Timothy Treadwell was a “bear expert” in the habit of living for months at a time among wild bears of Alaska, giving them names and sneaking up close enough to touch them. Alas, it appears that the bears did not reciprocate his feelings: at some point during his final visit they dispassionately decided that he and his girlfriend were easier to catch than yet another bloody salmon, and promptly ate them both. Rangers stumbling upon the grisly scene were forced to shoot the bears to recover the remains.
One deduces from this tale of woe that the North American varieties of bear are made of sterner stuff than their child-rearing Indian and European kin. A search unearths four other examples of fatal bear attacks in the same general area, without even starting on horror stories such as the baby eaten right out of its stroller in upstate New York.
Like M. Cousteau, Mr Treadwell preferred to characterise his unpredictable friends as misunderstood – “harmless party animals”, even. One may now suppose that he has modified his views somewhat, although sadly too late for himself and especially the luckless female who trusted in his expertise. In their memories therefore we hereby dub North America’s bear community “the sharks of the forest”.
So how does one go about confusing a five hundred pound carnivore with a soft toy? Wise old birds have long warned us that
“it’s always tempting to impute
unlikely virtues to the cute”
The otherwise inexplicable popularity of the Kennedy family is grim testimony to this deplorable human frailty. But the cuteness excuse just doesn’t wash with me this time. Bears are big, they’re covered in filthy fur and ticks, and they reek. A teamster’s mother might find that combination appealing, but don’t tell me anyone else is rushing to hug them. Something else is at work here, and inevitably the finger of suspicion swings unerringly towards the real culprits - Hanna Barbera.
Stay with me here.
Yes, it was those unscrupulous manipulators at Hanna-Barbera who lured luckless losers like Mr Treadwell into the hills, with the reckless and deceptive nonsense of Yogi Bear. Yogi and Boo Boo were not much prettier than the real thing, but they were harmless. They were in fact simple and easily biddable creatures who would do practically anything for a “pickernic basket”, which is how Ranger Smith persuaded them to pose for that tawdry and ill-advised Spartacus centrefold with the Banana Splits and got the whole show cancelled.
Sadly, children’s cartoons are a notoriously unreliable source of zoological minutae. For example, one can watch any number of episodes of Magilla Gorilla without once learning that gorillas build nests and show a high degree of fecal disinterest. Or that they can, if sufficiently provoked, rip off your arm and beat you to death with the wet end.
And so it is with the bears. We were conned, plain and simple, by shameless pro-bear propaganda, and two more victims have paid the ultimate price. Surely Hanna Barbera know the human cost of their products by now, yet apology comes there none.
How many more must die? How many more tourists shredded while proffering a picnic basket? How many more children pounded to a pulp by a deeply disturbed discount gorilla from the pet shop? How many more blameless citizens shot by incompetent law enforcement horses?
Hanna-Barbera – j’accuse…
Yogi and Boo Boo, yesterday. Foiled by those fiddly little clips on the child seat, they skip the hors d'oeuvre and go straight to the entrée…