You know, the “friend” who you feel worse after seeing, who makes you feel bad about being you. After the skunk situation, a good friend asked why I would want to remain in a house that gave me so much grief. But I’ve also had to step away from those who were taking more energy than they gave. I was still living in the house I had stayed in after a no-notice separation followed by speedy divorce and was scraping the bottom of the energy barrel as a single, working mom, when new tenants decided to move in — a family of skunks. Whether it’s a big move such as leaving a home, job, or bad relationship, or a small one such as getting rid of a pair of ill-fitting jeans — don’t settle when you feel stuck. A dead bear can not pass on this learned behavior, but in the case of the bear pepper spray, the idea of attacking a human will seem like a bad choice, and that behavior can be passed on.
If we ALL carried this into bear country, knew how to use it and when, we could cause a behavioral evolution between human and bear that will last forever. It will take a simple adaptation from the human side of the equation, and the end result will be a dramatic change on the behalf of the bears’ behavior. We have all learned, through centuries of passed down knowledge and often entertaining stories, that we will end up stinking horribly from the encounter, mixing up tomato juice or some other concoction to rid ourselves of the odor. We have forced most animals in the world to adapt to their threshold. The argument that fear needs to be placed back into these animals by hunting them with firearms loses its validity here. Simple conditioning is easy for them, and I have watched wild grizzly bears make decisions and behavioral changes that transition into new day-to-day habits, simply in order to survive. If we want to share this earth with the wild things we love, we must change.
Choose what you want. This fall, 50% of the white bark pine population will no longer exist when grizzly bears venture to the high country to eat their pine nuts, a result of global climate change. This could no longer be my story. If that individual bear is a female, she can pass this very knowledge on to generations of cubs, building a respect that will result in less violent encounters. They will likely adapt, forced from desperation, and will find another suitable food source, passing that on to generations to come. I can’t guarantee what 2016 will bring. How can you make 2016 your best year ever? However, I promise that making proactive choices for what you want, staying aware and open to opportunity, keeping close those who accept and love you, and counting your blessings each day will definitely make this new year better than last and may set you on the path to having the best year ever.
So I decided to make new choices. As autumn approaches and the leaves begin to change, its time to look at some other changes that will prevent the brutal loss of life that Yellowstone has experienced this year. Every time a bear approaches within our comfort bubble, we let them have it. On top of the annual beginning-of-the-year slog of being single and alone after the holidays, I was drowning from the veritable wave of house issues and didn’t have enough hands or feet to plug the gaps of the dam that was about to break. I felt stranded in a house that required endless repairs and that held many not-so-pleasant memories — my own personal smelly, gloomy island. My daughter, dog and I had to flee our home on three occasions while all sorts of de-funking tools were used to return the house to normal. The ones who offer to hold a blow dryer to a frozen pipe and show up with champagne when you buy a new home!