Big Funeral In Richmond, Virginia
According to the Washington Post, a big funeral was held this past Saturday, March 4, 2006, in Richmond, Virginia. The scene was touching:
"In a sign of the city's emotion, about 500 attended the funeral, many sobbing and clutching flowers and stuffed bears. A Boy Scout troop escorted a color guard and lowered bronze urns containing the ashes [of the deceased] into a hole dug in the soft mud. An Episcopal priest offered a prayer. [City Mayor] Wilder gave the eulogy."But the police won't have to comb the countryside for those responsible for the deaths, and the court system will be spared a murder trial. The killers have been identified and violated no law:
"RICHMOND, March 4 -- This city said goodbye to two of its most prominent citizens Saturday, 350-pound black bears Buster and Baby, whose deaths at the hands of their human captors have plunged residents into mourning so deep that hundreds called the police to report their distress, thousands posted to online bulletin boards and the city's famed mayor ordered an investigation.Sounds awful, especially that part about "headless." The fact is, however, that the only way to test bears for rabies is to kill them and examine the brain. The concern about rabies was a valid one because of the bears' possible exposure to rabies if they had been in contact with a rabid bad or a rabid raccoon, both of those latter species having recently shown evidence of rabies in the past few years in the Richmond area. In order to spare the little boy the experience of and possible adverse reaction to a series of rabies shots, the bears had to be tested for rabies, which is fatal to humans. The tests came back negative--good news for the little boy. No word, however, on whether the boy's mother is being tested for anything.
"Two weeks ago, one of the bears was accused of biting a 4-year-old boy who had stuck his hand through the 10-foot-high, chain-link fence that encloses their habitat at Richmond's Maymont Park.
"The child was not badly hurt -- no stitches were needed. But with his mother unable to peg which bear did the biting, park and health officials decided five days later to euthanize both animals and send their brains to a state laboratory for rabies testing. The episode became public Feb. 23 only after both bears were dead and their headless, chemical-laced carcasses had been dumped at a local landfill."
Richmond is in a real tizzy over this bears tragedy. Continuing now with the article,
"[After news of what happened to Buster and Baby], [t]he outrage was immediate and extreme. Dozens called 911 upon seeing the first news report. City Hall was flooded with calls. So was the park."I accept that animal lovers become outraged over this sort of thing. But my personal take on this story is that the child's mother should receive her fair share of the blame. And I'm wondering if perhaps the mother was involving her child in feeding these bears. Is feeding the bears legal at Maymont?
The article continues with this information:
"According to a preliminary report the mayor released Friday, the child's mother, who has not been identified, first told city officials that she helped the small boy over the lower fence to get closer. The report also indicates that she might have told a nurse at the hospital where the child's hand was examined that she had been visiting Maymont for years to feed the bears.From the above description of Maymont's facility for these beloved bears--visited by nearly a half-million every year--I find it unlikely that the little boy got to that bear without a bit of help.
"However, in an anonymous interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the child's mother insisted that she glanced away from her son for a moment and that when she looked back, he was over the short fence and trying to pet a bear....
"How, exactly, the 4-year-old was bitten is not clear. This much is known: The park separates bears from people with both the chain-link fence and a shorter, four-foot-high wooden fence. Neither was broken...."
Former Governor Wilder waxed eloquent in both his eulogy at Buster and Baby's funeral and in an interview:
"'These bears are making a contribution even in their death, because they remind us that they lived, but they were put to death not by their own kind....Let us continue to be certain that nature provides us with lessons for how to live....From his words, I guess that Mayor Wilder is himself a real animal lover. I am as well, though I'm not crazy about up-close and personal contact with bears. But comparing what happened with the bears to child abuse seems an extreme way of viewing what happened at Maymont.
"'Our job is to protect them....It's the same horror you have if someone says to an urchin on the street, "Let me take you home, adopt you, keep you -- and then beat you, abuse you and kill you."'"
Some years ago, I had two close calls with bears, and I don't care to repeat those episodes. Moreover, I count myself lucky to have twice escaped without a scratch. Both times, my run-ins were inadvertent: once in my parents' backyard, where a rogue bear was on the prowl, and the other in a national park. I ran like the wind to get away! When one grows up in the country, one learns to have respect for the wildlife, particularly if one doesn't have the proper firearm.
I am sorry for Buster and Babe. They were not at fault in this episode. I am also sorry for the little boy, who may have thought he was reaching for a giant tedy bear. But the mother? Any adult should know better than to stick his hand into a bear cage. And certainly any adult should know better than to let a four-year-old put his hand into the cage. Bears have teeth and claws! Stay away!
The article concludes with the news that replacement bears will be obtained. If so, the mother of that little boy should not be allowed to visit Maymont. She doesn't have enough good sense.