'They're not getting it'

‘They’re not getting it’ By Whitney Royster. Casper Star-Tribune environmental reporter.

“JACKSON — Wildlife managers are baffled this year as to why people are not getting the message to put food and bear attractants away and secure, so fewer bears need to be relocated or killed.” Rest of the story.






  1. Jay Avatar

    Simple answer: people are lazy and don’t give a #$@! that their actions result in bears being killed–cleaning up after themselves and their pets is just too much effort. And after all, who cares if a few bears have to die? The important thing is they have their fancy houses with their million dollar views, and bears be damned if it means taking an extra minute or two each day to tidy up the trash and dog food around the place.

  2. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf


    I would suggest a less confrontational answer. It is more about ignorance. People don’t know. This only serves to strengthen my argument that people are more heavily influenced by television and advertising than anyone realizes.

    Television shows us commercials about going out into the woods, dressed in our city clothes, driving our nice clean SUVs or Subarus out to the middle of nowhere. Television fails to tell us to protect our food from bears, to learn how to read a map, or to get permits for that fire, etc.

    What we have is a people largely educated by their televisions. They see, they mimic. It’s human nature; and advertising agencies know this – they learn it in advertising schooling.

    This is a very complicated issue – to some. We are supposed to understand that this is a “caveat emptor” situation. But advertisers, through their lobbies; have ensured that they can have a much more significant impact on our lives, and our minds; than I believe they are morally allowed. So, do we go after the advertisers, or do we smack the consumer upside the head for not being smarter. As I said, this is a complicated issue to some. To me, it is a simple matter…stay the hell out of my brain. Advertisers KNOW they can influence a human in ways that aren’t moral..that is, they can affect our way of thinking; they can trick us into believing things; they can affect what we like, what we do, our habits. In Europe, England for example; it is illegal to do comparative advertising, or, my favorite, it is illegal to use scare tactics. Why are these things illegal? Because they are effective at tricking us…it is lying, plain and simple. I mean, everyone’s product can’t be better than everyone else’s…so by pure logic, it is illegal to make comparative advertising because it is inherently a lie. And scare tactics are the same thing…just because a statistic shows one in 1,000,000 people might die if they do or don’t do something; doesn’t make it true for everyone; so by that logic, it is also lying, and therefore illegal.

    But back to our topic…how do we fix it? How do we make sure people understand that the woods aren’t the neighborhood park with a playground for the kids (think Utah campground bear incident), and picnic benches everywhere? Well, that’s the complicated part. There are essentially two ways about it…educating the people; and somehow getting the message to all of them; or my favorite; stop allowing them to be miseducated.

    The Bush Administration already took apart much of the protections the 1947 (I think that’s the year) act that made some advertising illegal – especially that of political campaigns. So to see these kinds of reforms, even under Democrats, is highly unlikely. And the money required to educate everyone, and where to get that money from, is just as impossible. My opinion is that a movement or campaign of some kind should be started to encourage people to support legislation to make some forms of advertising illegal… No more SUV commercials showing people taunting bears with beer, or whatever the hell they do on TV nowadays (I don’t watch, haven’t since 9/10/01), so I wouldn’t know…

  3. be Avatar

    mike’s point is right on ~ remember, the frequencies advertisers use on television are public domain ~ they are public assets leased out to TeleCom companies and thus beholden to regulation (FCC). It used to be that as a part of the lease the TeleCom companies would have to use part of the public domain to serve the public interest ~ that has diluted over time. “Equal time” politically is gone. Remember those “the more you know…” public service announcements with the guy from “Friends” telling you for a brief 15 seconds to read to your kids ? or don’t smoke pot ? those hokey 15 second announcements once every several hours have been allowed to fulfill the public interest obligations of the permits.

    it’s our property, but with this administration ~ it has been given away… and our childrens minds are not well served by that sad fact.

    funny how public property isn’t given the same robust legal protections as being beholden to its owners (the public) as private property is … if it were, we might be able to get more practical educational time about bears ~ without having to raise the absurd amounts of $$$ that some pharmaceutical company slinging us restless leg medication is able to pay ~ for use of our own property.

  4. Mikeh Avatar

    If you build it, they will come. Once rural subdivisions are set up, there will always be people who don’t care, no matter how you get the word out or try to educate the masses.

    Limit rural subdivisions and sprawl and you have your answer.

  5. Monte Avatar

    How about severe fines for those who attract bears? Money talks, socialist bull**** walks.

  6. Sally Roberts Avatar
    Sally Roberts

    while i agree with all of these comments, none of them really address the issue of educating about wildlife issues, such as habituation. people learning from their TV’s may be a problem, but is not the only problem we have here. it is really a case of WY Game and Fish in Jackson not doing enough to enforce bearproof containers, or food storage etc. Really i guess not just the WYG&F, but the lawmakers in Jackson who should make it LAW to properly store food to keep it away from bears. to my knowledge, there are only a few areas in Teton County which require bearproof storage containers for trash. this is the problem. and Jay, not everyone in jackson is rich and lives in a fancy house.

  7. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    I just want to add that a very large portion of people are used to having everything spelled out for them. Some-where along the line, teaching common-sense knowledge and thinking for oneself stopped being important. Manners is another trait that seems to have lost its importance also. Then there are the “sheeple” who follow whatever and the people who just don’t care, as mentioned above. There are also those who think the world revolves around them. If it were just bad manners to leave the garbage out…; but it is just plain selfish when the garbage leads to the slaughter of bears just doing what they do. It is so rediculous {to say the least} for people to think they can charge around the “wilder” areas of the world without a thought or care.

  8. sal Avatar

    When’s the last time anybody saw or heard a REAL public service announcement on the airwaves? Don’t count Amber alerts or severe weather warnings on the EBS either.

    I live in another NP border town and we do have bears in town too BUT we have a town ordinance for leaving trash out that would attract any wildlife, except the ubiquitous ravens (here everyone calls them dumpster chickens). There is a pretty stiff fine for leaving anything outside a dumpster that could attract wildlife, or near your house or anywhere for that matter. We don’t have that issue as prevalent here. Most folks who do live near the interface areas are glad to have them there.

    Face it, if they don’t want to live around bears, they can go nearly anywhere else on the planet to avoid them. It’s like the bison thing in West Yellowstone. If you don’t want wildlife in your yard, you can live almost anyplace else and you won’t have that problem.

    There was a large, old grizzly boar that got into someone’s garage because their trash was too smelly and they didn’t go to the dump very often, even though they have to drive past the dump facility to go to town or anyplace else. The bear was killed because these folks couldn’t accommodate the environment they chose to live in when they chose to flee the big cities. They were new arrivals from California, I believe. The whole town was pretty pissed off about it and there were many letters to the editor that mostly sounded like this:

    “…if your garbage is so damned special, why do you keep it in the garage? AND If your trash is so special, perhaps you should take it, and everything else that you came here with BACK to where you came from. AND The bear obviously didn’t realize that your trash was so special.”

    Someone once told me that the porblem with Americans is that they aren’t held accountable for their actions with their lives; if they were, we’d have a lot less crime in this country and people would be compelled to pay attention to where they are and are going.

    Americans don’t WANT to have to think for themselves, it really offends them when they have to consider something outside of or that doesn’t fit into their personal utopia…

  9. be Avatar

    it seems like the initial investment of preventative measures described would be less expensive than the bear killing after-the-fact ? follow that up with a public service announcement declaring there will be no government killing of bears in response to habituated bears ~ you and your children will have to fend for yourselves ~ and vigilante killing of bears will start at 20 years behind bars…

    you’d probably knock off both problems ~ people leaving their trash out – and urbanites moving to rural wyoming…

  10. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    Folks, this is not rocket science. It is all about the simple disconnect between most urban residents (and voters) and how the natural world functions. People who don’t know where the sausage and cheese on their pizza comes from can’t even understand what you are talking about when you discuss habituation and wildlife management issues. It is sad and disheartening but as the urban life overtakes the majority of society it is just going to get worse. Disney is in control now but Darwin will have the last laugh, just too late for most of us and the wilderness we love…

  11. BobCaesar Avatar

    A couple of subdivisions in Jackson Hole have banded together along with their trash removal outfit and bought “bear proof”, curb side pick up trash containers. It remains to be seen if they will actually work, but it is a step in the right direction. At least they are trying!

    One big problem around here is the campers, who leave food available so the bears can get it. Many even think it’s ok to put a cooler in the open pickup bed – as if bears wouldn’t get to it! Stupid is as stupid does.

    Unfortunately, it is the bears that pay the price!

  12. sal Avatar


    I like your ideas. What this society needs is some tough-love kiond of set up.

    People disacree about regulations and such but they wouldn’t be needed if we people could get iIn Paul Schullery’s book, “Searching for Yellowstone” he eloquently states that the Park policies of managment were developed because we just don’t know how to behave in the wild.

    I have to agree. We have become so removed from the natural world that we have become aliens ourselves.

  13. Mike Wolf Avatar
    Mike Wolf

    We actually already have a system in place that, if used properly, could educate wildlands tourists about interaction with the wilds.

    As far as exurban fools and wildlife; that is yet another control that needs to be placed on this rampant and destructive industry.

    I’ll have to find the study, but I read somewhere that exurbanizational development actually negatively impacts the communities they are located near, financially speaking. In short, there’s not a damn good thing about development in the wildland-urban interface. Why do you think I’m so hung up on the idea of protecting ranches?

  14. Jay Avatar

    Sorry Mike, but I think you’re wrong. I personally know some folks that have been working on getting people to comply with bear-friendly behaviors in g-bear country (e.g., Island Park area) like taking care of garbage, bird feeders, fruit trees, etc., and according to them it’s like beating their heads against a wall. They are simply ignored. Blaming TV is a cop out–these people are being educated, but are choosing to ignore recommendations because it takes a little effort. So yeah, I think it’s time a little confrontation is in order, because the nice way isn’t working.

  15. sal Avatar

    Jay et al,

    Funny you sould mention that . In a paper that hit the streets today and will be online by tomorrow, the lead story is about a griz that broke into someone’s screened porch to get at some chips and crackers. The police reports cite the call on 9/2.

    It is a good article about how the town of West Yellowstone is really just a town shaved out of the large forest, if you look at it from the S Plateau (or even Horse Butte) it’s obvious.

    A point I often make when telling tourists that they have to keep their trash indoors or in one of the approved dumpsters: “…the bears didn’t pencil in the town on their migratory maps, I guess.”

    The article also points out what a danger this is for the bears as well as the fact that even a flimsy garage and plastic trash bags inside it aren’t bear-proof.

    It will be online within the next 24 hrs at:



Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan