Cumberland Times-News

June 30, 2012

We live here too, you know

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— The line we often hear about the woods or the mountain or the desert or the swamp being the animals’ home and that we have encroached on them is tiresome, at best.

It usually comes from one of the ARF groups (Animal Righteous Folks) and it usually goes something like this:

“The bear who killed the young girl in the Tennessee mountains shouldn’t be bothered because it was the people who encroached on the bear’s home.”

Or like this:

“The jogger who was rundown and killed by the mountain lion in Arizona is the one at fault. Everybody knows that if a lion sees you run it triggers a predatory response.”


Many of us love the woods or the mountain or the desert or the swamp as much as do the bears, cougars and alligators. Many of us feel at home in those places as well.

We know, of course, that any time we put ourselves in the vicinity of large, dangerous animals that there is risk involved.

Not a problem. We accept that.

What we don’t accept is that we are not allowed at times to protect ourselves from that risk. For example, bowhunters will be in the woods beginning Sept. 7 in Maryland and they will not be allowed to carry a handgun so that they can protect themselves from bears or coyotes or — worse yet — a pack of pet dogs gone wild.

That is just plain wrong.

Bear and cougar attacks upon humans are happening. Maybe not right here in Almost Maryland or its suburbs, but they are happening nonetheless. Every once in a while check to see what I’m talking about.

Cougar sightings are on the rise in the Midwest and North Central states. One even made it all the way to Connecticut before getting killed by a Detroit bullet.

I don’t know when it is going to happen, but sometime in the near or semi-near future we are going to have a confirmation of a mountain lion around here that cannot be denied.

Here is my point. Let’s try, through our various state natural resources agencies, to get ahead of this curve rather than waiting to respond to an ever increasing cadre of the fang-and-claw clan.

There is a stir on certain internet forums right now about bears being seen in places such as Harford and Baltimore counties. There are statements such as “I didn’t know there were bears here,” or “I thought all the bears were in Western Maryland.”

Maybe, at least in Maryland, large predators will have to take up shop in the populated areas of the state before action to limit them or to protect citizens is taken seriously.

I will admit to being a worrywart about bears. I hope a child is never snagged by a bear in Maryland (or anywhere else), but if and when it happens, it will be swift and irreversible.

You know those six goats that were attacked by a bear near Grantsville. They weigh more than some of our toddlers.

A mother bear stays near her young and uses her fangs and claws to protect them if she senses they are in danger.

We don’t have fangs and claws and we are not as quick as a bear. We need to take seriously the precautionary things we can do to keep bears away such as keeping garbage inside until the day of pickup or cleaning barbecue grills immediately after we use them or not hanging up bird seed or suet packs.

But even these actions are not fool-proof. The bear that killed the goats was not dissuaded by being trapped, sprayed with pepper, surrounded by noise makers or shot in the butt with rubber projectiles.

That bear had to be shot and killed to protect humans.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources writes that a bear should never be shot simply because it is near someone’s house. Well, there is near and there is NEAR. Citizens are allowed, it is my understanding, to dispatch a bear when the person believes that he or another human is in danger of injury or death.

How close is near? Is it 50 yards? Is it 5 feet?

Does every person interpret, in the same fashion, the timing of menace or personal disaster?

Of course not.

The woods, the mountain, the desert and the swamp are our homes too.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at