Ecowatch has just announced that Yellowstone grizzlies will receive continued endangered species protection despite the efforts of the Trump administration to remove them from the list and allow them to be killed.
I’m immensely relieved to hear this, because today’s Yellowstone grizzlies are very likely the descendants of two grizzly bear cubs (both females) whose release into Yellowstone I helped oversee back in 1981 or ’82 while I was working as Field Services Representative for the Animal Protection Institute of America.
Belton Mouras, API President, called me in my field office one day to tell me a sow grizzly had been killed in British Columbia Canada and that it was quickly discovered that she had two small cubs, both females. API had negotiated with the B.C. authorities to get the cubs and move them to Yellowstone Park, where grizzlies were listed as an endangered species. Since grizzlies weren’t endangered in Canada and the cubs were old enough to survive on their own, the authorities agreed to let API arrange for their transportation to Montana to be released.
Belton had me jump in the car and drive to Kalispell (I think it was) where Department of Natural Resources or Fish and Game (I don’t recall which, now) were in charge of airlifting the cubs to their final destination inside Yellowstone. He wanted me to write the report and get some pictures of the cubs and the airlift, if I could.
I drove to the location and met the men responsible for airlifting the cubs. They arrived in an open truck that housed the two cubs in crates in back. It was almost impossible to see the cubs in the crates, but I did get a brief glance at them.
As the veterinarian tranquilized the cubs, other agents pulled out the large plastic airline crates that would contain the drugged cubs and be airlifted beneath helicopters to their final destination.
After a time, they started putting the sleeping cubs into the crates and connecting them to the cables that would lift them aloft hundreds of feet into the air.
That’s when I looked closer and noticed that only three or four of the six to eight required brads *(to hold the top and bottom of the crates together) were in place! They were getting set to take off without securely safe grizzly cubs!
I was astounded!
I’m not normally one to rock the boat–these were professionals, after all–but I had to say something!
I said, “Hold on. It doesn’t look to me like these crates are secure enough to hold grizzly cubs, even if they are asleep.”
One of the guys said, “Oh, yeah. I meant to do something about that. Forgot.”
They got some heavy wire from the vehicle and secured the crates. Shortly thereafter, the cubs ascended into the sky.
I wished them well…
…and then realized that, if I hadn’t been there, the cubs might not have survived their “rescue.”
And this isn’t the only time a professional so-called animal welfare worker astonished and disappointed me.
ANIMAL WELFARE INSPECTORS
When I lived in Sacramento, California with Deaken, my “serval son”, I was required to have him and his facility inspected at least once a year in order to keep him there.
I did so religiously, always getting 100% “reviews” upon inspection.
(Heck, Deaken lived in a better “facility” than I did in Sacramento! The trailer I rented had holes in the floor in spots, but it was the place my employer had found me where I could keep Deaken, so I took it!)
One time the inspector came out and went down his list, checking everything off as he inspected the items. But he left the item marked “pelage” unchecked. When I asked him why, he said, “I don’t know what that means. I keep meaning to look it up but I forget.”
I informed him that “pelage” meant “condition of coat/fur” (which happens to be one of the most telling signs of an animal’s health and well-being!!!), so then he checked it and said thanks.
My immediate question was, “How long have you been an inspector?” but that would have seemed impertinent right at that moment so, after conversing for about ten or fifteen minutes, I finally asked.
“About five years.”
For five years he had been doing inspections and not marking “pelage” and no one noticed?!
I was flabbergasted. Utterly floored.
CELEBRITY ANIMAL “EXPERTS”
Another time, a very well-known so-called animal advocate (the owner of a zoo) wanted to film my veterinarian giving Deaken his annual physical. Dr. Cauble (Deaken’s vet) asked me if that was okay, and I agreed.
When the film crew, Deaken’s vet, and the animal celebrity arrived, Dr. Cauble asked me if it would be okay if the celebrity could be the one to monitor Deaken’s heartbeat while on camera. I said, “Sure!” thinking the guy–who’d I watched for years on TV–knew what the hell he was doing.
So Dr. Cauble handed this guy his stethoscope, sedated Deaken with a shot, and started doing the physical.
One or two minutes into the procedure, I noticed with a start that the celebrity (the guy in charge of monitoring Deaken’s heartbeat!!!) didn’t even have the earpieces of the stethoscope in his ears; they were still hanging around the back of his neck!
I yelled, “Stop! Or Cut! Or whatever! _______, you don’t even have the stethoscope in your ears!”
Aw, gee, blush.. you’re right. Let’s take it from the top…
No apology, no “oh my gosh!” Nothing.
Dr. Cauble (a great veterinarian!!!) looked stricken. HE knew how essential it was to keep an ear on Deaken’s heartbeat while he was unconscious. He felt equally sickened by what happened.
I was livid, and I was ashamed: I had entrusted my beloved cat’s well-being to a fucking charlatan!
That’s why I take “animal welfare laws/people/celebrity experts” with enormous blocks of salt.
- If the folks in charge of ensuring humane practices don’t even know what their lists are checking for
- If natural resources guys can’t even check their carriers before lifting critters aloft
- If animal celebrities don’t take their responsibilities seriously when helping a veterinarian monitor a sedated cat
how CAN I feel confident that animals
are being cared about
by the people
whose responsibility it is
to care about them?
Knowing how my three encounters with “experts” could have turned out without me there, I live in constant tension, knowing that other animals are in peril that I know nothing about.
Don’t leave your pets or livestock with people you can’t monitor.
Be sure they have tons of great reviews.
Do what you can to make sure you have your critters seen by people who actually give a damn.