We heard this morning on the news a very sad story about a bear attacking a family in the Cherokee National Forest (CNF) in Tennessee. Here is the link to the CNN story on the web:
It reminded me of my time spent in the adjoining Great Smoky National Park in the summer of 2003. We went for a drive through Cades Cove, just across the Little Tennessee River and up the mountain from the CNF. It was a really beautiful place with some interesting history and great views of the Smoky Mountains. While driving on the one-way loop we came into a traffic jam and were trying to figure out why everyone was stopping in the road, pulling off the road onto the grass and getting out of their cars. I rolled down my window and tried to get a view of what they were seeing. It finally became obvious what the fuss was about when I caught a glimpse of a BABY BEAR climbing up a tree, attempting to get out of the range of all the crowding people. I was horrified. Anyone with a brain knows that were baby bear cubs are, Momma Bear is not far behind!! What really stunned us, though, was when the parent in the car behind us told his little kid (6-7 years old) to get out and run up there with the camera to get a picture!!! (just a note: this type of activity is not legal in this state park; it carries a hefty fine if you get caught) We were upset by this, but unfortunately didn't do anything about it. Thankfully, nothing bad happened, the bears (there were actually 2 cubs) took off and the people went back to their cars and drove away, most of them no doubt feeling exhilarated about the experience. Both Colby and I agree that now that we are parents we wouldn't let that go without confronting the parent in a case like this. In Cades Cove, there are approximately 1 bears per square mile, and with about 11,000 square miles in the Cades Cove state park, that's a lot of bears. Upon entering the park, we were told to watch for the bears, but not to stop or cause a "bear-jam" which they were aware were happing often. We weren't told about the fine for messing with the bears, and we weren't seriously warned about the dangers associated with this. I went to their website this morning :
and apparently there has been a recent death there also.
I am not trying to make any sort of point against the family that was attacked and lost their 6-year-old daughter; I don't know what their situation was and I have no way of knowing if that tragedy could have been prevented by different actions on their part. My only point was to say that people assuming wildlife in the national parks are as tame as puppy dogs is a real problem. We need to start assuming that everyone that visits a national park doesn't have the sense God gave to pigs and start educating them and doing more than just slapping their paddies. Perhaps everyone should be required to be educated in a short 30-minute class that shows very bluntly what can happen to you if you do stupid things like send your child out with a camera (sort of like the drunk-driving video they show in driver's ed classes now) before allowing you in the park. Maybe there should be rangers that swoop in and arrest everyone who is out of their car with a camera around their neck and throw them into a holding cell in the park for 24 hours and make them watch the 30 minute video in a constant loop the whole time. And for those who send their kids out with cameras to take pictures of baby bears, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.
Okay, I'll get off my soap box now.