaming ourselves. We as a people, should feel ashamed our behaviors. We live in an urban-wildlife corridor. We are blessed. We are well-educated, wildlife sensitive people. Many of us have degrees, in ecopsychology, environmental science, biology. We are a university town, after all.
So there is no excuse, for what happened to Bear 317. Or to any others that came before or will come after her. Her death was pointless. Her loss grieved by animal lovers everywhere.
What can we take away from this?
I made several calls for a reprieve to save Bear 317. I personally pleaded to the DOW officer, contacted the Lt. Governor’s office. Contacted NPR, to Colorado Public Radio to bring attention to her life. Made the best case I could for her.
I found lack of interest from the latter, and unyielding adherence to DOW policies from the former. The 2-strikes law we have here in Colorado is a death sentence for bears lured in by our lazy habits and unmindful behaviors. There is no excuse for our lack of awareness.
Here is what we can do, in honor of Bear 317. I offer it up for your mindful reflection, thoughtful consideration.
SAVING BLACK BEARS BEGINS WITH AWARENESS. That we live, in an urban-wildlife corridor. Understand that this means the very trail in Chautauqua Park we were just counting our heart rates and sipping water from our Camelbacks, will see the paws of a black bear or cougar at dusk. Count on it.
IT MOVES ON, TO APPRECIATION. Our environment is in constant flux. We have the NOAA scientists right in our midst on Broadway informing us so. How many of us had our windows down in our Subarus yesterday, or found ourselves sipping a New Zealand Savignon Blanc on the patio for happy hour at Brasserie 1010 or the Med? Warmer temps mean vegetation shortage.
WE WILL SEE BEARS.
IT CONTINUES, INTO PROACTIVE AND PREVENTIVE MEASURES. It’s simple. Take in your food, keep it inside. Bring in those Glutino’s from Alfalfa’s, those bird feeders at night. Where bears cannot see it — more essentially, where they cannot smell it. Take a trip — to McGuckins’ — spend a few bucks on bear proof trash cans. I buy them for any new buyer coming into Boulder, as a closing present. I prefer them to a bottle of Napa Valley Red Zinfandel.
FOR THE BRAVEHEARTED AND SENSITIVE AMONG US, ADOPT AN ATTITUDE. Of coexistence. The world is more beautiful with all its creatures in it. Created by God, Buddha, or otherwise. We as moral, conscious beings, are responsible to them. We can behave in ways that don’t harm them. We can have our backyard parties indoors, when bear season is high. We can mind our children outside, in vulnerable areas. We can educate our incoming CU freshman neighbors and new transplants, about bear aware behaviors here in the Foothills.
Why? Because having bears in our midst makes life better. Biodiversity feeds our emotional and psychological health. Our spirits are wilded and enriched with a rich ecosystem. Why else do we spend time up in Indian Peaks Wilderness on the Devil’s Thumb Trail, or afternoon on the Peak-to-Peak, on our Gary Fischers?
The people in Boulder are more enlightened than we have otherwise been behaving. We are educated, visionary, nature-loving people. Let’s start behaving like it.
In loving memory and honor of Bear 317, and all other black bears this season,
Denise Boehler, M.A., Ecopsychologist, Writer and Wildlife Advocate.