Though not entirely unique to humans, the ability to show compassion and kindness are characteristics that distinguish us from other animals on the planet.
The fact that humanity as a whole is slowly beginning to wake up to the fact that we must be better stewards of the planet and all its inhabitants is a hopeful sign of progress.
But there are times when that compassion is misplaced and even dangerous.
On Saturday morning, Cathie Mieyette was on her way to Winnipeg when she found a dead mother bear on Highway 313 near Poplar Point. The Winnipeg Free Press reports that two bear cubs were nuzzling and pushing the dead body of their mother when Mieyette came upon the scene.
She pulled her car over when she spotted the bears, that were by that time running onto the highway and weaving in and out of weekend traffic.
Mieyette said it was heartbreaking watching the cubs try to push their mother. Two other motorists, also women, stopped and the three of them directed traffic away from the cubs to spare them the same fate as their mother.
The situation, she says, reminded her of the bear cub named Makoon, that was taken in by a St. Malo man, who said he’d found the cub, apparently starving and motherless, in a ditch along a nearby highway.
The man had nursed the cub back to health until Manitoba Conservation scooped Makoon up and eventually released the animal into the wild, along with another young cub, to give them a second chance at being wild — a move that drew the ire of First Nations and animal rights activists because they felt the animals were released too soon.
CTV reports that the three women decided not to call Manitoba Conservation on Saturday, in light of what happened to Makoon earlier this year.
“I wanted to see them rescued and rehabilitated where they have an excellent chance of surviving,” said Amber Lutz, one of the two women who pulled up alongside Mieyette.
While conservation officials arrived soon after, the two cubs had already disappeared into the woods.
Brent Tessier of Manitoba Conservation told CTV that rehabilitation isn’t part of their policy.
“If we can find them, the best-case scenario is they’re in a tree. We’re going to tranquilize them and relocate them into a non-urban area.”
Because the cubs had already spent time out of their den, Tessier says they may have already learned vital survival skills, which means their chances of survival are fairly high.
But even if they weren’t, the fact that these women felt they needed to avoid calling the proper authorities to handle wild animals is foolish. In our opinion, media organizations who have been driving public sympathy against Manitoba Conservation and the actions of its staff have done a disservice to proper wildlife management.
While we applaud the women’s efforts to divert traffic around the poor orphaned cubs, and we sympathize with their feelings, highly trained staff at Manitoba Conservation are more knowledgeable about how to handle wild animals than any average Joe or Jane Schmoe who happen upon such a scene. It’s sheer arrogance to presume otherwise.
As we said before on this page, bears are not domesticated animals and they should not be treated as if they are, no matter how cute they may appear. They are far more dangerous when they become used to humans and continued contact just makes the situation worse — for the bear.
While it may seem cruel, and even inhumane to the general public, compassion and kindness need to be tempered with knowledge of what is best for others, including those in the animal kingdom.
Again, we say the public should leave wildlife well enough alone and let nature take its course. Anyone who happens to see an apparently orphaned bear cub on the side of the road should leave it where they find it and alert the proper authorities.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 13, 2012