Fr. Dale Matson
“And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’” (Genesis 1:26, KJV).
In July of this year a man and his wife were hiking in Yellowstone Park when the man was killed by a female Grizzly who rangers determined was protecting her cubs. The park spokesperson Linda Miller stated that the bear was behaving normally in defending her cubs and would not be destroyed.
This month an Idaho man was arrested for shooting a Grizzly bear in his back yard where his children were playing because he believed they were in danger from the bear. He will be tried on October 4th and if convicted could face up to a year in prison and a $50,000 fine for unlawfully taking a protected species. Idaho Governor Otter said that the man had the right to defend his family.
Why does a Grizzly bear have the right to defend her cubs against a perceived threat from humans and a human does not have the right to defend his children from a perceived threat from a Grizzly? Have we now bestowed human rights on animals? Do the rights of an animal even supersede human rights.
There are some additional concerns I have about this. Since the Grizzly sow was doing the natural thing and protecting her cubs, what would rangers do if they actually saw this event happening? Would they have allowed the bear to kill the man? I think not. I hope not. Will this same bear be more likely to kill a human in the future? Yes it will. The recent death of a Michigan man by a Grizzly may yet prove to be the same bear. Park officials say the recent attack happened eight miles from the July attack.
When was a policy of justifiable homicide put in place for Grizzlies? Does this mean that black bears and mountain lions can kill humans if rangers believe it was justified? Since when do park rangers and park officials make this determination? It is easy to blame this on human encroachment but predator populations are also on the increase. In Yellowstone Park Grizzlies are not even on the list of threatened species let alone endangered species.
I am sure there are those who are happy about the bear not being destroyed but most of the same individuals eat meat. What does that ultimately say about their priorities? The real issue here is not properly valuing the life of animals but in valuing the life of animals over humans.