Saturday, March 9, 2013

I Feel a Good Rant Coming On

It's no secret that I want to work with some pretty big creatures with some pretty ferocious teeth and claws.  Everyone knows that.  Meet me once and you'll know that (and that I'm a die-hard Preds fan) within 3 minutes of knowing me.  These are the things that make me tick.  There are a few of us weirdos out there who love things that most people fear.  We want to work with, protect, and be a voice for things that others are afraid will gnaw on their neck.  Or, as Funkdubie eloquently says (and I shall do part of this phonetically):

"People fear being eht."

I get that.  I do.  But here's the thing: most of the people who fear being eaten (or "eht" if you will) don't go anywhere to even warrant that fear.  I get freaking reports all the time of someone terrified a black panther will steal and eat their kid... Sadly, my NORMAL response to that person is, "Wow... you let your 5-year-old go hiking alone, then?"  I realize my sarcasm doesn't often help, but ignorance fueled hysteria isn't helpful in any realm.  I mean, how much BS rolls around the internet about (recent example) the president ordering drone killing of American citizens for stockpiling.  The logical person should automatically raise an eyebrow, shake their head sadly, and just walk away.  Or maybe we should look for an example about news channels who ALWAYS find the extremist views to argue and broadcast.  We fuel that crap! Know why?  Ratings.  We force stations to obtain funding, the more viewers the better the funding (advertisement/commercial spots), so the more sensational and amazing the news, the better the profit margins.  

It's the same easy-access news and blatant ignorance that hurts apex predators.  Only in this case we've got another couple issues to face.

On top of the ignorance fuel, we have 
  • genetic fear (fight or flight, anyone?) for being 'eht', 
  • eons of being told about the "big bad wolf" and other 'monsters' out to steal our children and our lives, and 
  • (once again) the immediacy combined with a 'lack of legit info with more focus on the hysterics to spur the general public' "news".
If you thought that was my rant, I'm afraid to admit you're mistaken, cuz the rant is coming now.  Ready? 

I want to work with these animals in their environment to learn more about how they interact with and impact the world that we live in (and for anyone shallow enough to think they don't - please don't waste your breath or keystrokes until you've educated yourself on the issues of trophic cascading).  Ok... so that being said, there's a better than average chance that I - being an avid outdoorsman and wanting to work in the wild to boot - could actually die from an interaction with an apex predator.  Let me be very clear in my next sentence: 


It's quite simple.  Animals are going to act like animals.  I go into their realm.  I have a benefit a lot don't wherein I actually go educated on various things AND prepared with - example - bear spray. I also take precautions.  I don't hike alone near dawn or dusk or at night... I ensure my backpack covers my back and the back of my neck.  I (again) carry a can of bear spray that sorta looks like a fire extinguisher.  I learn when to do certain things and when not to.  I use a bear can and put it far enough away for it to be effective.  I don't keep food in my tent or hammock.  At times, I'm armed (though the bear spray is likely going to be a lot better defense).  If I'm not in a national park, I have my very large dog.  I don't hike in absolute silence.  These are VERY simple things that I do to keep both myself and the wildlife safe.

Here's the heart of the rant: 

WHERE IS THE SENSE OF PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY IF YOU'RE NOT DOING EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO KEEP YOURSELF SAFE AND YOU BECOME A 'VICTIM'?  This is the biggest rub I have these days.  "mountain biker attacked by cougar" or "hiker mauled  by grizzly".   It's all over the news within moments.  Please don't misunderstand my frustration as a lack of empathy for the person's family - but if you aren't educated on HOW TO BE IN THE OUTDOORS then DON'T BE IN THE FREAKING OUTDOORS.  Not only could YOU get yourself killed, you could get an animal killed for being - ironically - an animal! Is that too much to ask?  I mean, you're not going to go jump out of a plane without a parachute and blame the pilot, are you?  You're not going to go eat a bowl full of hemlock, and then blame the plant for getting violently ill, right?  IGNORANCE IS NOT A DEFENSE.  If you're going into the wild and you're doing everything RIGHT then you knew what you were getting into and - while it may suck - you knew there was a chance of exactly that happening.  

To allude to a recent headline... if I go into a cage with a tiger and I get killed... who is to blame?  I mean, the tiger lacks thumbs - it couldn't work the key or the gate latch... so if I did that and I died, I really hope you all would sit around and tell your friends how I had it coming because I did something I knew better than to do.  Oh - and I wish they wouldn't shoot said tiger to get my body from it - it could be tranq'd...  ((by the way - I know facts come out AFTER things happen... but my rant surrounds the initial "truth" they "report"...which always garners more time than corrections.)) 

These are WILD animals, people.  In a cage or not - they are all inherently still wild.  They are prone to doing what wild animals do.  They don't have eons of domestication bred into them.  They are NOT fuzzy little kitties and puppies and teddy bears. They are predatory mammals that can and will kill you if they feel they need to.  That doesn't mean the average guy or gal is in danger.  That doesn't mean stay out of the woods (unless you're just wanting to leave them to me - which I'm way cool with)... 

...what it means is be smart about the decisions you make, do what you can to protect yourself and the nature you're trying to be a "part of", and realize the very real consequences.  

But - just for the record - you're far more likely to break a leg on a trail than be 'eht'.  Oh wait - that's why you wear boots or good shoes, right?  To keep yourself safe from a potential.  Now take that mentality and increase it.

So, consider that the end of my sermon and I'll STFU the rest of the day.  :)

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