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Column: On Behalf of the Bears ...



For the Valley News
Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dear Bipeds of Hanover:

A number of years ago, I found myself wandering into a delightfully idyllic neck of the woods in and around the Mink Brook Natural Area, a region that less than a century ago was a nearly barren field — quite inhospitable to my species. I proudly made it my home and have since reared several litters of cubs over the years, most of them finding their way into their own widespread territories in the Upper Valley and beyond.

Even back then, it did not escape my attention that a large swath of my territory was directly bordered by an oddly manicured stretch of paved roads and box-like dens inhabited by bipeds with opposable thumbs. Their physical stature and presence typically instigated within me a primal fear and an appropriate adrenal discharge. It was my habit to avoid interactions with these curiously upright creatures. I rather preferred spending my days foraging the hidden corners of the forest, basking in the sun, drinking from the cold brook water. I reveled in the gratifying poverty of my existence in nature.

After several seasons of occasional encounters with bipeds, it seemed that you were — by all accounts — a relatively harmless species. Some of you occasionally photographed us, which was initially flattering. One spring day I followed some local sparrows to a tubular plastic structure adjacent to a biped den. Upon timidly inspecting the tubular structure, I found it was loaded with some of the richest, most exquisite seeds I’d ever laid nostrils upon. Celebrating our windfall, the cubs and I quickly sapped the seed syringe dry. I quickly learned that most bipeds seem to favor feeding birds over burly mammals such as myself. The tubular food caches (let’s just call them “heroin”) began to disappear from sight. But if I waited with patience and persistence, they would typically reappear.

When the heroin was hard to find, I discovered that the bipeds seemed to generate a large quantity of bagged treasure. Perhaps they were storing it up for the winter? I saw it as something of a sport to find the specific sites where such deposits would accumulate. Instead of wasting time teaching my cubs to survive a natural woodland life, I began honing their skills as garbage assassins. Each mission was cleverer than the next. College students seemed to be the most likely to amass unsecured piles of delicious slop. On the other hand, an elderly biped had become one of our most reliable dealers, as he had a habit of tossing out a real treat: fresh maple-glazed crullers from Lou’s! One dose of donuts (let’s just call it “cocaine”) would addle our brains into satiety and navel-gazing apathy for the next several hours. We were no longer foraging peasants of the woodlands. We were living like royalty.

My latest litter of cubs was born into this hedonistic life of luxury. And like the children of, say, a wealthy real estate mogul, these cubs never once had to traverse the forest floor in search of traditional food. They knew not what they were missing, and their instincts were based only on the false assumptions afflicted by a life of unexamined privilege. I was admittedly beginning to question this lifestyle once I observed my children becoming so addicted to biped food that they never developed an ounce of ambition to explore the world! To find a space in life for themselves. To find love. They were only laser focused on securing their next fix with no regard for potential danger.

It was during the height of my despair that I awoke in a fever dream to the voice of my mother: “Bipeds have much power and influence on our world. They can choose to save us or to destroy us. Our existence depends on a separate and respectful existence.”

I had failed to heed this basic tenet of my species, and I deeply regret raising a cadre of crack-addicted cubs who have no desire to live the lives of their biological destiny. I cannot entirely blame the bipeds for their complicity, but I cannot entirely forgive them either. I can, however, ask them with all sincerity to please rethink their relationship to our species. Simple steps may have protected my family from this fate.

This morning, while poking around a recycling bin, I found a Valley News front page headline shouting that a local bear family must be “destroyed” following escalating biped encounters. The disrespectful choice of words stung, I can’t lie. And the headline’s irony was not lost on me. C’est la vie. Despite the recent course of events, I would like to thank the bipeds for protecting local forests from their species’ worst inclinations, as a forest must be exquisitely healthy to support our species. This is a testament to the triumph of the Upper Valley bipeds’ dedication to preserving and protecting our habitats, a triumph that bears great responsibility (pun intended). Please educate your neighbors in perpetuity to keep us all healthy and wild. Do not feed us. We can survive without your help. Instead of idly blaming us or your neighbors for our shared drama, please take the initiative to make the situation better. It’s true that the New Hampshire Fish and Game officials are stuck with the unsavory final task of “destroying” my family, but be assured that we have been slowly dying from the insidious poison of unlucky circumstance and ignorance several years in the making. I hope my story may serve as a beacon of hope for future generations of both of our species.

— Sincerely, Mama Bear

Jason Pettus has had bears visit his yard in Hanover.