Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where the wild things still are . . .

Black Bear Treed in the Ozarks
Salem, Arkansas
(Arkansas Game and Fish Commission)

An old friend sent news of a female black bear and its three cubs shot recently near my Ozark hometown of Salem, Arkansas -- though not the specific bear pictured above, I presume, since the man doing the shooting wasn't aiming to take photos.

Local reporter Clover Birdsell, writing for the Area Wide News (October 21, 2009), tells us in "Bears shot at Union home" that a fellow named Bruce Knapp from Pineville, Arkansas shot the bears at his mother's home in Union, Arkansas, which is about ten miles of my hometown on Highway 9 and just a few miles north of Oxford . . . in other words, about the same place where my son, En-Uk (with help from his sister, Sa-Rah), was catching his world-record catfish last summer.

The shooting seems to have been done out of fear, not bravado, or so I gather from the details provided to Birdsell by Brian Gaskins, a wildlife officer for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission:
"(Knapp's mother) was a bit scared because of the bears," Gaskins said. She had been in the home at the time the bears were discovered. "We've had reports of bears out there for many years, but this was her first time seeing them so she was kind of shook up."

The aunt pulled up in her vehicle and saw the bears. Her presence startled the sow that then jumped into the dog pen, next to the house where Knapp's mother remained. The dog pen was covered by a solid wooden fence facing the street, Gaskin said.

The aunt began honking her horn, and the sow jumped out of the dog pen over the fence. One of the three cubs went up a tree about 20 yards from the front porch of the residence. The sow went with her cub. The other two cubs were across the road, where they remained while the aunt and mother called Knapp, Gaskin said.

Knapp then came over to discover the sow and her cub making noise in the tree. He shot the sow and cub then proceeded across the road and shot the other two cubs, who had become startled and were making noises, Gaskins said.
People generally consider bears to be dangerous, and bears certainly are when they feel threatened, but attacks on humans are rare, and Gaskin has never even had to deal with an agressive black bear in Arkansas during his nearly quarter-century of service:
Gaskins has served in the AGFC since 1985. He has observed the black bear in its native Arkansas habitat, and has never had to handle an incident where a black bear was showing aggression toward a human, he said.
For the record, however, I should note that black bears have been known to prey on human beings, albeit rarely:
Offensive or "predatory" or "predaceous" attacks on humans by black bears do occur but are very rare. During the period 1900-2003, there have been 52 human fatalities from black bears, more than 80% of which were predatory in nature. Of these, 5 have occurred in Alaska, 11 in the lower 48 USA, and the remainder in Canada. Non-fatal predatory attacks are more frequent but still rare. The trend of bear-inflicted injuries -- at least in Canada -- has grown along with the human population. Predatory attacks have typically been in remote or rural areas, probably where bears have little or no experience with people, and almost always have involved male bears. Persons most at risk have been those hiking, fishing, berry picking or working in remote areas. In British Columbia between1960-1997, 77% of black bear attacks involved such persons. Recently, there is some indication that predatory attacks are increasing in more settled areas, although data are yet sparse. Wounded bears and sows protecting young are a small component of the serious injuries or fatalities from black bears.
As you see from this information provided by Mass Wildlife, "Black Bear Problems and Control," such attacks are rare, though a comment left by one reader of Birdsell's article provided a link to a 2006 report of a fatal, apparently predaceous black bear attack on a child in Tennessee.

In the Arkansas case described by Birdsell, however, the bears seem not to have been aggressive. The fact that the female bear followed its cub up a tree suggests that the sow was afraid rather than predaceous. Leaving the bears alone would probably have resolved the situation -- though we'll never know for sure now.

According to the report, Knapp will probably have to pay a fine of $100 to $1,000, so I suppose that he will likely have learned an expensive lesson on the cost of shooting bears, for the days of unlicensed hunting for "Old Slewfoot" are long gone.

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At 2:57 PM, Blogger NWABEAUTY said...

Jeff... I grew up in Jottemdown....between Salem and Union..... I had always heard "thar's bare in them thar woods" but never believed it until now.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

When I was about ten and living in Salem, I heard that a black bear had been sighted just outside of town, but back when I was about five or six, a black bear one night tried to get one of the hogs at my Grandma Hodges' farm south of Viola and past Flora Baptist Church at the end of a dirt road, right at the edge of the wild.

My kinfolk banged on pots and fired shotguns in the air and frightened it off. I never saw it, but the event was exciting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have seen tracks in the snow on the farm whre my wife, Linda Gay grew up, (and now our residence).
Several years ago she saw one cross our field going north. It crossed the Bennet Bayou and came close to the ball field south of Bakersfield, MO, and was seen by people attending the softball game.
Just this year our neighbor whose land joins us on the south saw one crossing his hay field.
Years ago, in the 1960's, I believe. a man named Ted Brown, saw a young black bear near his farm, shot it, loaded it into his pickup, and drove to Viola, AR, to show it off. He was arrested by the game wardens, and a court date was set.
On the trial date, so many angry farmers, with their guns in their truck racks, came to Salem, AR courthouse, and the square around the courthouse and nearby streets, that there weren't any spaces left.
Word got to the game wardens, who wisely didn't show up.
The judge told Mr. Brown that since the wardens didn't come, no one had been notified that the game and fish commission had released bears in the area, and no one was aware that it was illegal to shoot one, he would release him.
He did ask Mr. Brown if he would do this again.
Mr. Brown said, "Your honor, if I ever shoot another bear, no one will know it but me and the bear."


At 9:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, you're still reading my blog! I was beginning to think that you were as scarce as black bear sightings!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We did take a little trip to Heidelberg, Germany, from September 24 to October 2.
Son James kept us at his residence, we attended his Colonel's Pin-on-Ceremony, and got a brief tour on the area, Strasbourg, France, on to Basel, Switzerland, and the Rhine Valley.
Since then I have been busy with a stuck in the mud Tractor, another runaway tractor, working livestock, and assorted farm repairs, that I haven't written.


At 2:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Cran,

I sure am happy to see you got that NATO mess cleared up.

But we have missed your... uh "comments."


At 5:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Trouble with transportation, agriculture, and infrastructure while you were overseas?

See what happens, Uncle Cran, when Americans get themselves tangled up in foreign affairs -- domestic arrangements go to hell!

George Washington was right about shunning those entangling foreign alliances!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, you've also been missed.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful Jeff,

Cran knew George Washington. And, Cran knows you can't speak for George Washington.


At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess I didn't scroll down far enough.

Been busy Jeff. I'd like to be able to say I've been bear hunting but truth is, I been bar hunting.

(Which - in my dry county - is just as likely to run across either).


At 6:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I should have studied Latin back in high school so I could understand all those happy campers in Latin America, but what can be expected of a man such as I who didn't even personally know JFK, let alone GW?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:53 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Hadn't checked the blog recently, today I did and shouldn't have. Likewise Salem's "The News". My Sunday was ruined with the read on the bear and her three cubs. My guts continued to roll.
Accordingly, I'll enter my two cents worth on this unfortunate story and don't care if any fellow blog reader's feathers get ruffled.
You'll recall my youthful chicken killing story, and in recent times I've killed some moles, grackles and even a couple of wren eating blacksnakes. But, anything else intentionally killed (believe my memory is correct) was food for the table obtained through legal hunting or fishing.
So, past sins admitted, I'll continue.
If Mr. Knapp's family, himself or property (livestock, etc) were truly being threatened by bear, I'd say shoot and worry about any AGFC regulations at a later time.
However, neither Knapp, family or property were threatened, pursued or attacked, and the bear(s) were undoubtedly near that residence looking for food, as Officer Gaskins stated.
Perhaps I'm not allowing Mr. Knapp much leeway here, but will bet he also sees the need to crush turtles crossing the road, hunts deer for the rack they happen to be carrying or shoots the bobcat that happens into his rifle sights.
Fear by Mr. Knapp-doubtful. Fear by the bears-yes, proven by that car horn precipitating the hasty tree climb by cub and sow.
If those bears had been left alone they'd have retreated to the woods.
Hopefully in November the District Court gives Mr. Macho Man the maximum $ 1,000.00 fine. Too bad that amount isn't tenfold.
Yeah, Mr. Knapp fella, you're a real hero.
Cousin Bill

At 9:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, Bill, I also sympathize with the bears in this case, especially since three small cubs were shot, but I'm reluctant to say more about Mr. Knapp without hearing his side of the story.

He may have considered them a threat to his mother, for instance, though from the evidence given, I'd have to say that he was likely mistaken.

You might inquire of our relatives from the area and ask their opinions. I'd be interested in knowing those.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:37 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Jeff, opinions (relatives or others) may come in unrequested if anyone reads mine.
Judgmental? You betcha!

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Okay, we'll see if anyone tells us more.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let you know Bill,

From what I've been able to gather - you are quite likely correct. (I do have some connections in Pineville).

Quite a few impressive "racks" are proudly displayed. And, since at least one head is adorned with sun-glasses and beer cans, it's probable that particular deer had been innocently enjoying himself at a party.

As to whether Mom was really so "scairt" is debateable. I'm told she possesses a large caliber Weatherby and is proficient in it's use.

I'm with you on this one Bill. Well... I guess I'm usually with you since we both enjoy "Comments With Cran."

By the way, where is the ol' coot?


At 1:26 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, JK, if your information is correct, let's hope that the fine teaches a fine lesson.

Jeffery Hodges

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