Not all wildlife comes from Disneyland

Summer is here – finally! With it will come the inevitable problem of people chancing upon young wildlife and deciding to raise them as pets. Most persons have an affection for animals and thanks to Disney cartoons we have a penchant for humanizing them. But wild animals are just that – wild . They do not operate on emotion but by instinct. So often humans have to learn that lesson the hard way.

I remember the recent terrible account of a wildlife rehabilitator who had raised a black bear from a cub. Every day she brought it food and cleaned its cage and saw that it had whatever it needed. She grew used to it. One day, after she had had the bear in her facility for a couple years and it weighed 350 pounds, she did what she did every day. She entered its cage, threw a shovelful of food to one side of the enclosure to draw the bear over there while she cleaned the other side.

Only this day, something went awry. Without warning, the bear attacked her and before anyone could intervene, she was dead. Why did it happen? Those officials who were asked could only speculate. Apparently the bear interpreted something she did or some way she moved as a threat. You see, the bear did not “love” her.

Bears in the wild fight each other over food, breeding rights and territory. A sow bear defends her cubs by instinct but when they reach a certain age, she chases them away from her so she can take a mate. Wildlife do not act on love or emotion in the wilds, and humans seem not to ever understand that.

Then came the report of a woman in Florida who heard a noise outside her house and went outside only to see a pair of raccoons on her porch. She meant simply to shoo them off her porch but they didn’t want to go so they attacked her. They jumped on her and bit and scratched her, inflicting some serious wounds. Suddenly, they weren’t so “cute” anymore. The woman no doubt had to endure a series of rabies shots as a precaution.

Wildlife personnel who investigated could only guess as to the raccoon’s motive but they said that they figured that someone, somewhere in the neighborhood was feeding these animals. They showed up on her porch looking for food and did not appreciate being shooed away. They were frightened, no doubt by this unexpected behavior from what they thought should have been their benefactor.

A couple of my favorite TV channels are devoted to the subject of animals who “suddenly” turn on their owners, who were sure the creature “loved” them and would never do such a thing. Circus animals who suddenly go on a rampage, inflicting injury and damage. Remember the infamous Siegfried and Roy incident? A tiger they had had in their act for years, that they “loved” suddenly turned on one of them severely wounding him.

There is a certain breed of human who decide, for reasons known only to them, to live among wolves, bears, coyotes and one day wind up as news when they are killed by the very animals they thought “loved” them. Jeff Treadwell was such a man, who lived among Grizzly Bears and declared he had a “connection” with them. He understood them, he said, they were his “friends” and so on. I watched several episodes of his show and he was confident he was a friend of all the bears, that he had control over them and that he was safe.

Only one day, after no one had heard from him for awhile, wildlife officials investigated and found he had been attacked and killed by one of his own favorite bears. Several books and magazine articles have documented this case.

Locally, we don’t have to worry about grizzlies. But those we do have to worry about are black bears, raccoons, foxes, squirrels, and other small critters. This time of year we go camping in or near the woods, take hikes, or find baby wildlings on the fringes of the farm and they are so cuddly, so cute and we can’t imagine they could ever pose a threat. It is illegal to take critters from the wild and try to raise them as pets and this internal instinct to the wild is one reason why.

They are not human. They do not think or feel emotions like humans. They think of you as just another one of them and when you overstep their natural boundaries, they will treat you as they would one of their own in the wild. They will lash out to teach you a lesson, claw and scratch, bite and squeeze and you will be the loser. Always.

For your own sake leave young wildlife alone. If you know for a fact that the mother has been killed, notify the Game Commission personnel.