So, I'd like to do a little teaching this week on the subject of wild animals. Too many readers almost subconsciously believe that wild animals are lovely, friendly creatures. They were raised on a diet of Gentle Ben and Bambi, of Free Willie and Bugs Bunny, and many more, and just can't understand that wild creatures can (and sometimes will) hurt you. The list of examples is endless.
For example, many of us who grew up watching Tarzan and Cheetah think that chimpanzees are wonderful, funny apes and the little ones actually are. But an adult chimp, especially males, is hugely strong. In a now famous situation that happened not long ago, an adult chimp raised by a woman who kept it in her home as a companion tore the face off a lady who came to visit. No one knows why. Wild chimps, incidentally, are the only other primate who hunts and have been photographed more than once hunting monkeys, killing and eating them. They're not Cheetah.
Then there's the 600-pound grizzly bear raised by a trainer from a cub, hand fed and trained. The bear starred in many a commercial where a bear was needed to tout everything from candy bars to breakfast cereal. His trainer fed him, played with him, wrestled with him, traveled with him. Until one day he walked into the bears large cage and it killed him. Again, no one knows why.
I remember the man who caught a litter of timber wolf puppies and raised them in a large compound for study. He worked with the animals for years, writing papers on their behavior, and again hand fed and played with them occasionally. But one day he made the major mistake of walking between the alpha male and his mate who was in season. The wolf apparently considered the man another wolf after years of being with him, and in the world of wolves such a deed is apparently a direct challenge to fight for dominance. It took over 100 stitches to sew him back together.
I remember too, a trip where I was riding in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in northwestern Montana with a rancher who lived there. This was wild country well populated with everything from buffalo to antelope and prairie dogs. As we rode he regaled me with a story about a Frenchman from Paris who visited there and traveled the park by rental car. The Frenchman saw an old buffalo bull feeding in a little valley, and knowing nothing about buffalo, jumped out of his car and ran down to the bull to take a closeup shot with his camera. "We had to put him in three body bags." the rancher said. The early Indians knew buffalo were dangerous, but he didn't.
Then there are the black bears. Today, there are about 500,000 black bears roaming the country, some of them in Ohio, and lots more in high tourist spots like the Smokey Mountains and Yellowstone. Tourists love to stop along the road and toss doughnuts, cookies, and other goodies to the bears, and often enough they'll get out of their cars for photos and even to pet them (I saw this once). So, most black bears have no fear of people and with so many around they can be hungry or irritable or angry or whatever. Black bear attacks on hikers, campers, tourists, and other folk are rising rapidly, and some have killed and even eaten their victims. They're not Gentle Ben.
It adds up to a few simple facts. Enjoy and admire this country’s wild creatures. They've been living here for many centuries and can enrich any outdoor adventure. But remember they're wild animals and treat them with respect, avoiding close contact whenever possible. Then you won't end up a statistic or sad story as so many have before.
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Hooks & bullets
• With summer finally here, the National Marine Manufacturers Association's statistics show that sales of new powerboats increased 5 percent in 2017, reaching 262,000, the highest levels the U.S. recreational boating industry has seen in 10 years. What's more, total marine expenditures were at an all-time high in 2017 at $39 billion (spending on new boats, engines, trailers, accessories and services) up 7 percent from 2016. Obviously, the sport of boating is doing very well.
• Anglers interested in learning the art of fly fishing are encouraged to enter a lottery for beginning fly-fishing clinics at the Castalia State Fish Hatchery. Submission for the lottery must be postmarked by July 30. In Addition to fly-fishing instruction by Division of Wildlife staff and volunteers, attendees will be able to test their newly acquired skills by fishing for the abundant trout found in Cold Creek. To apply, submit a post card listing name, address, customer ID number, and phone number. Send to ODNR Division of Wildlife District Two, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay, Attention: Beginning Fly Fishing Clinics.
• It's going to be a potentially dangerous summer for Buckeye outdoorsmen who travel frequently to mosquito, tick, and even flea areas. Zika, West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and Chikungunya are the most dangerous, and the obvious safeguard is prevention. Before any outdoor trip, spray with a good insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and teat boots, pants, socks, and even tents containing permethrin. Then be sure to check your self carefully when you return home.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.