I’m sure you’ve heard the saga of the Albany Bear. A young black bear, with a history of repeatedly wandering into populated areas, was a deemed a “nuisance” and euthanized yesterday. The last 24 hours of the bear’s life included being struck by a car, shot with both a shotgun and a tranquilizer gun and falling approximately 60 feet from the tree in which he had sought refuge. It makes me so sad.
Have you ever seen a bear outside of a zoo? I’ve been lucky enough to see one twice, both times from the safety of the car in which I was driving. The first time, in a rural area of Massachusetts, the dog in our vehicle sensed the bear’s presence before we did. When I saw the bear loping along, my heart lifted. I had always hoped to see a bear and the glimpse I had of this one affirmed my belief in nature and all the wonders which she often holds secret. I was elated.
A couple of years later, in a more densely populated area in Orange County, N.Y., I noticed a dog on the right side of the road barking furiously at something on the opposite side of the road. The dog was maintaining a respectful distance, rather than approaching whatever it was that had attracted its attention. I looked to my left and immediately saw it – a black bear lumbering through the underbrush, more than likely heading towards the nearby orchard. Hours before this occurred, I had returned to the States after some time spent in Europe, a place I always feel is devoid of wildlife. Seeing this bear was one of the best “welcome home” experiences I’ve ever had. I was thrilled.
I understand the perceived threat of a wild animal in a residential neighborhood and the need for authorities to address the situation, I really do. My struggle with what happened yesterday (just blocks from my home) stems from my sense that that bear wasn’t dealt with respectfully. His tagged ears indicated he had prior experiences in local communities, but I can’t help but wonder how much effort was put into relocating him to a new home at a substantial distance. We like to brag in New York State about our 6+ million acres of “Forever Wild” land in the Adirondack Park. Couldn’t that bear been taken farther away from settled areas during one of his previous visits?
Why wasn’t there a more humane plan in place after 24 hours of officials monitoring the situation? Was it really necessary for the bear to fall 60 feet to the ground? How do we prevent another tragedy like this in the future? The bear may be the one to have fallen from the tree, but the authorities are really the ones who dropped the ball here.