SI Vault
 
BEARS AND OTHER COMMUTERS
Robert Cantwell
September 30, 1963
Assorted evidence is presented that after eons of fleeing from humans, wild animals are mounting a new and sinister attack that is based on one of their enemy's own adages: 'If you can't lick 'em, join 'em'
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September 30, 1963

Bears And Other Commuters

Assorted evidence is presented that after eons of fleeing from humans, wild animals are mounting a new and sinister attack that is based on one of their enemy's own adages: 'If you can't lick 'em, join 'em'

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Shortly before last Fourth of July a little girl named Diane Wanamaker, who lives with her mother and father in the town of West Nyack, not far from New York City, looked out the window and said to her mother, "There's a bear in the backyard."

According to the New York World-Telegram, Mrs. Wanamaker, who was cooking dinner, replied, "That's nice, dear."

Now there really was a bear in the backyard of the Wanamakers' suburban home—a 300-pound black bear, Euarctos americanus, a very wily and sagacious creature, and about as wild a beast as it is possible to find in the eastern woods. After vainly trying to interest her father in the bear, Diane became annoyed at being regarded indulgently as an imaginative child, and dropped the subject.

But the next morning Mr. Eugene La Voie, aged 61, who lives in the nearby town of Spring Valley, left his house to go to work and found the bear sitting on his lawn, staring at him. Mr. La Voie did not waste time discussing it with members of his household. He rushed back inside and called the police. The police, apparently, gave the call little more attention than Mrs. Wanamaker had given to Diane. By the time they arrived the bear had wandered away across the New York State Thruway and was last seen heading for Albany. However, there were bear tracks, 8� inches by 5 inches, all over the terrain.

Imaginative children have been known to delight in scaring other imaginative children by saying, "Maybe it's a bear!" at any strange sound, particularly if the children are alone in the house and hear a scratching noise or a thumping on the porch outside. We should hesitate to dismiss such remarks as childish fantasy. There may be a bear on the porch.

If it is a bear, one need not follow in the fast footsteps of a miner in Burke, Idaho named Dan Stoker. He had long been annoyed by dogs that raided his garbage can at night, tipping it over, making a lot of noise and scattering the refuse. Hearing sounds in his backyard one recent evening, he crept out the back door and saw an animal with its head buried in the can. Mr. Stoker approached stealthily and delivered a resounding kick to its hindquarters with his size 11 D miner's boot. The animal turned out to be a large bear. Mr. Stoker, a man in his 50s, went into barefaced retreat and ran for his house. Since the back door had locked behind him, he decided to waste no time unlocking it, and ran around to the front. The bear, however, had by this time gotten its head out of the garbage can and raced around the house in the opposite direction. Mr. Stoker meanwhile had reached the front door and, a moment later, was annoyed when the bear also appeared. Both were disgusted at the Mack Sennett comedy sequence that had interrupted the great drama of nature. They wheeled and headed in opposite directions, the bear toward the Coeur d'Alene Mountains that loomed in majesty in the east.

Then consider a 67-year-old woman named Mrs. Bella Twin who was walking near her home in the Swan Hills of Alberta, Canada a while back, when the largest grizzly bear known to man suddenly reared up on the trail before her.

Mrs. Twin happened to have her rifle with her. It was a .22. Paying no attention to the common belief that wild animals will not bother you if you do not bother them, Mrs. Twin shot the bear with her .22. In fact, she put seven .22 slugs in a tiny circle in the giant's brain. It fell over dead. She had killed the biggest grizzly bear of which there were authenticated records (since that time three larger specimens have been shot). Mrs. Twin's grizzly had a skull whose dimensions were verified by the Boone and Crockett Club. It measured 16 10/16 by 9 11/16 inches—roughly the size of Dan Stoker's garbage can. Even small grizzly bears have been known to charge people in wild, leaping bounds, covering 10 to 12 feet per jump, so Mrs. Twin was fortunate that she shot the grizzly before it stepped on her.

A careful study of such episodes, however, suggests that civilized man has a poor record in such emergencies. It is not overexcitement but skepticism that hampers him. Modern man does not believe that such things happen. When he comes face to face with some great phenomenon of nature, he thinks it is a gag. If he suddenly confronts anything like a grizzly bear, his first reaction is to call the police. Last spring in Wichita, Kans. a young man named Stanley Brown happened to be passing the office of Charles F. Curry & Company on downtown Kellogg Street after business hours. Looking in, he saw a young stag deer bounding over desks and chairs. Mr. Brown called the police. The officers, hurrying to the scene, tried to capture the deer, but it jumped through a window and skipped town. Portland, Me. reported an even more exciting intrusion. "Worshippers at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception were surprised yesterday," said a calm wire service account of this otherwise stimulating event, "when a frightened deer bounded into church. It was subdued by an off-duty policeman."

Occasionally it seems as if animals go out of their way to be sure they deal with the police, BLACK BEAR INVADES JERSEY COMMUNITY, ran a recent headline in The New York Times . "The animal was sighted here about 9:30 last night," said the report from Newton township. "It passed police headquarters on Trinity Street and was spotted on Spring Street, the main shopping section, by Police Sgt. Ralph Carey."

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