Just when you thought you’d heard the last about bears for awhile, here we go again.
Before I get started, riddle me this. Isn’t this the time of year that our bears are hibernating? Barring any late season activity due to excessively warm weather or just plain wanderlust?
So how did three bears up in Montana, grizzlies of course, wind up catching a deadly, incurable disease and end up having to be euthanized a few weeks ago? No, it wasn’t rabies, nor was it distemper, or even arthritis. It was avian flu. Yep, bird stuff.
Apparently the big bears contracted the disease, which has been extant in our northern habitat for some years now, by eating diseased dead birds, either geese, ducks or others, and the pathogen passed intraspecies. Let’s see, bear-type critters developing a bird disease merely from eating infected birds lying around and then dying from that disease. This is getting complicated.
Disregarding those diseases that have coexisted with humans and wild-domestic critters for centuries, in the last few decades we seem to have developed a whole new menu of deadly diseases we have no cure for. Initially, the first one I became aware endangering our native wildlife was blue tongue and it’s assorted similar diseases that seemingly attack only deer and antelope-type critters and is carried by a parasitic mite.
No cure and no immunity? It seems either the critters die or they don’t. Mostly they do. The dead ones then either molder back into the environment or are eaten by scavengers.
Point of query: can vultures develop bird flu from gorging on the remains of dead waterfowl and chickens, or are they smart enough to pass on those menu items?
Then there’s CWD, a form of either scrapie or mad cow disease. That’s a biggie with the potential to wipe out our wildlife herds as we know them. Fortunately, these diseases can’t be transferred to human or other critters. At least that’s what we’ve been told. Then came the big Covid thing with a virus, ostensibly mutated from native wildlife, like monkeys and bats, capable of mutating on a regular schedule. Man-made or wildlife originated? Who do you believe?
According to records, CWD originated as an offshoot to university-conducted research and experiments concerning scrapie, a domestic sheep destroying disease, (my understanding is that wild bighorn sheep are more in danger from a virulent form of pink-eye and/or pneumonia) several decades ago. And covid was initially rumored by our government to be derived by some Chinese scientist involved with bacteriological warfare over in China? Kind of reminiscent of our country’s own top secret biological labs active back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Today, it’s anybody’s guess.
Then we have the relatively recent invasion of Asian deer ticks and all of their relatives killing off our native species of deer on either coast and gradually moving inward. All of that started about 20 years ago, but apparently, so far, the mountains are keeping it confined to the coastal regions.
Add to that about a baker’s dozen of piscatorial diseases, like whirling disease, and other species generic diseases that have been introduced to our shores for fish, fowl and ungulates, in the last couple of decades from everything from purposeful introductions to satisfy scientific curiosity (or subterfuge?), or to aid predatory control of other foreign, introduced critters designed to enhance our way of life initially. (I’m thinking boll weevils here and their resultant carnage visited on domestic cotton crops).
But carrion eating bears becoming infected with avian flu? Haven’t those avian flu elements always been here to some degree? Or are we going to blame this development on global warming too? Maybe, in an end run around historical fact, the dinosaurs were actually wiped out not by an errant meteor strike of such massive proportions that it shifted the planet 6 degrees off axis, but by bugs, like avian flu? Or bacteria that infected the big lizards and sickened them unto death?
Possibly cyclic animal extinctions are the planet’s way of avoiding destruction by its critters? Including us folks?
Regardless, if bears can contract, carry and die from avian flu, then likely so can coyotes, foxes, wolves, feral hogs and dogs, and maybe anything from ravens to little brown weasels that feed on carrion, including dead birds. Think about the timing of these diseases, the scientific experiments of those eras most of this stuff started in, and consider the human contribution to all of this.
Are we at fault? Was Timothy Leary in charge of any of these experiment and research projects? You know, like it’s rumored he did on military personal for the CIA back in the 1960s? Food for thought.
But, and it’s a cautionary but, there may be a silver lining to all of this.
As in the worlds largest carnivore, sometimes twice the size of a big grizzly, the polar bears, are starting to become a major problem, as in a new mother and her 1-year-old son being attacked and killed in Wales, Alaska. This just a couple of weeks ago according to a recent AP release.
Understand that as documented, polar bear attacks are extremely rare. While mulling that factoid, consider that since the year 2000, over 16,000 people have literally vanished in Alaska. Also consider that when a bear eats you, or even a cougar, the scat you become is deposited remotely and, if in a rain forest environment has a real short shelf life. But authorities can claim it didn’t happen because, well, there was no documentation. However these big bears are also scavengers and, if northern waterfowl have this flu disease, maybe a few white bears will develop it and die, or not.
According to all I’ve read, these big white bears consider people a food source when time or conditions serve. In Arviat, a small enclave on Hudson Bay in northern Canada, prior to 2010, about eight people a year were polar bear casualties. Finally those folks reacted proactively and started a bear patrol that reduced that number down to an average of one death a year.
I remember a news release several years ago from northern Russia, on some large peninsula with several small towns, where so many polar bears arrived in these towns and the immediate environs that the government issued those citizens ammo for their AK-47s and such. In 2019 approximately 60 polar bears descended on the town Ryrkaypiy in Russian Chukotka region. They didn’t come to town to play chess either! They also didn’t live long as the Russian army, according to what I read, practiced lethal maneuvers with the bears as the targets.
Apparently, in Russia, despite a host of bad habits from our viewpoint, they don’t dance with the bears. When the bruins get out of hand, they kill them. In Alaska, at virtually the same time, several ocean-facing communities had a similar problem. Our reaction? We trapped, sedated and released the bears at least 50 miles away out on the sea ice. Like the bears don’t know the way back?
So tell me again who’s the endangered species on this planet?
A better question is: who deserves to be the endangered species?
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.