Shattered Stereotype

Sometimes you learn a fact that seems so anomalous that you realize that you have been applying an inaccurate stereotype.  I live in South Texas, and my image of northern New Jersey is largely of shuttered industrial facilities, tenements, and asphalt, with everything covered in litter.  So when I saw a headline about a bear attack in New Jersey, I assumed it occurred in the southern New Jersey Pine Barrens.   Close to 40 years ago, I canoed through the Pine Barrens.  They were beautiful and seemed remote.  I could imagine a few bears taking up residence there.

I was therefore surprised to learn that the attack occurred in northern New Jersey, in the Apshawa preserve, which I have never heard of.  Five young friends were hiking in the preserve when they encountered a bear.  Ill advisedly, they all ran off in different directions.  Only four later regrouped.  A search revealed the body of the fifth, a 22-year-old young man who died in the attack.  I have no personal experience with bears, but my guess is that the group would have been better served by clustering together, raising their arms, growling, and otherwise trying to intimidate the bear.  The bear doesn’t understand how helpless you really are.

I have not read David Baron’s The Beast in the Garden, but I have read of it.  The message is that, as predatory wildlife comes back into areas humans frequent, we cannot afford the romantic views we held when no such wildlife was around.  Not unless you want to end up like the unfortunate young man in this news report.


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