Agencies need attitude change over wildlife
Captive Wildlife Advocacy

Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!
S. A. E. N.
"Exposing the truth to wipe out animal experimentation"
Agencies need attitude change over wildlife

By Donald Elroy

Guest Columnist

When did we appoint ourselves as judge, jury and executioner over the wild animals that we were charged to protect in Tennessee? When we throw the first stone we had better be wearing armor for the rest of our lives.

GSMNP has decided that a 60 pound bear cub needed to be euthanized because she bit a tourist on the foot, causing a small puncture wound that needed no medical attention. 60 pounds is a young immature bear that is in the process of learning behavior patterns that affect the ability to survive and compete in a hostile environment created by us. Follow our rules and you might survive, don’t follow our rules and you are guaranteed a quick sentence of death.

Wild animals are by definition a threat to our sterile existence that holds nothing sacred except what benefits human expansion. The issue was dealt with in an animated movie years ago called “FernGully” and updated in James Cameron’s new film “Avatar”. All of this relates to Native American philosophy that there is a link between all living things on this planet. All things are connected and every move we make affects all other living organisms. That is the web of life.

I lived in Gatlinburg for over 20 years, had bears in my yard, backpacked in bear territory, have been between a mother bear and cub at Russell Field. who both avoided me and worked to create a tolerance for human/bear confrontations for many years. I brought in training for first responders in aversive conditioning to retrain bears to avoid human garbage and retrain humans to learn rules to be able to live with and tolerate bears. I served on the bear and garbage committee for the Gateway Foundation and helped put policies in place that led to mandatory bearproofing of garbage cans and dumpsters. I attended a meeting 20 years ago with residents that lived on the mountain near the park and brought both GSMNP and TWRA into that meeting to resolve human/bear conflicts. Bears do not want this conflict. They will avoid human contact if given the option.

What happened? I left this area for 4 years and returned to find a return to old policies and old mindsets that we somehow have more rights than the bears who were original inhabitants of this area. I tried to contact GSMNP and ABR for clarification on policies and this particular bear, to no avail. No phone calls were returned and this yearling bear cub was killed. Should we trust entities and agencies that do not respond to our questions? Did ABR offer to rehabilitate this bear? Did GSMNP even look at the option to relocate this yearling cub to Round Bottom or Cataloochee where human contact would be minimal? Policies should not be set in stone. A yearling bear cub is not an adult bear attacking a human for invading their territory or having been habituated to garbage and human feeding.

Who causes these situations between humans and bears? Only we do. We are invading their territory and refuse to accept that they live there. I guarantee you that this was not the fault of a young bear cub. This was the fault of a human resisting the idea that they cannot control the wild environment like they control their suburban environment. This will continue into perpetuity unless we accept that we are the violators of the animal’s habitat and we cannot control their nature.

Is tourism and income the overriding factor in every aspect of our existence here or can we force a change of mindset toward compassion and understanding of the beautiful area that we are allowed to live in?

Change your attitudes now GSMNP, TWRA and others or be forced into a change that will be addressed in the future.

-Donald Elroy of Sevierville is director of captive wildlife advocacy for the group Stop Animal Exploitation Now!

E-mail to: [email protected]

Donald W. Elroy
Director of Captive Wildlife Advocacy
Stop Animal Exploitation Now!
(865) 286-9082

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