Wednesday, March 08, 2006

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.

"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."
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.

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.

"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...."
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.

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....

"'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."'"
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.

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.


At 3/08/2006 9:40 AM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

Sad post AOW..I agree with you and would add however, that equating human and animal life and death has become so commonplace. Some grieve more for four legged creatures than they do for humans..and to me...THATS sad.
Hey AOW< I'm your first thats a first!..Heh

At 3/08/2006 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a waste of delicious bear meat! The bear should've made it worthwhile and bit the kid's hand off. That kid was stupid enough to stick his hand in a bear cage?

At 3/08/2006 3:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll bet dollars to donuts that had the offending animals been a pair of Rottweilers, or had the location not been a zoo, the public reaction would have been rather different.

After all, who can hate or blame a zoo animal for biting anyone after "Madagascar"? And who doesn't think Rottweilers are too dangerous to have around children?

They need to bring back the old "Fairy Tales" with ravenous wolves that eat children... and cut back on the Berenstein Bears and the "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?" poetry.

Modern Fairy Tales


At 3/08/2006 3:44 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Damn, not good news. Moving here in the Greater New York City area from the general Richmond area, I've visited Maymont Park on several occasions and remember those bears. I don't see how he got close enough that the bears could have bitten him. Maymont and Riverwalk were probably the two nicest outdoor venues in Richmond.

At 3/08/2006 3:48 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Actually it was called Richmond's Canal Walk.

At 3/08/2006 5:06 PM, Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

What a waste of fine barbeque fodder.

MMMM... bear meat.

At 3/08/2006 6:01 PM, Blogger MissingLink said...

The boy was lucky it wasn't my cage he stuck his arm into.
He would have to learn to live with one arm only.
And ...we don't have rabbies in OZ so no testing either. Win-win situation.
The mummy should go to jauil - I tend to be too harsh from time to time.

At 3/08/2006 6:29 PM, Blogger David Schantz said...

When we had our Rottweiler we didn't worry at all about leaving our Grand Daughter in the run with him. She knew what it meant to show him respect by the time she was 3 years old. There were some neighborhood kids that didn't. I caught them teasing the dog and taught them the meaning of the sign that reads, "Don't worry about the dog, beware of the owner".After yelling at them I told them to go ahead and send their dad over, I wanted to meat the person that was responsible for their behavior. Question, did anyone think about charging the mother with child endangerment?

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

At 3/08/2006 7:41 PM, Anonymous Patrick said...

Call me a rabid animal lover, but I would rather the little boy was in fact subjected to a series of rabies shots than the animals die needlessly.

And you are right about the mother. One for the idiot file by the sounds of it.

At 3/08/2006 11:46 PM, Blogger LASunsett said...

I heard Neal Boortz talk about this on his show. He thought, like Patrick, that the kids should have gotten the rabies shots, if nothing more than to teach the kids (and the idiot parents) a lesson. And I agree. But as always, another teachable moment, lost.

It wasn't the bear's fault, but they paid for it anyway.

At 3/09/2006 6:46 AM, Blogger beakerkin said...

Stupidity is not rewarded in this story. It could be worse if the mother had gone on the lecture circut. No doubt she would become almost as moronic as Cindy Sheeehan.

I wonder where Sheehan was when the
bears were being killed. Your fear of bears is reasonable. My son didn't die to protect the bears.
American children are fed so much junkfood more then a bite would cause the bear to die of food poisoning.

At 3/09/2006 8:28 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

So far, no word on this stupid mother's hitting the lecture circuit. Might happen though.

From Oliver Goldsmith's "Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog":

"The man recover'd of the bite,
"The dog it was that died."

At 3/09/2006 8:44 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

I've had bear meat. Pretty good stuff!

The bear was a rogue, shot right here in a subdivision in Fairfax County after it had torn up the neighborhood, killed several dogs, etc. The County gave permission to a crack-shot homeowner to take the bear out, and he kept the meat. A bit on the greasy side, but an excellent flavor.

At 3/09/2006 8:49 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Some dogs--not all, of course--become mean because kids tease the animals. That happened to my first dog Spot. He was such a gentle dog until the neighbor's son started tormenting the creature by shooting him with arrows and beebees and cutting him with a razor fastened to a long stick. No wonder Spot became a boy-hater!

Cocker Spaniels bite more children than people know.

Question, did anyone think about charging the mother with child endangerment?

Not as far as I know.

At 3/09/2006 9:07 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Still a mystery as to how the four-year-old boy got to the fence close to the bears. Somebody must have lifted him over. That's my theory, anyway. Of course, it's possible that the boy's mother was distracted long enough for him to scramble over--that's her fault, IMO.

Had I climbed over a wall and gotten to the bear cage and then gotten bitten, my parents wouldn't have wanted the bears destroyed. After all, the bear's behavior in this case in no way indicated rabies. I'd have had to suffer through the shots.

But...Years ago, when I was four years old, I was bitten by a stray dog. My own fault because I accidentally dropped a baseball bat on him when I bent over to pick up the baseball which had rolled over to near where he was lying. The doc was required, by law, to report the dog bite, a deep puncture wound of the hold-then-release type, to the County. And in spite of my parents' pleas to quarantine the dog and to adopt him, the County insisted on destroying and quarantining him--maybe testing him too. But even if the dog wasn't destroyed in the testing process, he was forever ineligible for adoption because he had bitten a child.

My parents were fully prepared for me to undergo the rabies shots instead of having the dog destroyed. In fact, they considered my getting the shots anyway because my parents didn't have much confidence in the County's proper running of the tests.

In 1984, my cousin was attacked by a rat, which didn't bit him but DID bite my cat. We killed the rat on the spot--a lead pipe can come in handy--and took care not to crush the head. Carefully we transported the rat's carcass to the County for testing. The County lost the rat, and no tests were conducted! Of course, had the rat bitten my cousin, he'd have been subjected to the rabies shots. The cat got her rabies-booster shot and had not ill effects, though we had to keep an eye on her for some 10 days.

At 3/09/2006 9:08 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

When I post on non-political topics, I usually don't get as many comments. But I have to "take a break" once in a while.

At 3/09/2006 9:09 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Patrick: the mother. One for the idiot file...

That's how I feel. And I'm really disappointed in Mayor Wilder's reaction.

I wonder if the funeral was at city expense?

At 3/09/2006 9:11 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Are the bears at Maymont double-fenced from the visitors? I've not visited Maymont, as far as I recall.

At 3/09/2006 9:12 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

the teachable moment

Richmond missed the mark on that one!

At 3/09/2006 12:57 PM, Blogger Esther said...

OK, this woman needs a good spanking. What will it do to that kid when he realizes two beautiful bears are dead because of him?

At 3/09/2006 3:14 PM, Blogger Cubed © said...


I agree wholeheartedly with those who thought there might have been an effective alternative solution, not requiring the death of these animals.

Unfortunately, it is not usually a legally recommended option except in the case of non-symptomatic cats, dogs, livestock, or small animals such as rabbits, gerbils, mice, etc. where observation for the development of symptoms can take place.

Asymptomatic domestic animals that can be held in isolation for a quarantine period (10 days for cats and dogs) are observed for development of symptoms; the bite victim is not treated unless the animal develops symptoms.

Even though bears are non-domestic animals, in the case of zoo animals whose history of exposure and vaccination against rabies is well known, and who can be quarantined for observation, I personally think that they could be handled more like domestic animals than wild animals.

FYI, in case you are ever bitten,in the case of a bite by an asymptomatic domestic animal whose vaccination history is unknown, the animal is placed in quarantine for observation. The wound is thoroughly cleansed immediately with a soapy water solution and, ASAP, with a good skin cleansing agent, preferably with benzalkonium chloride in it. If the wound is a puncture wound, the ER will cleanse it with soapy water administered via a catheter. The wound will NOT be cauterized or closed with sutures.

When this simple precaution is taken right away, humans almost never develop rabies, even in the case of a bite by a rabid animal (although no one I know is willing to take a chance where rabies is concerned).

If the animal develops symptoms, or is suspected of having rabies (abnormal behavior etc.), or is known to have rabies at the time of the bite, or is in an area where rabies is common (that's a story in its own right) and can't be found, the patient is begun immediately on a postexposure prophylaxis regimen.

First, RIG (rabies immune globulin) is administered, followed by a series of vaccinations with one of two types of vaccines. The best is the so-called HDCV (human diploid cell vaccine), which produces an excellent immune response with very few side effects. Another very good one is the RVA (rabies vaccine, adsorbed). It also gives a good immune response, but tends to have more side effects.

The reason that simple cleansing is so effective (followed by vaccine only should it prove necessary), is that the rabies virus takes a long time to get to the brain, at which time it becomes untreatable. The incubation period can be as short as ten days or as long as a year, depending on the location of the bite.

The virus is introduced by infected saliva, and then it attaches itself to peripheral nerves at that site. It then travels along the nerve to the spinal cord, and finally gets to the brain, when it becomes symptomatic. If a bite occurs on the face, the travel time is short, while if it's on the foot, it can take a long time.

Initial symptoms include the appearance of a severe, progressive encephalitis and an ascending paralysis. Death usually occurs within 3 to 10 days after the onset of symptoms, usually from asphyxia, exhaustion or general paralysis.

Because 1) the bears' medical history was well known, 2) they could be quarentined and observed for the appearance of symptoms, 3) the child's wound was not serious, 4) wounds - especially superficial wounds - can be easily treated with virtually no chance of developing rabies, and 5) prophylaxis is available that is 100% effective and has few side effects (no worse than ordinary childhood vaccinations), I think that the bears should have been spared.

I'm no zoo person, but I suspect that the bears were killed for PR reasons and fear of being sued. The child could have been bitten by a rabid animal that afternoon, and if he had developed rabies. . . Well, you know.

At 3/09/2006 7:50 PM, Blogger Mr. Beamish the Instablepundit said...

I'm torn. If God didn't intend for us to eat animals, he wouldn't have made their flesh taste good, especially when it's jacked full of endorphins and other flavorful hormones released when the animal realizes it's about to die.

But that's just me. Your recipes may vary.

At 3/10/2006 11:59 AM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Wow! What a comment!

I agree with you that the bears should have been spared. As you pointed out, prophylaxis is available that is 100% effective and has few side effects.... Of course, it's possible that the child has some underlying medical condition which might have exacerbated the side effects, but I doubt it.

This is important:

The wound is thoroughly cleansed immediately with a soapy water solution and, ASAP, with a good skin cleansing agent, preferably with benzalkonium chloride in it....

When this simple precaution is taken right away, humans almost never develop rabies, even in the case of a bite by a rabid animal

When I got bitten, that's exactly what my mother did; her hills-of-Tennessee upbringing had given her the necessary information as to how to deal with animal bites. I can still see all that blood pouring from my arm into the bathroom sink; and out came the hydrogen peroxide and the burning disinfectant as well. We went through an entire bottle of each! And my mother also made sure that the wound didn't close up on the way to the doctor's office; Dad drove, and Mom took care of me in the back seat. We went through a lot of gauze on that 30 minute ride. And, as you mentioned, the doctor didn't stitch up the wound, either. I have an ugly scar as a result, but so what? I believe that the shots were much worse to endure back in the 1950's.

BTW, I didn't cry or complain through all of the above. I was too worried about what would happen to the dog.

At 3/10/2006 12:03 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

If God didn't intend for us to eat animals, he wouldn't have made their flesh taste good...

I feel the same way, but I have several vegetarian friends. To each his own. I can't bring myself to eat camel roast; such meat is sold in one of the gourmet markets in this area.

I still maintain that cooking the bear meat was the way to go--not the city dump nor the big funeral. But if the dump offended the Richmonders' "sensibilities," then use cremation.

At 3/12/2006 2:33 PM, Blogger Cubed © said...


Your mom was very wise, and you are very lucky. And you are right - the vaccinations available back then, while effective, were tougher and had more side effects.


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