Archive for June, 2016

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  • June 12th, 2016


By Joel M. Vance

When our daughter Carrie was wee bitty, she delighted in the 1948 Dr. Seuss tale of Thidwick, the Big Hearted Moose.
Thidwick was fond of munching moose moss, but the book didn’t say anything about Thidwick’s ability to stomp something that offended him to doll rags.
Dr. Seuss was guilty of doing what so many other children’s authors have done – making wild animals cute, amusing and harmless, ignoring the operative part of their description “wild.”
The recent case of a father and son putting a bison calf in their car to “rescue” it because it was shivering and wet is a classic example of folks conditioned to ignore the potential for damage from tampering with the wilderness of wild animals. Maybe they’d read Thidwick too often as kids. They were lucky that Mother Buffalo didn’t reduce their car to scrap metal.
Simply enough – wild animals should be left alone….and in the wild. Once when I labored at the Department of Conservation information booth at the State Fair, mostly telling sweaty fairgoers where the nearest restroom was, the MDC crew was looking for a home for Bimbo, a chubby raccoon which had been “rescued” by some well-meaning citizen because its mother had “abandoned” it. Shades of the baby bison.
So Bimbo became an exhibit for the life of the Fair, pampered and fed popcorn and other treats.
Bimbo was delightful – intelligent, cute, comfortable with humans – too comfortable because he had no mother to teach him survival skills. He didn’t know how to feed himself or avoid idiot motorists.
We took him in for a few weeks and he was sheer fun. But the time came when we had to make a decision. Bimbo was maturing and inevitably his wild instincts would kick in. He could become aggressive and a danger to our young kids and others.
So we took him to Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge and I led him down to the edge of the marsh and waited until he was entranced by his new, aquatic, coonly world and I ran up the bank, jumped in the car and floored it. Last sight of Bimbo was him standing upright like a little man, looking after our departing car.
Did Bimbo survive? I can only hope so. But he would have been far better off if someone hadn’t picked him up in the first place.
As cognizant as I am of the wilderness of wildlife, and of the necessity to leave them to their own fates, as much as I realize the commonsense of letting wildlife be wildlife, I’m guilty too of sticking my nose where it might get mashed.
Once in Wyoming I was trout fishing a little stream when a moose calf waded into the stream a few yards from me. I unslung my camera and waded toward the gawky youngster intending to get some close-up shots – and completely forgetting my own training to leave wildlife alone.
Then I glimpsed a wall of brown fur through the thick willows just beyond the calf and reason kicked in, along with a healthy dose of fear. Mom moose was there and if she had taken offense at me I wouldn’t be her to write this. I backed off and later saw mom and calf ambling up a hillside.
Some people never learn, including me. Later the same day Spence Turner and I spotted two bull moose bedded down in the middle of a vast pasture. We got our cameras and marched closer, hoping to get some nice shots.
Suddenly one of the bulls lurched to its feet and I could see the hair on its neck bristle. We were many yards from the nearest tree. We beat in the words of the chicken-hearted everywhere, a “hasty retreat.”
I was reminded of the story of the two guys in the Arctic who see a polar bear and decide to move close and get photographs. The bear leaps to its feet and begins to charge. “What do we do now?” quavers one of the photographers. “I don’t know” says the other one. “But one of us is going to get a hell of a picture!” (Alternate punchline – “Can we out-run it?” “ I don’t know – I just have to run faster than you)!”
Sarah Palin, the semi-governor of Alaska and Tina Fey’s best punch line, fancies herself as the Mama Grizzly. But given a choice in a confrontation between Ms. Palin and a real mama grizzly bear I’d put my chips on the bear.
It is symbolic that the Missouri Department of Conservation is giving seminars on dealing with black bear situations including how to handle encounters between bears and humans. Missouri doesn’t have grizzly bears and until recently, had few, if any black bears. But the animals are on the increase in the Show Me state and inevitably there will be interactions between bears and humans. Whether it be from a bear scavenging in someone’s garbage can or a mama bear taking offense at a human tampering with its cubs.
Any wild animal from a mouse to a moose can be dangerous if threatened. Thidwick, Bambi, even Mickey Mouse (if he happens to be infected with hanta virus) can be dangerous. Better to leave Thidwick to munch moose moss on the pages of Dr. Seuss and far better to leave his real life counterparts strictly alone.

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