Leaving the bears in peace.
Credit: Robin Silver
The Lost Grizzlies: A Search for Survivors in the Wilderness of Colorado, by Rick Bass. (Pub. by Houghton Mifflin Co., New York/Boston, 1995, one of nine books by the author, 239pp.)
My favorite quote in the book is credited by the author to Catherine the Great. “That which is not growing begins to rot.” A- It’s true, and B- There’s just a message there that touches me from so many different directions and from almost every facet of life. The book is well written, and the author carries you through several experiences at once. There’s the adventure of just taking off across country on a summer-long camping trip. The reader follows the author high into the mountains’ wilderness to experience all of nature’s animal life, birds, streams and rivers, bold mountain features from avalanche chutes, ravines, cliffs, scree fields and trees that are found in every aspect of life and death, growth and rot. You continue to climb well above the tree line as you look for any hint of wildlife, especially bears. There are many black bears, but you are looking for the secretive grizzly. Everyone says they are now extinct in Southern Colorado. The last accounts of their sightings date back decades ago when this or that hunter claims to have killed the last one. If any grizzlies remain, their lives and habits have been so altered, and their culture so changed by human contact that they have withdrawn into small, inaccessible spots where they strive to remain hidden. Much of what you’ve read about them, about their diet, or their living and hunting habits, is now obsolete. The bears have changed their most basic instincts to survive.
You will be shown how both man and nature have altered the mountains and forests. Nature can’t be helped, but the sins perpetrated by man are hard to understand, and harder to accept. Besides the clearcutting and raping of natural resources, large areas are staked out with camps a year at a time to lay claim to the area’s hunting possibilities. Anything no longer needed, or which they don’t care to carry back out, litter the forest. Anyone entering such regions are met with aggression and potential armed confrontation for ‘trespassing’ on their claim to public lands. Even if the grizzly is still there, it is man that must be feared most. The names of all the roads, mountains, streams and other identifiable features have been changed, and that’s your first hint that the searchers indeed did find grizzly, but don’t wish to give shooters any clue on where they are hiding. The author doesn’t want you to know where they are, just that a few still cling to life, and that your best contribution to preserving them is to be sensitive to your impact on their habitat, and if you do find them, to just leave them in peace. This book is a nice departure from your usual reading diet, no matter how enjoyable it may be, and will open you to new insights.