So there has been another Grizzly bear attack in the Rocky Mountain West, and thankfully this time the person attacked lived to tell the tale. Not only did he tell the tale, but he posted a video of the aftermath on his Facebook page.
The person, Todd Orr, was hiking in the Madison Range near Ennis, Montana, when a sow grizzly with cubs attacked him. He had bear spray and he used it. But the bear was determined to protect her young and after the initial attack, she followed Orr back on the trail and attacked him again.
As human populations expand into unfamiliar territory, violent encounters with extant and expanding wildlife populations are going to increase. As those conflicts increase, the calls for people to stay out of “the bear’s home” in the first place also increase. It happened when Lance Crosby was attacked and killed in Yellowstone last summer, and it’s happening again with Mr. Orr.
I’ll let the social media pundits debate what Mr. Orr may have done wrong and whether the attack was defensive or predatory, but from my perspective Orr did everything right. Of more concern to me is the underlying theme that emerges when incidents like this happen.
For some reason, whenever wildlife conflicts happen, whether it’s bears, mountain lions, bison, or even smaller animals, there is an instant reaction on social media that the person “deserved to be attacked” because he or she had no business being in the wild.
This short-sighted perspective insists that humans don’t belong in the wilderness… and certainly not alone in the wilderness.
Well, I’m here to say that not only do some of us belong in the wilderness, but we need to be there. Spending time alone in the wilderness can be a truly transformative experience for people who are used to concrete and glass.
Thankfully, conservation history is replete with humans who recognized the value and necessity of a true wilderness experience.
People like John Muir, John Burroughs, Horace Kephart, George Washington Sears, Theodore Roosevelt, Sigurd Olson, Aldo Leopold, and the many unsung others worked tirelessly on behalf of wilderness specifically because they knew it intimately. That intimacy came from many weeks, months, and sometimes even years of solitude in wild places. They saw those places vanishing and in need of protection.
And those same people all knew very well that wild places can be dangerous places. That’s part of their allure.
We only have those few small, precious remnants of wilderness today because people with vision and determination were allowed to go there alone and see the value of wild land. To call for human exclusion is to call for the end of wilderness.
You can read Mr. Orr’s full and graphic account of the attack on Facebook here: