Retired Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado - Boulder

I've had numerous emails asking me to weigh in on the plans to kill a female grizzly bear who killed a man in Yellowstone National Park and her cubs. Of course, this is a horrific tragedy, but there is no reason at all to kill the bear and her cubs in return. My heart goes out to the man who was killed and to his family and friends. And, I know others would agree that this is an incredibly sad event but that the bears shouldn't be killed.

Killing the bears is not euthanasia, but rather premeditated slaughter or murder

The headlines of an article in the Washington Post state, "Grizzly suspected of killing Yellowstone hiker will likely be euthanized with cubs," but of course this is not euthanasia, or mercy killing (please see "Animal 'Euthanasia' Is Too Often Slaughter." She and her cubs are to be killed, or murdered. Some grizzlybear05Yellowstone Grizzly. NPS photopeople might get upset at the use of the word "murder" to refer to a non-human animal (animal), but the first paragraph of the essay states, "Authorities believe a Montana man who went missing in Yellowstone National Park on Friday was killed by a grizzly bear, and park rangers think they have the suspect in custody." Substitute "deranged human" for "grizzly bear" and no one would disagree that killing "the suspect" surely would not be euthanasia.

We also read, "There are certainly people that have a hard time with the decision to euthanize the bear and that includes some of our biologists and park rangers," Campbell [Julena Campbell, a Yellowstone spokeswoman] told The Post. 'We don't get into the profession for that reason, but we have to make the decision for sound science and putting the safety of humans first. We can't favor one individual bear over protecting the lives of humans.'" Appealing to the notion of "sound science" is a decoy that might make some people think that science supports killing the bears, and it would be nice to know how killing these bears will protect humans in the future. Just where are the data that support the idea that killing animal suspects who are responsible, or thought to be responsible, is the remedy for the very rare occurrences of killing humans in Yellowstone? I surely can't find any support for this claim, and the database hardly seems large enough to draw any meaningful conclusions that are often used as excuses to kill the suspects.

The killing must stop

The story of this tragedy follows closely on the heels of the reprehensible murder of Cecil, an African lion, by a rich dentist. Many people are asking when will the killing stop? In my humble opinion and that of many others, it must stop now, and we must take responsibility for what we humans are doing to other animals into whose homes we wantonly trespass. For more discussion on this topic please see "Compassionate Conservation Meets Cecil the Slain Lion."

I hope park administrators will refuse to kill the bears, or at least the people who are sent out to do the killing will say "no," as did Bryce Casavant, a most courageous conservation officer who refused to kill two black bear cubs near Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island and was suspended for his refusal to do so.

You can sign a petition to stop the killing here. Please do so.

 

Editors's Note: Marc Bekoff is a leading figure internationally in the science of ethology. Dr. Bekoff is former Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He has won many awards for his scientific research including the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is the author of several best-selling books and serves as a columnist for Psychology Today magazine.  His latest book is The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) published in February 2015.  His homepage is marcbekoff.com and with Jane Goodall. You can also follow him on Twitter @MarcBekoff.  The piece, above, appeared originally on The Huffington Post. Repinted here with the author's permission.