Good lord, but the escaped-animal story gets worse and worse. The numbers are simply appalling — 18 Bengal tigers? There are only about 3,000 left in the wild. Lions are no big loss in that regard (they breed prodigiously in and out of captivity, and are known to get it on through chain-link fences, if need be), but the bears, they hurt my soul. All a grizzly bear wants is a few thousand acres of wild country to go be ursine in, and the thought of one living in a goddamn cage in Muskingum County, only to be dispatched by a sheriff’s deputy, is almost too much to deal with.
I’m declining to read any more idiot comments about the police actions, as well. Even NPR asked, “Why didn’t you tranquilize them?” The sheriff, who’d probably given about 2,000 interviews yesterday, said, “Because we don’t carry tranquilizer guns.” Good answer. Even the Columbus Zoo people, who do carry them, said the job was nearly impossible, from trying to estimate a correct dosage without knowing much more about their quarry other than its species, to the trickier matter of actually hitting one, in the dark, in the rain, in a stressful situation. Evidently the one instance in which they tried to dart a tiger went awry when the tiger responded by turning on the vet, which meant that one had to go, too.
We forget how, on “Wild Kingdom,” the animal runs for a while with the dart hanging out of its butt. Imagine one running into a dark woods. Imagine being the one going in after it. Then stop talking about how they should have just tranquilized those poor beasts. Here’s a comment from the New York magazine site:
How long would it have taken to helicopter wild animal specialists and tranquilizer guns from cleveland or cincinatti, whichever is closer?
Very cinematic image, that. Get some wild-animal specialists — whose numbers I keep in my Rolodex — and chopper ‘em in! I see James Franco and Mark Ruffalo, clad in safari grunge, standing on the helipad in Cleveland or Cincinnati — whichever is closer! — with their duffels, ready for the chopper to carry them into the wilds of Muskingum County where, in the middle of the night, they will use their night-vision scopes to, first, identify the beasts, and then expertly shoot them with tranquilizer. From a helicopter.
PILOT: Dammit, I’m telling you, this is too low! I could lose my license!
CHIP SUDBURY, WILDLIFE EXPERT: Just get me a little closer! Do it!
I also note that the city I was raised in, now grown to Ohio’s largest, is still being forgotten. People who’ve never been to Ohio know two cities: Cleveland and Cincinnati (which they can never spell). And that’s it.
Jack Hanna, the emeritus Columbus Zoo director who was widely quoted yesterday, has done more for that institution than any other single person. At the same time, I remember many puffy stories about how he raised many of the zoo animals in his own home, including a tiger, who slept next to his bed for midnight feedings. The parks and rec director, Mel Dodge, raised many of the zoo’s lions that way, too, keeping them as pets until they got too big. I can’t recall the justification for this; maybe it was to acclimate them early to humans, to make them easier to handle? (I do recall the time I was leaving downtown around quittin’ time, gazing emptily at the car in front of me at a light, when a baby lion’s head popped up from the back seat and the cat climbed onto the back deck. Oh, right, I thought — Mel Dodge.) I’m not saying this was bad or irresponsible, but the animals were so cute, and the coverage so unquestioning, that I wonder how many people read it and thought, “I could do that, too.”
Then, as always, there is the Detroit Way:
Which seems as good a pivot point as any to transition to the local angle. May I just ask, in the name of reason and whatever passes for journalistic standards these days, WTF makes Ted Nugent the go-to party for reaction? Not only does he have nothing to do with the story, his only tangential connection is, what? That he, too, shoots guns at animals? Wonderful. He calls it a “downright tragedy” for people to keep wild animals in captivity, to which I reply, well, that is f’in’ rich:
In 1970, Ted Nugent began accumulating wild Michigan hunting ground. That land is now known as SUNRIZE ACRES! This sportsman’s dream now contains 340 acres of perfect big game habitat, rich with wildlife and the Spirit of the Wild. Managed for optimum health and indigenous bio-diversity, Sunrize Acres is home to world-class trophy whitetail deer, wild boar, American buffalo and various exotics.
P.S. It is fenced.
Also, escapes from facilities like this are the reason one of Michigan’s biggest backcountry problems is feral swine. Which the Nuge claims don’t exist.
OK, then. No real bloggage today, mainly because, with Moammar What’s-his-face dead, I’m going to go outside and fire our guns into the air.
Happy Thursday. Watch out for roaming monkeys.