Mustahyah (The Grizzly Bear)

26 Oct
Last night, I unwisely finished reading "Men for the Mountains" by Sid Marty.  (Unwisely, because it was pretty late when I went to bed and then Jade and I ended up being up from about 2:30 a.m. to almost 5:30 — sigh!)
Written by an Albertan park warden, the book is a lively romp through Yoho, Banff, and Jasper National Parks, and frequently made me collapse into gales of laughter.  It wasn’t all comedy, though: he also discusses park politics, bureaucracy, and policies, mountain/helicopter/avalanche rescues, the folly of park tourists, and the plight of some of the wildlife in these popular parks.
Marty’s description of the grizzly and it’s activities were, for me, some of the most fascinating parts.  One of the blogs I check out regularly recently had a post about bears and how they’re the scourge of the earth because they’re scary.  I’ve never seen a grizzly in the wild, and I’m quite happy for it to stay that way, but what I find scary is that there really are people who think whole species animals should be eliminated simply because they’re potentially dangerous.  (As if most of them would ever encounter a bear in their living rooms.)
For Marty, bears represent the real wilderness.  Here’s an excerpt from his book:
"Know how to tell a grizzly bear from a black bear?" an old timer asked me, many years ago.  "Just climb a tree.  Black bear will climb up after you.  Old silvertip, he can’t climb; so he’ll just shake you out of the tree like a plum, if he don’t tear it out by the roots."
In his hyperbole there is a serious message.  Allowing the bears to roam at will admits a risk to existence that is at odds with the carefully controlled environments of men outside bear country.  Here, the bears make the rules, and though the black bear is usually timid, and a tree is usually a safe refuge from the grizzly, you can’t ever count on being completely free from danger.
Wilderness provides us with insights into our own animate nature, that we can experience nowhere else.  Without the grizzly bear, the last great predator of lower North America, there is no wilderness, only tame, empty playgrounds that mock the pretensions of the adventurers who wander through them.  While the bears survive, those of us who love wildness still have a refuge to retreat to from the sea of madness that surrounds it and cuts its corrosive channels more deeply, year by year.

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