Mason County News
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Outdoors Outpost
Right to Bear Baits
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 • Posted April 20, 2013

Putting up bird feeders is a bad idea. Not only does it lead to bird dependence, creating a welfare state of the avian world, and encourage the birds to make a total mess of any lawn furniture in the area, it can also get you killed and eaten by a bear.

Now, I’m not saying it’s necessarily common for people who feed birds to become bear doots, but it could definitely happen, based on a story that recently emerged from the foreign country of Massachusetts, and sent to me by several alert readers with too much time on their hands.

Richard Ahlstrand, who lives in Auburn, Massachusetts, has evidently been feeding birds in his backyard for some time. His habit has, in my opinion, gotten entirely out of hand, judging by the fact that he keeps his birdseed in a 50-gallon barrel on his back porch. That’s a lot of birdseed, but I’ve been told the nice little birdies get vicious when feeders run out, and sometimes attack folks when they fear their welfare is being withheld. Sort of like people.

Anyway, Richard was filling his bird feeders recently, and thought he saw a bear nearby, so he started being careful. The next evening, when he went outside to fill the feeders (hopefully wearing chest waders) he took a shotgun with him. Which turned out to be a good idea, since a bear came into his backyard and charged him. That’s the trouble with welfare – it’s often commandeered by those it’s not meant for.

Richard, in fear for his life, shot the seven-foot bear and killed it. Which, in a normal place like Arizona or Montana, would have been the end of the incident. Well, except for Richard calling his taxidermist to come get the bear, and calling his wife to come take pictures of him and the bear, and having his wife bring him some fresh clothes. But this didn’t happen in a normal place. It happened in liberal, nutty, politically correct Massachusetts. Richard might’ve been better off if he’d let the bear eat him.

Auburn police chief Andrew J. Sluckis, Jr., whose name I honestly did not make up, has charged Richard with illegally baiting a bear, illegally killing a bear, illegal possession of a firearm, and failure to secure a firearm, all in his own backyard. The bear, as far as I can tell, was not posthumously charged with trespassing, or assault with homicidal intent, or illegal possession of teeth and claws, or attempted theft of birdseed, but if he’d been human he would surely have been in violation of something. Being a bear, I guess he gets a pass.

The baiting charge is based on Richard’s barrel of birdseed, which might wash if the area were full of bears, or even birds with canines and incisors, but it isn’t. Sluckis is quoted as saying that bears are not common in the area, and the last sighting of one was a year before. So I can’t imagine why Richard was charged with baiting, but there you go.

The rest of the charges are Weenie Charges. I call them that because the officially expected response of a Massachusetts homeowner who is threatened, by people or animals or anything, or who even hears a funny noise outside, is to call 911, grab his teddy bear, and crawl under his bed. He is to wait there until someone shows up to take care of the threat, or until the threat shows up to take care of him, whichever comes first. And I didn’t make that up, either. In other words, he’s supposed to be a weenie.

So now Richard is in Big Trouble for killing a bear that was going to kill him. Which is sad, but it’s to be expected in a world where people are taught to be victims, to look for someone to blame every time something bad happens to them. Which is what Richard and Melinda Armstrong, of Caldwell, Idaho are doing.

The Armstrongs were camping in Boise National Forest in September 2010, with their six-year-old son, when a gust of wind blew a dead tree over on the boy. The kid ended up with ‘a large laceration, a compound fracture, and a puncture wound on his back that made it difficult to breathe. Bummer.

This was an unfortunate incident, but bad things happen in nature. A normal, logical family would probably blow it off and try to be more careful where they choose to set up their camps in the future. The Armstrongs, by contrast, decided to look for someone to blame, and maybe make an easy buck in the process.

They’re suing the U.S. Forest Service for over a million smackers. They allege the USFS could tell the tree had been dead for several years, and should’ve removed it earlier. I guess you could say the Armstrongs should’ve been able to observe the same thing, and camped somewhere else, but there you go.

There’s always someone to blame, if you look hard enough. I’m thinking maybe Richard Ahlstrand should sue the feed store that sold him the birdseed. The bear’s family probably wouldn’t answer a summons, anyway . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who once shot a bear in his pajamas. How the bear got . . . never mind. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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