TRAGIC AWAKENING (CONT.)
Jack Olsen has done a remarkable and courageous job of reporting the tragedy of that August night in 1967 in Glacier National Park (The Grizzly Bear Murder Case, May 12 et seq.). He has managed to research much closer to the truth than did the anonymous National Park Service investigative team. In spite of his pessimism as to the ultimate fate of the grizzly bear, he nevertheless has done the National Park Service and the American public a great service. Unfortunately, his in-cold-blood adherence to gory detail will create an image of the grizzly bear that may take years to erase from the public mind. The aberrant behavior of the two marauding grizzlies no more reflects the general behavior of the species than the behavior of Adolf Hitler reflects the behavior of humans in general.
After 10 years of intensive research on the habits and behavior of grizzlies, I believe that grizzly bears and man can coexist in our great wilderness national parks. In coming to this conclusion Dr. Frank C. Craighead, myself and our colleagues captured and handled more than 500 grizzlies in Yellowstone and radio-tracked and closely observed many more.
Jack Olsen has bared and expertly dissected the bear problem in Glacier, and he has shown where the responsibility for solving it lies. But Olsen's investigation did not provide him with the knowledge of how to solve it, though it did give him every right to be pessimistic. However, the solution of grizzly-man compatibility lies not in pessimism but in intelligent application of scientific knowledge. The National Park Service now has at its disposal 10 years of grizzly-bear facts obtained by independent researchers. The service can utilize this information to manage grizzlies and people to the end that we need not sacrifice—forever—a creature of our wilderness parks, which would be as tragic as the leveling of Yellowstone Canyon because someone fatally fell from its brink.
To manage grizzlies and people will require some drastic changes in National Park Service management procedures and a willingness to accept new ideas. It will require sufficient funds so that rangers may keep as close a watch on grizzlies as on people and fires and traffic. It will require an expanded ranger and interpretive service and objective research by qualified personnel. Zoning areas for grizzlies and others for visitors will be necessary. Ultimately visitor use must be regulated if the parks are to be maintained as natural areas. Equally important, the public will have to accept a calculated risk. The grizzly is dangerous, but it is a minor hazard to life and limb in national parks compared to traffic, boating, swimming and climbing.
JOHN J. CRAIGHEAD
Professor of zoology and forestry
University of Montana
I'm wondering now if the rangers will offer something in their defense. Not that I felt Mr. Olsen wrote too strongly about them, although it was obvious where he placed the blame. I feel the rangers reacted, right or wrong, in a behavior pattern typical of most humans. These men have to live with the haunting self-punishment of what should have been done, while their supervisors are undoubtedly passing the buck and the general public is smugly saying what they would have done. But would they?
I believe you have left out part of the story. Shortly I will begin my fifth summer working on trail crews in Glacier National Park. I have camped or hiked in all the areas Jack Olsen wrote about. As we work trails, we come in closer contact with the hikers and campers than most other park-service employees. Most of the people we meet are sensible people who thoroughly enjoy their trips because they know what they are doing. However, a significant number of them are unprepared for their hikes, ignorant of their surroundings and foolhardy in their lack of regard for park wildlife. It is this group that keeps park-service employees so busy they are often unable to perform all their duties.
Fort Collins, Colo.
Jack Olsen has written one of the finest pieces of literature I have ever read. He has reported objectively the facts and drawn obvious conclusions and still was able to write a breathtaking and mind-shattering report about how man is destroying his world and ultimately himself!
HARRY F. BOSEN
Mr. Olsen's series of articles on the grizzly bear attacks failed to bring out the most important shortcoming in our national park policy. That shortcoming is the prohibition of guns carried by persons going into the backcountry. A .357 Magnum handgun and training in its use should be minimum requirements for anyone in grizzly country. How can anyone be naive enough to depend on rangers for protection when the rangers are miles away? A change of policy in this respect is definitely indicated.
DR. STEPHEN MEADOWS
Jack Olsen's suggestion to eradicate the grizzly bear could only be extended to all animals of physical prowess superior to man, since man is crowding all such species to extermination just like the grizzly. To destroy the natural environment and its indigenous parts like this has already proved the height of unthinking shortsightedness.
PETER H. STOWE
I applaud Jack Olsen's excellent, detailed account of the tragic grizzly bear attacks in Glacier National Park. I was especially glad to see previously recondite facts surrounding the events of that night brought into public view for the first time. A companion and I once hiked 50 miles inside the park, and we can attest that it would indeed be a shame to deny public access to all or part of the park because of the grizzlies.