I was told that there was a bear that was getting into chicken coops in Ojai. “I’ll talk to that bear,” I told somebody, but I never did. I was tired. I had two animals at home that were suffering and every free moment went to their care. Not long after, that bear was shot and wounded at an east end chicken coop.
The guilt weighs heavily on me. God gave me a gift to be able to converse with the animals, and for selfish reasons I didn’t use it. Some would say, “What could you do, Laura? Don’t be so hard on yourself.” But I know the influence of my work, and although each animal does have free will, knowledge is power.
I have heard all sorts of explanations around town of why it was okay to shoot the bear. “It could kill children.” “It is getting worse.” “We have done everything.” I agree bears should be leaving the chickens alone, but really—shooting her?
Today I ask the bear, “What is your side of the story?”
The bear says, “I was shot in the shoulder by man. I have known that they can do this harm but at the time it was not of my concern. The wound is deep and festers some. The shaded creek water soothes the pain and fever. I get along okay although my ridge- and tree-climbing has suffered.
“I’m an older bear. I have lived many years in the wilderness foraging for food. This last cub is not right. He sticks by me longer than he should and has a hard time learning. He can’t find food for himself and it is difficult for me to keep feeding him. The chickens are an easy kill and they are tasty.
“I hear now in the echoes of my mind that they are man’s territory. Why are the coops far away from their homes at the edges of our terrain? It makes no sense. If the chickens are theirs, the humans shouldn’t lure and bait us and then punish us for going after their treats. Humans are very dangerous. They do not work by the laws of nature. If they did there would be no cruelty. In the wild, bears and other wildlife mark their territory with scratches and scents. There are no such markings on these coops and garbage cans.
“A bear would never eat a mountain lion’s stash even if it were starved. There are laws of nature and humans are foreign to our rhythms.
“What do people do with their old ones and young ones that are not capable of feeding themselves? Who takes care of them? Humans must also grow old, so that their bones and joints ache and they are not are as fast. Chicken coops on boundaries of our pathways are open invitations for an easy meal. If they want to mark them as their territory, they should pee all around it and they should roll their bodies in dirt around the coops to claim them. Then the wildlife would understand.
“I will try to spread the word that humans are similar to coyotes with a virus. They make no sense and attack without warning. What these humans apparently do not know is that I marked those coops with my scent for many days before we ate the chickens. Humans did not mark over my scent.
“I want to tell that man that shot me and the others that would have done the same, ‘Is your life easy? You must be men with great pain inside, men that are confused.’ They may live in nature but they are not men of nature. Because I know from experience that men of the wilderness would devise a clever plan, using their minds instead of their confusion and anger to solve a natural problem. I say to the people of the valley, ‘Your inner lives are in great danger. You are far from the truth.’”