by Kyra Hoggan on Wednesday August 18 2010
Marijuana and bears and raccoons, oh my!
Only in the Kootenays.
I see the humour in the story – who wouldn't, when a cop watches a massive bear crawl onto his squad car and refers to it as a “big Kootenay hood ornament”? (Although I feel compelled to point out my heroic restraint in refraining from making any pig/cop jokes when the 50-pound pot-belly entered the equation).
Underneath the snappy jibes, though, is a deadly serious issue – and one some local elected representatives seem willing, perhaps even anxious, to sweep under the rug. I won't name or vilify the representatives in question, but I ask them - and you - to consider this:
I laughed as hard as anyone at the bizarre story ... but it was more luck than good management that this story didn't end with a couple of our officers mauled or dead – five men were trying to work around 14 or more semi-tame bears, which are huge animals with sharp teeth and long claws, and which are known to be both territorial and unpredictable.
We're supremely lucky none of those officers ended up in a hospital or morgue.
How funny would it all be then?
That they handled the situation with courage and decency is a credit to them – but I don't think they should ever have had to face it in the first place. Public servants don't get paid enough to square off with armies of wild animals ...and I never, ever want to have to attend the funerals of those who do.
And that's just the opening salvo in describing the staggering danger these people introduced to our region.
How could they possibly have prevented the bears they taught to approach humans – that they knowingly, willingly habituated – how could they possibly ensure those bears wouldn't make their way to other farms and homes (my understanding is that, in fact, the bears have done just that in the past – it has apparently been a long-standing concern in the area).
Once again, it was luck, not good management, that prevented a story about local pets being eaten – or worse yet, local residents being attacked.
Well, there's certainly a significant risk that up to 14 innocent beasts will be destroyed due to the gross irresponsibility of just a couple of residents. I don't care how you spin that, it's just wrong. Hideously, egregiously wrong.
And when these fierce, wild animals find their food supply cut off, I would suggest surrounding neighbours keep their pets and kids indoors until it can be determined which, if any, of the bears will seek a similar food supply from what is probably the best source the bears now know – people.
So we're not out of the woods (as it were) when it comes to the dangers of this situation – not by a long stretch.
And I haven't even touched on the illegal drug aspect of the issue yet.
To anyone arguing this has anything to do with medical marijuana or production for personal use, I say this: “Sit down and shut up, would you please, so serious people can step up to the mike?”
A million dollars of pot is NOT about medicinal use, and it's NOT about personal use – it's a big-money criminal enterprise, plain and simple. Anyone who says otherwise is not only blowing smoke – they're probably inhaling far too much of same, as well.
(I could, but won't, discuss the corresponding wild-animal danger presented by that, as this volume of illicit drug is often distributed by wild animals masquerading as people).
Same goes for anyone who calls these people “animal lovers”. Animal lovers don't lure unsuspecting animals into situations that may well get them destroyed, so let's nip that nonsense in the bud right now (no pun intended), shall we?
To use bears to guard that million-dollar criminal enterprise – I don't know if that violates any criminal laws, but I know it violates all laws of human decency and plain old good sense.
Someone tried to tell me the bears were a separate issue from the marijuana. Perhaps that's true ... and I really don't give a damn. Just like I wouldn't care if a cocaine dealer tried to claim he owned a gun for reasons incidental to his criminal operations.
Common sense says the two are related, and the people involved lost a lot of the benefit of the doubt they would otherwise be accorded ... they lost it the moment roughly $1 million of pot plants were seized from the same property on which the bears were being fed.
I don't care if the situation came more from happenstance than calculation – the result was the same.
More than a dozen bears serving as deterrent to anyone going anywhere near $1 million of pot. That's the result, and it's really the only salient information, if you ask me.
Which brings me to my point.
If it had been guns, the owners would be charged. If it had been explosives, the owners could be charged. But because it was bears – far more offensive, to my mind, because you can't aim a bear and trust it go where you point, not to mention the animal cruelty element – it's funny, and we call for sympathy.
Has everyone gone completely NUTS?
I think police should be able to charge these people with several hundred counts of brandishing a deadly weapon (in this case, bears instead of guns). This behaviour threatened the safety of hundreds of area residents ...and that's if you don't count the thousands of motorists who pass through the region each summer.
You can be charged with uttering threats ... why not with creating them?
But I doubt we'll see that, and I doubt we'll see laws enacted that allow for that – until, that is, someone does get killed in a situation like this. God forbid, some small, unsuspecting child should frighten a scared and hungry bear, and die as a result. It's hardly out of the realm of possibility.
Then we'll weep and wail, pretending we couldn't see it coming, and try to forget how hard we laughed when we heard the bears were guarding the grow op.