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Bearing Up
Wednesday, July 27, 2011 • Posted July 27, 2011

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, you owned a bunch of sheep. I can’t imagine why you would want to do that, since I’ve owned sheep, and they’re a lot of trouble, but just pretend for a moment.Now, let’s say you looked out your window one day, and saw someone on your property, with a sheep under every arm, packing them off. And let’s say you shouted at the guy to stop and turn your sheep loose, but he kept going.If that happened, and you shot the guy, chances are very good that you would not get into any serious trouble with the law for shooting the thief. Not that I’m advocating shooting sheep thieves. If someone had decided to steal my sheep, when I had them, I would have let him alone. Anyone who would steal sheep deserves what he gets.Now let’s pretend that, instead of a person stealing your sheep, it was another animal doing it, say a bear. You shouted at the bear to drop your sheep, and it didn’t, and you shot it. You could be in big trouble then, Buster.This very thing happened to Rick Christy, who owns some sheep near Fairfield, Montana, and is opposed to anyone carrying them off. Rick had a bunch of his sheep in a pen about 50 yards from his house, and one day last May he noticed a couple of grizzly bears in the pen, killing his sheep. I imagine that’s not something you’d overlook.So Rick grabbed a .308 and shot both bears, killing one and running the other off. They had killed nine of Rick’s sheep, which were valued at between $1,800 and $2,000, which tells me I should have sold my sheep in Montana. I sold about 30 sheep recently and didn’t get anywhere near that much money for them. But at least they’re gone.Anyway, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service found Rick violated federal law because the grizzlies were listed as an endangered species, and they fined him another $2,000. It would evidently have been cheaper to let the bears eat their fill and leave, assuming they would have been satisfied with only about six or eight sheep apiece.The bottom line is that there was an endangered species on Rick’s place that day in May, but it wasn’t the bears. It was Rick. Unless we put a stop to the stupidity of the USFWS and the insane ESA, pretty soon there won’t be any sheep ranchers left.But killing sheep isn’t the only mischief bears have been up to lately. A fellow named Griffin Smith, who inexplicably lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was in his own home recently, minding his own business, when a funny thing happened. Griffin walked into his kitchen and noticed his cat on the counter, with his hair all ‘puffed up.’ Then Griffin looked over by the dog food bowl and noticed there was a bear in the kitchen.What I’m wondering is how you could walk into your kitchen and immediately notice your cat standing on the counter, and NOT see a bear in the very same kitchen at the very same time. Griffin is obviously not as observant as Rick. And this was a good sized bear, too. Griffin said it was “a really big bear up to my stomach.” I don’t know how high Griffin’s stomach is, but there you go.So, following the standard procedure outlined in Colorado’s ‘Rules For What To Do When You Find A Bear In Your Kitchen,’ Griffin grabbed his dog, locked himself in his bedroom, and called the police. The Rules apparantly don’t make provision for saving cats.Griffin said, “I just yelled out of my room every once in a while, called the house phone to try to scare it away.” Maybe the Rules claim a ringing phone will scare a bear off, and maybe it worked, because the bear was gone when police arrived. The fate of the cat was not mentioned.We have just enough space left here for an account of the other recent bear report I’ve received, about a woman who was jogging near Colville, Washington and was attacked by a black bear. This incident is further evidence of the truth of my long-held belief that jogging is hazardous to your health.Luckily, it turned out to be no big deal, really. The woman assumed a fetal position, and the bear took a swat or two at her and left. Still, that kind of behavior is not what you look for in optimum bear activity, so state and federal wildlife people have been setting bear traps, and may use dogs to find the bear. But not if the dogs have anything to say about it, I guess.But then, the dogs at least have the option of following the wrong trail accidentally/on purpose. The cats get left in the kitchen with the hungry bear . . .Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who received all these stories from his editor at Texas Fish & Game magazine, Don Zaidle, and had to use them because, well, Don’s the editor. Write to him (Kendal) at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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