Black bears are the victims of human behaviour, yet media accounts frequently paint them as attacking people and pets without provocation. The Fur-Bearers are challenging BC’s media to consider another perspective when telling these stories: the bears’.
Let’s consider this narrative:
I was in my backyard with my kids when an unfamiliar dog ran in and starting snarling and barking at us. I could hear someone yelling after them in the distance. I immediately put myself between my children and the threat to protect them; that’s when the person arrived. I couldn’t tell what they were saying – it was maybe another language, but they were clearly upset, making lots of noises and waving their arms. I didn’t know what else to do, so I tried scaring them off, away from my children and our home. Finally, they started to leave, but I followed them to make sure they were gone. Then the dog came back and attacked me – he ran right up to me with bared teeth, so I tried swatting him away. That seemed to do it: they left and didn’t come back.
This is a remarkably common situation for black bears who are harassed by off-leash dogs and uneducated humans. But we never hear that possible perspective; of course, bears can’t communicate the way we do. That shouldn’t stop journalists from contacting those who could potentially translate the situation from a non-human animals’ perspective.
The impetus for this challenge is not to put down media. Rather, it is to save the lives of bears. When stories are told about black bears as vicious, cruel, or aggressive (even when the evidence points to them being harassed into reacting), it builds a narrative for the public. It gives support to the idea that bears are unthinking, unfeeling and that killing them for this response is acceptable.
We are asking writers, producers, directors, and commentators in the media to ask themselves one simple question before sending their story to the world: how would you have reacted if you were the bear in this situation, and your home or children were involved?