Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tough on Bear Crime

A petition by a Calgary woman to save a dozen bears thought to be guarding a grow-op has begun to gain strength, recently harnessing the star power of Jason Priestley, formerly of Beverly Hills 90210 fame. It's a complicated issue that has caused a lot of sympathy and outrage from animal lovers across the country, who argue that the bears can be rehabilitated and sent back into the wild, despite what appears to be months of coddling and feeding by a pair of humans who have been using them to guard their grow op.

The police say that when they found the bears, they were friendly, playful and soft. They had developed a strong sense of camaraderie which is unusual for a species used to competing for resources, and police also said that they didn't seem to be a threat. The rationale for putting down the bears is that they can no longer return to their natural habitat and will not be able to compete again in the wild.

I wonder if there's something more to this story. Perhaps the police is taking such a hard line because they want to be seen as tough on crime, even if that crime is perpretrated by bears. After all, guarding a grow op must be a criminal offense. They're essentially aiding and abetting a group of drug dealers in exchange for security and groceries. That technically makes them no better than small time hoods, escaping the streets by moving on with the local drug lords for protection, status and the basic food and lodging.

That said, it's highly doubtful that those small time hoods would be put down because they can't compete with other hoods once their operation goes down. It's generally understood that they can be rehabilitated and learn to live in society without the protection of gangs. Sure, some of them return to the streets because it's the only world that they know and because it's the world that they feel comfortable in, while others turn to an even more violent life of crime and spend the rest of their lives in a revolving door prison system. But an initial effort is usually made to spare them this fate.

The police said that the bears were friendly and soft when they encountered them near the grow op, which leads me to believe that they weren't exactly doing their job right. Those bears should have been lean and mean if their job was to guard. Perhaps they're just hapless victims of human contact and Oreo cookies.

It's a real and legitimate concern that these bears may not be able to survive or adapt to the wild now that they've been on a sort of wildlife welfare system. Perhaps they'll starve to death or be rejected by more aggressive peers. Even so, perhaps it's not the police's decision to make. Perhaps they should be released into the wild to see if they will survive and adapt. They may not have good chances out there, but they would have more chances than if they were put down.

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