Saturday, August 26, 2017


August 26 accumulated version -- just a beginning



The bellowing of the cow and screaming of her son turned her blood to ice, even as she ran through the house to get outdoors where she could tell what was happening.  Her son was coming towards her and the bloody remains of an animal lay over his cradling arms, four legs, a tail and and a little white faced head were dripping blood as he came.  It didn’t seem as though any of it were her son’s blood.

She was relieved that it was only his calf, and then she was indignant with herself when she saw that it was a world of torn significance to her son.  It was the animal he was planning to raise for the county fair, a heifer with good blood lines and every sort of promise.

The boy carefully laid the little carcass, emptied of life as a discarded garment, no bigger than a man’s jacket.  “The fucking bear ATE part of my calf, Mom!”  This kid had never used that forbidden word before.  It measured his outrage.  “How could it eat my calf?”  

“It’s what bears do, son.”

“I’m gonna kill that bear.  I know which one it is because it had cow tags on its ears, one green and one red.  I’m gonna kill it.”


By this time, a mile away, the bear was hardly even walking fast.  She slung her big head from side to side, frustrated at not being able to drag that calf off with her.  She’d had it almost over the corral fence when the boy came screaming, and she was startled enough to drop her kill.  Usually there was no one around this early.  

But — she’d already been able to eat almost a whole bag of dog kibble a few miles away.  It was in a shed and she’d found kibble there before.  This time it was up on a rack, but that was hardly a problem.  When she reared up, a corner of the package was close enough to bite and yank.  It didn’t even break open when it hit the floor, but . . . what are claws for?  The dogs smelled her, barked, came to see and backed off.

So she wasn’t hungry enough to try to fight for the calf carcass.  Later in the summer she would be when the hyperphagia was upon her and she tried to cram the whole world into her mouth.


The grizzly specialist sat at his piled-high desk.  His “office” was a huge open room with a high ceiling, once a meeting room or warehouse, but just right for the frieze of mounted heads of Montana animals on one wall.  His work was supervised by many eyes, all of them glass, and they did nothing to cut down the work load.  A great dilemma of Fish and Game jobs, which one undertakes because of loving field work, is that the paperwork gobbles up all the time, and time is the single most crucial element of field work.  The reason the indigenous tribes were great hunters was not just that they were hunting for food, but also that they had so much time to just watch and understand, make connections.  

In the parking lot outside lingered a bear trap.  It was a little small for a big boar or a sow with cubs, so he had ordered a bigger “family-size” version.  There were probably more sophisticated versions.  His warning signs were stored indoors to save them from weather until they were put out by the trap.  He was looking at a catalog about new culvert traps and wondering if it would be better to just make one.

When the phone rang to tell him about a bear problem, he sighed.  On the other hand, observers who reported what they saw — no matter how trivial — acted as his eyes and ears, guided where he should go, and made him more effective.  People who said there was no use calling because nothing would happen were wrong.  An accumulation of small reports were often more significant than one big event and even if no bear were captured in a hurry, in the long run things DID happen.

The boy’s mom called even though she didn’t know the new warden and didn’t know what response to expect.  He tried to reassure her and said he’d get out there in a matter of hours.  He could hear the emotion in her voice.

The boy’s loss of his beloved calf hit the specialist hard.  He always felt responsible. He dropped everything to respond but didn’t hook up the bear trap before getting out there to look because it was important to think about best placement and baiting.  Since the boy had said the bear had ear tags, he would be able to find data on previous encounters with this individual, which clearly included trapping it at least once, fairly recently after they began using the ear tags.

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