One of the “commandments” of animal rehabilitation says that if you raise an animal with loving, human attention such that you habituate and imprint that animal to humans you destroy its ability to survive in the wild, make it into an incompetent animal dependent on humans and psychologically inhibit its ability to relate to others of its kind thus preventing mating and the production of offspring. In addition such animals will become dangerous to other humans.
I have been caring for animals by this “hands-on” approach for 50 years and have never found any of the above to be true. From raccoons, to skunks, fox, to opossum to crows all which I raised and released in the middle of suburbia, inside the Washington D.C. beltway. These animals would return to my home and me while no one else ever knew they existed. And some came back with their young.
Here in West Virginia, I have raised and released many animals who never seek out another human being, but who recognize me as their “mother.” One deer, Blossom, whom I got as a fawn with two broken legs, full of fleas and malnourished is now almost 10 years old and she still comes out of the forest to see me.
Now, I have completed the cycle with another larger mammal – a black bear.
Rose came to me four years ago as a cub and I raised her with loving care. She and I would go for long hikes together through the forest and fields so that she would recognize the environment. When she was about 18 months old she finally decided to go off on her own. She is scared of other people and runs even when I have had visitors in her presence.
Fortunately, each December she would come back just at the beginning of hunting season and I would put her up for the winter to protect her from being killed. Last summer she came back for several visits with a male I had never seen.
This December she again made an appearance and again I put her up.
Last night, January 15, 2014, she had a cub.
Like a proud grandmother I am beaming, but more important she has demonstrated that black bears raised by humans and released can become not only “wild” but complete all their natural instincts and bring forth the next generation.
This is her first litter and I do not know if the cub will survive. In the wild many cubs do not survive their first year. Often new mothers with only one cub will abandon the cub later during mating season, but if this happens it will not diminish the pride I have in what she and I have accomplished.
I was disappointed to read the recent letter from Donald Phares regarding the proposed Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. For many months, I have worked with West Virginia Trout Unlimited and other groups, including other hunting and fishing organizations, to establish a proposal that provides more permanent protection to excellent trout waters and addresses access and management needs. Mr. Phares has not been part of our conversations, which is why it’s so unfortunate he would submit such unabashed misinformation.
Mr. Phares claims the effort to designate the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument is an attempt to turn the Monongahela National Forest into a national park. That statement couldn’t be farther from the truth. He says the groups involved in this initiative have tried “for many years” to designate a national park. Which of the major organizations is he referencing? The West Virginia Rivers Coalition? They haven’t been involved in a park proposal. The West Virginia Wilderness Coalition? Not that group either. Has Trout Unlimited ever advocated for a national park in the Monongahela National Forest? Absolutely not. Businesses, sportsmen, and government organizations all agree that a National Park is not the right fit. A National Monument can be the perfect fit.
Mr. Phares states how “stupid” we must be to trust the government. Ironically, I share this sentiment as a conservative and a sportsman, which is exactly why I advocate for national monument designation. One look at the past year in Congress is enough to tell me that our most special woods and waters aren’t safe if we simply trust the government to keep things just the way they are. There were bills to mandate widespread industrial development on public lands, trumping recreation, water quality and other values. There has even been talk on Capitol Hill of selling federal public land, but despite all this, Mr. Phares wants us to believe the area is always going to be safe from the government favoring profits over people. Mr. Phares asks why anyone would support a monument if the area will not drastically change. The answer is clear. We don’t want drastic changes, but there’s simply no guarantee for the future of the area if we don’t establish a more permanent designation that preserves the area and protects our access to important outdoor traditions.
West Virginia Trout Unlimited has led the way in the process to seek a viable national monument designation. We follow other national monument examples supported by hunting and fishing groups, and we’ve paid attention to how those groups developed monuments that celebrate, not restrict, hunting and fishing. We have worked with decision makers to relay concerns of sportsmen and land managers to ensure our access and management needs can be met. I suppose we could have trusted this Congress and tried hard to stop the designation of the Birthplace of Rivers National Monument. But that simply wouldn’t be the best way to work towards our mission of protecting and restoring our best trout streams, and improving fishing experiences for future West Virginia anglers.
Instead, we saw a need to be actively engaged, and now the needs of sportsmen define the monument proposal.
As has always been the case, the invitation is wide open for Mr. Phares, or any other individual or organization, to work with us in a good faith effort to achieve a viable designation. I hope these folks will do so, but until then, I hope they’ll at least refrain from spreading blatantly false information and mischaracterizations about the groups involved.
Philip Smith, Chair
West Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited
My last phone bill included a new charge of $9.99 (that’s $10 in disguise) for Wifi Data Res Service. I already pay for High Speed Internet, I didn’t order anything new, and I didn’t get anything new, so I called and said there was a mistake on my bill. The phone representative cheerfully removed it and gave me a credit.
I am writing to alert others to check their bills and see if any new charges you didn’t order appear.