By Diane Dragotto Williams
On September 15th, in a little village in Galena, Alaska, an unprincipled hunter took advantage of a female black bear foraging for food for her cubs, and shot and killed her for his trophy. He skinned her, carved her up, and took away her head, paws and other body parts for his use. This beautiful sow had spent months in hibernation, giving birth to three healthy cubs, raising them tenderly, protecting them from predators. And at the right time, she brought them out of their den, to teach them how to live in the wild. She had spent hours daily grooming, cleaning, feeding, nuzzling and comforting them from frightful noises, animals, weather, and attacks of any kind. That fateful day, she had left them in a tree to wait for her return, so she could renew the sustenance her body needed to nurse her cubs, and find a new source of food for them. She gave her life for her babies that day, keeping the location of the cubs away from the hunter. Despite the fact that the hunter took this bear illegally in an Alaskan Village where hunting is prohibited, he was able to do this ghastly deed, and get away with it, much to the horror of the natives and residents of Galena.
The hunter also forever altered the lives of the bear’s three offspring. If it weren’t for the compassionate hearts of the village residents, these orphans would have died slowly of starvation, been eaten savagely by predators, or died a slow death of hypothermia in the approaching snow. Spotted clinging to that tree, the cubs cried out for their mother, and began to search for her in the forest. They found part of her hide and drug it to their only source of protection, that tree, where they kept close her remains as a point of comfort. Abandoned and alone, as they grew hungry, not understanding their plight, they literally reached out their arms to humans that found them. It broke the hearts of all those who happened upon them.
These lovers of nature contacted the Alaskan authorities to find out what could be done. Due to Alaska Fish and Game regulations, the cubs did not qualify for rehabilitation, and the only resort left to them was to find a permanent home in captivity. None could be found in Alaska, so Wildhaven Ranch was called, and we all began to invest our time to help find a home for these desperate cubs. Daily, many natives have protected the trio from danger, diligently seeking for a resolve to the murder of the cubs’ mother. Waiting permits, transportation, and hopefully, a new home in Colorado for the cubs, agonizing days of the unknown have faced these ursines, and the villagers who have respect for the lives of these bears. Finally, September 29, the three bears were flown out of Galena, thanks to the Alaska Humane Society and Fish and Game to a safe place while preparations are made for their new home for life.
What lesson can be learned from this singular, unknown act of selfishness that the hunter inflicted upon the mother bear, the villagers, and, ultimately, the three bear cubs? We live in a world where, daily, hideous acts are done in the name of private beliefs, personal agendas and philosophies. If we can learn that integrity begins at treatment of the bottom of the life cycle, where we are charged to honor what we have been given, then perhaps there is hope. We must be challenged to be good stewards of life, so that evil unchallenged will not continue to persist, at least in those instances when good can overcome it. Even seemingly, unimportant to some, the senseless killing of a mother sow in far away Alaska speaks to us in San Bernardino County. May those little survivors, who, unfortunately must now live in captivity, tell their tale, and cause those who will listen to respect the precious gift of life.
Wildhaven Ranch is a wildlife sanctuary in Cedar Glen that gives programs to the public by appointments only. Bears, Bobcat, Coyotes, Deer, Eagles, Falcon, Hawk, Owl and Raccoons are seen “up close and personal” in guided tours. For reservations, call (909) 337-7389.
By Diane Dragotto Williams