If the reaction on our Facebook page is any indication, there was a lot of sentiment to let the grizzly bear live. Before we get to those comments, let’s review what happened. A grizzly sow weighing over 300 pounds and her three cubs went to the Soda Butte Campground early Wednesday morning, located seven miles east of the Yellowstone National Park East Entrance past Cooke City, and tore apart a tent containing Kevin Kummer, 48, of Grand Rapids. He was killed in the tent; his body was dragged 25 feet or so and then partially eaten by at least one griz. After that she and the cubs went after two other tents, biting Deb Freele of London, Ontario to the point where she required surgery to repaid the broken bones in her arms; Ronald Singer of Alamosa, Col. was bitten on the calf before fighting off the griz. (Our full coverage can be found in the links at the end of the article.)
All in all, this was a particularly vicious attack, both in its randomness and outcome; it certainly was not normal grizzly behavior. Chat with the locals at the Bear Claw Bakery or Miners Saloon and for the most part they’re happy the griz was put down: it’s been policy in wildlife-management circles for decades to put down a bear that’s killed a human. Bears are creatures of habit; the thinking is that the chances would be pretty good that the bear would kill again. And that seems to have been borne out by what the mother griz did: after doing damage Wednesday she and the cubs returned to the scene of the crime Thursday, presumably to cause more havoc.
But many are questioning that policy, saying that putting down the griz amounted to vengeance. Many called the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks — who took possession of the griz — and asked that she be allowed to live, with some arguing she should be released into the wild, according to NewWest.net:
Ron Aasheim, communications administrator with FWP, told NewWest today that the majority of calls the agency is fielding about the attacks are from people who feel the bears should not be held in captivity. “It’s overwhelming,” he said, noting that it seems the farther people are from living in bear country, the more they are inclined to think the bears should be released.
“You can’t release a bear who’s been involved in an attack like this, who’s bitten and tasted human flesh,” he said. “You just can’t do that.”
That is the conventional wisdom. But judging by the Facebook comments under Yellowstone Insider, some are questioning that conventional wisdom. We’re not going to post names — though they’re public on Facebook — but we will use some of the comments, cleaned up:
Yes it is sad that somebody has lost a loved one. But we must remember that we are a guest to their world and as sad as it is we are only visitors and it is part of the wilderness that we so choose to visit. We need to respect the wild, it is the ignorance that has limited the bear to very few places and banished the wolf. WE MUST RESPECT.
Whose House was this man in??? Sure, it’s sad for the Dad, and His kids and loved ones, But let’s have a little perspective here!!!! Respect for the Dead Bear Mom, Please!!!!!!
Maybe she was doing what she had to do to feed her cubs!!! Why couldn’t she just be relocated!!!
Humans are the ONLY beings that kill because it’s fun; how can u blame a grizzly bear for BEING a grizzly. There’s no vengeance in that; it’s a fricking wild animal duh??!! Was probably protecting its cubs which is completely natural. Unfortunately, it really has to be chalked up as a horrific event, and that’s that. You’re gonna kill a bear for being a bear. Humans are stupid. Whoever keeps acting like this bear is a stalker out to be a calculating murderer with malice needs to have their picture in the dictionary next to the word “idiot.”
Of course, Internet rhetoric is cheap, especially when you don’t need to live with the consequences of what you preach; most of the residents of Cooke City we informally chatted with were just happy to know they could walk home from the bar or bakery and not worry about grizzly issues. But we don’t think these commentators were totally on the fringe: there are a lot of people who love Yellowstone who questioned why the bear was put down, as opposed to living a life in captivity. (Releasing or relocating, we think, were not viable options here; no way the authorities would have released a killer back to the wild.) The cubs ended up in captivity at Billings’ ZooMontana; surely that could have been considered for the mother griz.
Let us know what you think! Click this link to go to our Facebook page, which features story updates; you can also post comment at the end of this article.
The above photo shows the grizzly sow before she was euthanized. Courtesy Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.
RELATED STORIES: Confirmed: Cubs Involved in Soda Butte Tragedy Headed to ZooMontana; Mother Griz Put Down After DNA Confirmation; Three Cubs May Go to ZooMontana; Third Griz Cub Trapped; Authorities Waiting on DNA Analysis; Griz Victim Remembered as Avid Outdoorsman; Trap Snares Culprit in Soda Butte Killing: A Mother Griz; Why Did Bear — or Bears — Attack at Soda Butte?; Bear Kills One, Injures Two in Campground Near Yellowstone