American Elephants

Bears Have Rights. Man Faces Charges. by The Elephant's Child


Richard Ahlstrand of Auburn, Massachusetts went out in his back yard to fill up the bird feeders, when a bear about seven feet tall and weighing 300–400 lbs. started chasing him. Mr. Ahlstrand turned around and aimed in the general direction of the bear and fired. He had a shotgun with him because he had heard a noise and thought he’d seen a bear the day before.

Now he faces criminal charges for encountering a bear in his back yard and shooting it to avoid being mauled or eaten. Can’t do that. The bear has rights.

He is charged with “illegally killing a bear, Illegally baiting a bear, illegal possession of a firearm and failure to secure a firearm.” All of these charges seem to require that Ahlstrand make his yard completely inhospitable to animals rarely seen in the area, and then investigated a suspicious noise by looking out the window and calling the police.

Chief Sluckis said the bear is believed to have been attracted to a 50 gallon drum of birdseed Mr. Ahlstrand had in his back yard. Mr. Ahlstrand went back inside, retrieved a shotgun and decided to shoot the bear. “Obviously we believe if Mr. Ahlstrand was truly in fear for his life he would have stayed secured in his home and would have called the police.”

The police chief claimed that bears are “not common in Auburn,” and the last sighting was about a year ago, and Ahlstrand shouldn’t have had birdseed because?  The drum of birdseed seems to have been the basis of the “baiting” charge against him, though birdseed would seem to be bait more for birds than bears. I thought bears were fond of honey?

Always interesting when police officers are more interested in saving the lives of bears than humans. I guess self-defense only counts with armed and certified bad guys, if then.

4 Comments so far
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“… though birdseed would seem to be bait more for birds than bears. I thought bears were fond of honey?”

Not suggesting that bear baiting was what the guy had in mind, but bears are omniverous and will certainly eat seeds and grains. When I was a youngster, living on a farm, the local bears were especially fond of sweet corn: you could see it in the poop they left behind.

As for honey, that is not what they attack hives for. Rather, they are interested in the brood — i.e., the larvae. Which are, of course, sweet tasting. That is why bees are so quick to attack anything that remotely resembles a bear. Walk up to a bee hive wearing a full-length, thick black coat and you’ll see what I mean.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Also, if a bear has found a place that it considers to have a regular food supply (especially one that it doesn’t have to use a lot of effort to get to), it can get aggressive if it encounters what it considers interference (which can be an issue with any wildlife… bears can just hurt you more). I live next to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you get stories of the rangers having to relocate (or sometimes kill) some wildlife because it got too used to coming around populated areas and would chase people away from what it considered a food source.

A few years ago, a bear was coming down into the parking lot of a hotel in Gatlinburg regularly because someone who worked at a nearby restaurant was leaving desserts out because they wanted to see a bear (stupid!). They wound up having to relocate the bear and her two cubs (who had made a den less than 100 yards away) to another part of the Park near Cades Cove, but there’s always the worry that she’ll find her way back.

Bit O’ Trivia: most hotels in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have posted instructions on what to do if you encounter a bear… some even print it on your key packet!


Comment by Lon Mead

This is absurd! Where I’m from if someone or something is in your yard and of treat you have a right to defend your family as well as your self. Maybe I misunderstood all the details, but from what I read the guy was feeding the birds and the bear charged him and he shot it. This just sounds ridiculous to charge the guy! I would have done the same thing!!!


Comment by Shorty

Since the advent of an aggressive Environmental Protection Agency, and a good dose of Political Correctness, endangered species and environmentalists whose only claim to the title is a claimed fondness for things natural, things can get a little silly. If a bird drops a feather on your deck, you may get in trouble if you pick it up. It’s illegal to possess such things. Finding an arrowhead in the wild can get you charged with disturbing native grounds or something like that. Everybody tiptoes around potential regulation because the regulators are city people without a lick of sense. Common sense does not enter into the equation. The rules are the rules.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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