Let’s not be remembered as the town that recklessly endangers its wildlife

Bear named Snow, age 8, shown alerted climbing a tree.

Last week, a grizzly sow and at least one of her cubs were found rummaging through unsecured garbage in our neighborhood. This sow, which had been frequenting the Last Chance area, and her cubs had been responsibly navigating our neighborhoods, sticking to their natural food sources. Unfortunately, a negligent individual in our community left unsecured garbage on their back deck, next to a shed where it could and should have been stored properly.

Living in bear country, encounters with these magnificent creatures are not uncommon, especially during the summer months. However, most bears manage to coexist with humans by avoiding interaction and foraging at night. We all understand the adage: “A fed bear is a dead bear,” but the consequences go beyond the bear itself. Once a bear associates humans with food, it loses its natural fear, posing a danger to both itself and anyone it encounters. Sadly, in such encounters, it’s often the bear that loses its life.

In light of the increasing frequency of bear-related incidents, ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, it’s essential to educate yourself on the responsibilities of living in bear country. I strongly advocate for the implementation of an ordinance in Island Park, ensuring that incidents like this are punishable by law. People are often motivated by financial consequences, and until it directly impacts their wallets, change may be slow. Unfortunately, our current commissioners and sheriff seem hesitant to support such an ordinance, a decision they may come to regret.

Therefore, it falls upon us—the residents and visitors of this incredible place—to uphold our responsibility to keep our surroundings clean and protect our wildlife, as well as each other. I firmly believe in our collective capability to achieve this goal. Let’s not be remembered as the town that recklessly endangers its wildlife. We can and must do better.