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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bearanoia will destroy ya

One of my pet peeves is bearanoid people. These are the people who carry a gun for a walk in Abercrombie Park. If they see a bear, or even bear tracks they are convinced the bear is out to get them. A hike with these people (if you can even convince them to step off of the road) is like going on a patrol in Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam war. Their fear is taken far too far - it is an irrational fear of bears.

And if you crunch the numbers you realize just how irrational a fear it is - in the last 100 years only 2 people have been killed on Kodiak by bears. And in both instances the human shot the bear first. In the same time period there have been far more murders on Kodiak. Realistically, you should be more scared of humans than bears. And yet people still carry absurdly big guns whenever they go out into the backcountry - convinced of the need to defend themselves against bears. Never mind that they generally don't know how to shoot their cannon of choice very well, or that a firearm probably will make any bear encounter a far more life threatening experience. Bears will go after you if you wound them first, while if given the chance they run away. I actually think firearms increase your chances of getting mauled. And I will note that only people carrying firearms have ever been mauled on Kodiak.

Not that a healthy awareness and even fear of bears is not warranted. I often carry pepper spray on my archaeological surveys - especially if i know I will be whacking through dense alders by a salmon stream. I also use bear boxes for my food and sometimes even an electric fence around camp to keep the bears out. But I do not carry a gun unless I am hunting. I do make sure to make noise, keep good sight lines, and avoid areas where I might surprise a bear. This is a healthy fear - good for the bears and good for me. It is a fear that makes the backcountry a more exciting place - a place where there are bears and I am not necessarily at the top of the food chain. But there is no need to take it to an absurd degree - to become bearanoid. No one needs to pack a firearm on a walk into Abercrombie.

The photos were both taken by Chase Tingle on our recent archaeological survey of Karluk Lake. The bear was walking along the bank of O'Malley lake and decided to take a swim. Patrick


Katie said...

You know I totally agree, Patrick! I would sooner use the butt end of the gun to whack a bear on the nose than try to shoot it!


Isiik said...

I read your post to Jeremy and he suggested that it be sent in to the newspaper or read on KMXT. He loved it!