Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Marine and the bear

This proves there are no ex-Marines, just Marines. A father and his three sons are camping. A three hundred pound bear starts running off with their cooler. The six year old boy (and future Marine!) hurles a shovel at it as it is moving away from them back into the woods (with the cooler). Bear turns back menacing the boy. The Marine picks up a log--the closest weapon at hand--throws it at the bear and kills it, saving son’s life. The Marine is then given a ticket for not securing the camp site. It was federal property.

Discussions - 28 Comments

The agents are definately not cops and demonstrated they have no common sense.

I am sorry, but LEOs, Law Enforcement Officers, have this neat, little tool called discretion and the one who issued this ticket showed no discretion at all and truly demonstrated a complete lack of mental power.

Sure, the law is the law, but, please, no one should always enforce each and every law at all costs, no matter what. If these agents have ever felt the wrath of entire city block, which I have, then they would understand.

Yeah, if you are wondering, I am a cop, in Texas!

Also, if they were ordered to issue the citation, then the supervisor is also a clueless wonder who shouldn't have a badge, gun, or whatever they give these folks.

I'm going to play devil's advocate here. While I agree with Dale that discretion is a tool that can -- and often should -- be employed, I don't think campers are entirely without blame in all this.

First, there's a reason why there exists a rule about securing the campsite. That's so more incidents like this don't happen. The fewer the human/bear interactions that happen, the fewer potential injuries or problems.

Second, it seems to me a six year old should have been trained to give bears wide berth when camping. Throwing a shovel at the bear doesn't seem a prudent thing to do in any event. Again, had the campsite been secure the bear wouldn't have been making off with the cooler. And had the boy not thrown the shovel, then there would have been no need to defend themselves against the bear and thus kill it.

Finally, our reaction to this story would be quite a bit different if rather than "Marine" we substituted in "teenage delinquents" or "drunken college fraternity men." Exact same circumstances, different description of person involved. My guess would be the focus would be on how foolish the people were to ... not secure their campsite and to provoke the bear over something as trivial as a cooler.

Don, I enjoy being able to agree with you here!

Yes, leaving a cooler out (if it didn't contain food or bait, it almost certainly contained scent and/or traces of such) in a place where a bear could access it was foolish. Hopefully the (no doubt manly!) Marine was more careful about getting the details right on the battlefield than he was at the campsite! The cooler should have been hoisted well up above ground, and far from any tree trunks - it's all part of the daily camp preparations when you're in bear country. Not only to obey any laws that might be in effect, but just to take reasonable precautions to avoid a dangerous interaction such as this. As the ranger himself noted, " If we manage our food, we won't have bears around." - or at least they won't be menacing campers in this way.

Further, rangers were nearby when this incident occurred, issuing a citation to someone else, so I definitely got the impression that this wasn't a complete wilderness with vast spaces between campers. The Marine and his son's mistake also endangered others.

The Marine, due to his mistake in judgment, ended up in a situation where he felt it necessary to kill the (small, 300 lb.) bear. I get the impression that he taught his son little to nothing regarding what to do in the event of a bear encounter. Throwing a shovel at a RETREATING bear strikes me as rather foolish (and not exactly manly, either).

Now, those who might have enjoyed the experience of seeing a bear in that park, from a safe distance, sans confrontation, will be deprived of it, due to a mix of negligence and foolishness. The ticket is deserved.

Well we certainly know there is no such as wilderness anymore when you can't defend yourself from wild animals without getting a ticket. Plus, I appreciate the pluck and courage of the 6 year old.

We need some more information: when did this incident happen, why was the cooler out, etc.

As for getting on the case of a 6 year old... he's SIX!!! Outdoor lessons are simple and basic at the age, and generally don't take all that well. If they did, we wouldn't need to be perpetually vigilant with kids near the water/fire/etc until they were 12! I've had more than enough fun trying to get water and wilderness safety through the heads of 15 year olds, never mind first graders. Given that they were using a COOLER (as well as the rangers being at a neighboring site), this sounds like a car-camping situation not a real wilderness experience.

Given my own experience with Ranger Rick types, I'm very inclined to believe that the ticket wasn't warranted. At most popular sites the rangers see lots of parties and such, so they are perpetually frustrated and are incapable of dealing with mature people, assuming that everyone is an immature hooligan. Their petty tyranny is understandable but unreasonable - another situation of how government bureaucracy is a bad thing and needs to be reduced as much as possible. A private concern, while having many customer service horrors, at least has the ability to correct things. Government rangers know they are unfireable, except maybe if they're caught in the washroom with a 5 year old boy, and act accordingly.

As for the idea of a safe distance for seeing a bear: there isn't one. Any time people see a bear is a very bad situation. All megafauna is dangerous to the unarmed human - i.e. essentially everyone in a state or federal park/wilderness area/etc - and interactions with humans are dangerous to the megafauna in the immediate and long-term. This is especially true at a camp site where people may have a vehicle or canoe that would take minutes effect an escape or else a few tenths of a mm of nylon!

BTW: I've led and participated in multi week canoe trips, whitewater kayaking trips, etc. I keep my camp clean, my barrel-packs hoisted, and leave no trace. Seeing megafauna is always a BAD thing - it's an immediate danger and can also condition the animals that humans aren't a threat, which is obviously untrue. The worst is seeing a moose when you're in a canoe, they can swim very fast and present a danger to your boat, whereas a bear is a relatively poor swimmer and doesn't agress into the water (at least in flat water over head height).

Jamie, it's good to see you really grasped the points that Don and Craig made.

I love reading stories like that, it confirms my faith in my fellow Americans.

Dan- does it "confirm" your faith that Americans are stupid and needlessly aggressive? That's what this delightful little story did for me! I just hope our little future IED-fodder turns 18 before the GWOT ends, but I don't think that should be any problem.

"hey" wrote: "As for getting on the case of a 6 year old... he's SIX!!!"

Yes, I'm aware of that. Six year olds do less-than-rational things. I recognize that a six year old might not have taken to heart the lesson of treating wildlife with a degree of awe and fearful respect.

I really have no opinion whether the ticket was warranted or not. I don't know the full facts. I'm happy the father, who happened to be a Marine, was able to protect his child. I'm sorry to see it had to be at the expense of a bear. It would have been a more satisfying story if the bear had been frightened off rather than killed.

And I still maintain my original point -- had the father not carried the label "Marine," this story would be spun a different way. I admire and respect Marines as much as anyone (truly I do), but in this case I think too much is being credited to the man because of that label. Just my two cents.

While I deeply appreciate the romantic sentiment of Peter's post and (despite myself) respect the pluck of the 6 year old, it pains me to disagree with Peter here and confess that Don in AZ is entirely correct. We are veteran campers--going every summer for about 3 weeks in the wilds of Northern and Central California and so on. Knowing what to do about bears--especially if you're on federal land--is not exactly rocket science. It's posted everywhere and preached harder than any old time religion by campground hosts, rangers, store clerks, fellow campers. It's wisdom handed down from the ages and obtained by hard experience. It's not a matter of petty bureaucracy or the over-blown safety Nazis--it's just good common sense that makes life more pleasant for everyone involved. It is irresponsible to neglect your duties to your fellow campers and--most especially--to your own children. I don't care if the guy was a Marine or a delinquent. If he were in our campground and he left his food out, and a bear came anywhere near my campsite because of his negligence, he would find a shovel aimed at his head.

"I just hope our little future IED-fodder turns 18 before the GWOT ends"

I find this comment sick and repulsive. You can disagree with policies and politicians, but hoping someone's son is blown up in a terrible explosion is way over the line.

"[S]tupid and needlessly aggressive......" Isn't that a bit rich, don't ya' think? Were you there? When the Bear turned back towards the campers, three of whom were kids, you think tossing a big log at the bear was "aggressive?" Do you really think the Marine intended to actually kill the bear? He more than likely simply intended to drive the bear off, but through misadventure, he ended up actually killing the thing.

Whatever

For the record, let me say that I'm not losing any sleep over the bear.

What became of the bear? At a scant 300 pounds, I would think the bear was quite young, perhaps in its first season as an adult. If so, the meat would've been quite tasty, and not tough or fatty like in older bears.

To kill the bear with a thrown log is manly, no doubt. To skin it, and roast its carcass over an open flame, and to enjoy the resulting repast -- Super-Manly?!?!?

For Pete's sake, they were at a picnic area by all accounts, with other people and with the relentless fighters against crime and evil, the majestic ticketing forces of the Forest Service.
How does one picnic on secured foods, Craig and Don? There you go, blaming the (near) victims again. Your extrapolated view on rape is likely, "She shouldn't have gone into that bar alone, she knew or should have known it was dangerous."

Tom wrote: "...they were at a picnic area by all accounts, with other people ... How does one picnic on secured foods, Craig and Don?

Do you have another source of information on this other than the account linked in the original post?

Here's what I read:

The bear had taken the Everharts' cooler and was heading back to the woods when 6-year-old Logan hurled a shovel at it.

No mention of it being a picnic area, or that other people were around. It appears the bear was simply making off with the cooler. One course of action -- more adviseable, I would argue -- would have been to let the bear have the cooler.

"Fearing what might happen next, the Norcross father and ex-Marine grabbed the closest thing he could find — a log. '(I) threw it at it and it happened to hit the bear in the head,' Chris Everhart said. 'I thought it just knocked it out but it actually ended up killing the bear.'"

In Peter's original post he wrote, "Bear turns back menacing the boy." But I don't see that here. Perhaps in another account, but not in the one linked to. I simply see that the father "fears what might happen next [emphasis added] and throws it at the bear. I would think if the bear actually turned and charged the little boy it would have been written as such in the account. That stuff makes for great copy. But the account is silent on the details after the hurling of the shovel.

Near as I can figure, they would not have been victims of anything except the pilfering of a cooler. Am I blaming them? Well, maybe ... for reacting in the manner they did.

Your rape analogy is silly.

Wanna bet the ticket writer was one of those dykes in a mountie hat?

Don- the news story says the USFS agents were at the camp issuing a citation to other folks, so got to the bear scene within a few minutes. Read the story again.
Seems to me the food was "secured"; the bear absconded with the cooler! I guess security requires noshing in your vehicle, windows up, AC on, when you're in our National Forests, in all of which bears live.
Finally, this is surely not the 1st time Brazen Bear came into a camp looking for eats....learned behavior. You've just got to love it, the bear stealing the cooler!

The bear was a neocon wackjob who gave AIDS to his graduate students and supported the third world invasion of the US. He deserved to die.

Tom, you're right ... you've convinced me. The Marine and his son were poor victims. They acted appropriately given the circumstances. Thank goodness it was in a well populated area with many others present! Imagine the horror suffered by these poor victims had they been alone to face the beast!

The news story does not indicate that it was all that populated. The word "camp" is used, not "picnic area." It says the rangers were there issuing a citation -- singular -- in an unrelated case. A "few minutes" is a meaningless phrase ... it could mean 2 minutes or 20.

But it doesn't matter ... the point you're arguing is tangential to the main points -- 1) is a citation warranted? and 2) did they react in an appropriate manner given the circumstances of a bear removing their cooler?

1: Yes. 2: No.

I hesitated before offering this follow-up, but then it struck me that this blog post was over the top from the very start, so nothing I do could make it worse. Here is a more detailed description of the incident, which provides us with these bits of further info.:

- The "log" used to kill the mid-size female bear was a piece of cut firewood which most anyone could hold in one hand (see photo) - clearly, the man made a good, hard, accurate throw. He could probably rake in the prizes on a carnival midway. Also, rather than implying the man swept part of a tree trunk from the forest floor, this firewood piece was taken from his Jeep.

- The man was issued a $75 ticket for, specifically, "failing to store his food properly 'to prevent access by wildlife.'"

The article is not 100% clear on these details, but it appears that:

- The father and sons had seen a mother AND CUBS earlier in the day

- There was considerable bear activity in the area just prior to the Everhart's incident, as "The fish weren't biting that day, but the bears were out. The clanging of pots and pans could be heard for miles as people tried to scare off the animals." The previous sighting of mother and cubs together with hearing their camp neighbors scaring off bears didn't inspire the former Marine to be extra cautious in dealing with foodstuffs? Instead, the cooler was left out and they started roasting marshmallows.

- This story says that the boy didn't hurl the shovel at the bear, but rather, perhaps even more imprudently, "charged" the bear. Yes, of course, he is a 6-year-old boy, and they can do imprudent things, but...

- The family's Jeep was apparently very close, as the father ran to it to get the piece of firewood to attack the bear. Why not direct the boys to get INTO the Jeep (or, in the case of the youngest boy, personally escort him to it)??? Get the boys locked in the Jeep, THEN choose your mode of self-defense (NRA fans should also note that the AT&T technician/Marine also had a gun and a knife "packed away" in the Jeep). I'm thinking there would have been time for such direction, as the father took the time initially to bang some pots and pans (a smart move); THIS would have been the time to get the boys into the vehicle. Let the bear take the cooler that you left out for him, and take temporary shelter in the truck. Right???

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, but this is a standard story of a regular, flawed man, who made some understandable, but still basic and crucial, errors, and ended up in a desperate situation. His firewood toss, meant to scare the bear away, was a one-in-a-thousand shot that killed the bear. Good for the dad, of course, for protecting his kids - obviously. But he only had to protect them after he acted with some negligence. But this isn't some heroic tale of a macho Marine fighting off an evil beast attacking his child by heaving a tree trunk at it, a la Rambo. This is the story of a phone company technician who took his kids camping where you sleep a few feet from your car and he wasn't very smart with their food in bear country. His kid almost blew it by chasing a retreating bear with a shovel, but fortunately he hit the irritated bear just right with a piece of firewood, and killed it. Perhaps the female bear was the mama bear that they'd seen earlier that day. Oh well! If one needs that sort of modern-day mythology for some reason, so be it.

Craig is correct, unless the people involved were black. Then it was yet another case of government oppression of people of color.

I still assert that the citation, while valid, was not appropriate.

Think of it this way, will the ticket cause the dad and his sons to secure foodstuffs in the future or will the fact that his son almost became a meal for the bear deter him? The object lesson was already learned long before the ticket was issued, which makes the ticket rather weak if you talking about causing appropriate future actions.

Sometimes tickets do nothing to help stop future actions, especially a measly $75 one.

Is this situation involving a Marine similar? ....

Ex-Marine teaches pickpocket a lesson

You could argue that the Marine was a crime stat waiting to happen for carrying a large sum of money in his pocket and for ignoring the sign of a possible criminal event, the suspicious person he noticed (he even turned his back on the suspicious person). You could also argue that the amount of force used was inappropriate, even for his age, because of his skills, the amount of blows he used, and, possibly, due to the injuries the robber recieved (inference from the blood statement). So, even though he was defending himself, you could argue that he went over the line and would have continued further if others had not intervened, possibly killing the robber.

Am I making a stretch? Maybe, but that, in my opinion, is how you turn a victim into a perp and that is what some, in my opinion, did here with the Marine who killed the bear.

Realize that if the Marine had a gun, or a shotgun, he simply could have fired into the ground in front of the bear, and the bear would have scampered off in fear. Frightened, but very much alive.

I don't think it's wise to go camping with such little kids, without the means of fending off whatever you might encounter.

Not to mention, what if that little 6 year old had wandered off and gotten lost. What then? It happens. I get nervous when my nephews go camping, because I know how fond little Ryan is of wandering off, and how old is he? He's 6 years old. And he's real keen on climbing and wandering, which he sees as exploring. That little kid climbed 40 feet in the air once, climbing the backstop at a baseball field.

What fun this thread became, eh?

Tom and Dale (re: comments 15 and 24) - First, to compare being a victim of a rapist or a pickpocket thief to a bear taking your food in the forest is absurd. People operate within society and a moral universe of some sort, bears act on instinct. The bear was not acting in an immoral fashion when it took off with their cooler. It was simply gathering food, for itself and perhaps for the family, as necessary. The rape and pickpocket comparisons aren't valid. As for "turn(ing) a victim into a perp," well, I would say it very much depends on the context. It requires necessarily arbitrary judgments. The retired Marine/boxer who punched the pickpocket, well, I think he was more or less within bounds. [Now THAT was the manly & macho former Marine story that Peter Schramm SHOULD HAVE noted here!) Suppose however he had pummelled the man to death and twisted his off. Would he then cross the line from victim to perpetrator? He would have switched from protecting himself and his money to executing someone and mutilating their corpse for a non-violent crime. Of course, I don't see it as having to be either/or. Couldn't he first be a victim, and then, ALSO, a perpetrator? Additionally, again because of obvious differences between bears and humans, leaving your food exposed in a park with bears will bring the bears, and your negligence will create a situation that attracts them. Having loose cash in your pocket won't necessarily end in you losing your money. We still require a person with the WILL to commit the crime; the bear doesn't think "Gee, should I do this, is it okay?" or "Can I possibly get away with this?" before grabbing the cooler.

Next thing, Dale (comment 23), are you arguing AGAINST the ticketing of the father, or endorsing a higher fine, as you say that a "measly $75 ticket would "do nothing to help stop future actions"? In any case, it is probably beyond the abilities of most officers (and most people generally) to determine how a violator will behave in the future after receiving a ticket for the current offense (a behavioral prediction based on scant evidence and knowledge of the offender). Cops issue speeding tickets, and some violators do alter their behavior, to at least some degree, while others continue to speed (or buy radar detectors, or just remember where the cop car was located when they got nailed). As far as I've ever known, a ticket is, first and foremost, a penalty for violating the law. If it serves some rehabilitative function on the part of the offender, that's great, but if not, officers can always issue more tickets for further violations. Apparently the firewood-throwing father had violated the law regarding securing foodstuffs. Thus, the fine. Further, the fine was also as a penalty for endangering other people in the area (by attracting the bears), and encouraging bear behavior that is just not conducive to a healthy park environment (bears following cars around, people developing a false sense of safety around them, etc.). Tom you could be right (comment 18), "this is surely not the 1st time Brazen Bear came into a camp looking for eats." - although a bear in this type of environment must have his "first time" seeking out and snagging people food, too. And this behavior can be changed back, but people need to be vigilant in keeping their foodstuffs sealed up and inaccessible to bears.

Finally, Dan (re: comment 25), the Marine in the woods with his kids DID have a gun, as the article I linked to noted. It was "packed away" in his Jeep, the same place where he got the deadly firewood. (Perhaps he could've hustled the kids into the Jeep, locked 'em in there, got his gun out, and scared the bear off??? Just an idea...)
Of course, if Churchill, Plato, Hayek or Strauss said anything that contradicts me here, then of course I'm wrong!!

Anyone who read the longer AJC piece that I linked to might have noticed too that the rangers who issued the ticket to the father had "come to the campgrounds to arrest another man who tried to run down a bear with his car. Officials said he was charged with a DUI." Drunk drivers gunning for 'em, kids chasing them with shovels, parents throwing firewood at them - maybe they do get a bit pissed off from time to time?? (joking)

Perhaps the gun was simply too far. Packed in the jeep is fine. But how far away was that jeep. I don't really get the sense that the Marine desired or intended to kill the bear.

My gut reaction is that the officer(s) issuing the ticket showed a phenomenal lack of discretion, although I don't know the details of the incident any better than anybody else here, so take it with a grain of NaCl.

I've been a wilderness hiker for 30+ years. I've had a few campground black bear encounters and one campground grizzly encounter. Bears I've encountered outside of camp have always run off, but bears in camp I've seen are clearly very habituated to humans and have learned that humans have food. Despite what anyone may tell you these bears can be very dangerous. I've been growled at and fake-charged and it's not fun.

I am very careful with my food and food-scents, hang food, use bear canisters where necessary, etc. Comments such as that the Marine was(#21) "a regular, flawed man" kind of get my goat. The implication is - and this is typical of the really militant leave-no-trace idealists (not that I don't believe in LNT, just not militant idealism) - that if we followed the rules perfectly, we would have nothing to fear in the wilderness.

That is absurd. It's a mindview that comes from our 'civilized' legal society in which we are taught to believe that if something bad happens, somebody must be at fault.

I woke up once in Glacier NP to a grizzly that was closer to my head than my feet were. The park rangers insisted that I must have had some food in the tent (I didn't). They have to find a reason; they operate under the assumption that if there is an encounter like this then it must be because you did something bad. BS. The griz in my case had clearly learned that tents sometimes have food in them, nevermind that mine didn't.

The point is that, sure maybe the Marine guy should have put the cooler back in the car; hard to say, we don't know the circumstances (e.g. were they using it at the time, or had it just been sitting out all day?). But to blame him, as if to say, but for his unruly (???) behavior, the bear would still be alive? Nobody who knows wildlife would say that. Bears are not that predictable. Wrap your head around this: just because something bad happens in the wilderness does not mean that anybody is at fault. Being in the wilds means managing risk, not managing blame. To the extent that anybody is at fault here, it is first and foremost the previous campers who habituated the bear to the people=food association.

The reason we try to keep food inaccessible to bears is so that they don't learn that association. Once they do make the association and become "problem bears," it's too late. I for one would not hesitate to kill a problem bear that was a threat to me or my family. Come on, it's not like they're endangered species; you can even hunt them legally. (I prefer elk myself, though.) It's sad to see big furry animals get killed, but frankly brutal death is part and parcel of Nature anyway. Nature isn't a Disney film. Jack London is more like it.

A friend who was raised by Masai in Kenya told me that every now and then the Masai would go kill a lion to teach the other lions to be afraid of humans. They respected and loved the lions very much, but it wasn't the infantile sort of respect that some of us 'civilized' types have towards bears, where we say, gee if the bear is gnawing at your leg, then maybe it's ok to pepper spray him, and afterwards figure out what horrendous evil you did to invite the attack, all while you're waiting for the USFS to arrive to write your ticket. Apologies for the hyperbole, but come on, use some common sense. That bear was as good as dead anyway the day it learned to seek food from humans.

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