Interview of Get Bear Smart Society Executive Director Sylvia Dolson about living respectfully with bears in Whistler, British Columbia, and elsewhere. This is continued from the Winter 2012-2013 ActionLine. The entire interview can be found on our website; visit www.friendsofanimals.org and click on ActionLine, and scroll down to Winter 2012-2013.
Do you think it’s ever okay for bears to wander into our towns and cities?
Sylvia: We need to try hard to keep bears wild, and keep them from anthropogenic food sources. Garbage is just not good for bears. They suffer all kinds of internal damage and injuries from broken glass and other things that get stuck in their intestinal tract, and they can die. And that alone is incentive to keep garbage away.
There are other things they go after, like birdseed, compost and fruit trees. In Whistler, we’ve asked for the removal of large mountain ash trees surrounding a children’s playground. They wouldn’t put garbage in the middle of the playground, but it’s also problematic for a bear to be lured by natural food sources like berries.
There’s always that chance a bear’s predatory instinct might kick in. It’s rare, but it might happen, and quite possibly a child might be smacked, or get a nasty bite, and then the bear would be killed, even if the injury was not serious. In these situations, the bear becomes habituated to people, and learns it’s okay to eat in people’s home ranges, and be near people’sdens, which in the bear world would be very disrespectful: a bear would never go in another bear’s den.
They learn this when eating at a bird feeder, and each time they learn that people are being non-threatening, and are rewarded for that behavior with food, they take more liberties — just like people! One day the door is open and a pie is cooling, or whatever it is, and they go in to get it. They don’t understand they’re going to get shot for that. What does a dead bear learn?
Lines are drawn in the sand: here in Whistler if they go into a home they’re shot, but other communities might shoot them on sight.
If a bear shows up on somebody’s property, and is shooed away, the bear learns that it’s not appropriate to hang around in that yard. Stamp your feet, bang pots and pans, yell “Get out of here!” That’s what we need to do. We need to teach bears that it’s unacceptable, for our own safety and for the bear’s welfare.
So would you say it’s safe to shoo away a bear, or bang pots and pans?
Sylvia: There’s always potential for harm if you’re within slapping or biting distance; and you don’t want to have a bear cornered. If you have a bear in your house, you don’t want to start banging pots and pans and create more stress for the bear. You want to encourage the bear with less force, and in a slower manner. Encourage them toward the open door or window they entered.
We should tell you to call the wildlife officials. There’s liability involved in telling people to shoo bears from their houses! But I teach officers how to do that, so I’m quite comfortable doing it, and it’s not hard at all so long as you give the bear an escape route and don’t escalate the situation.
But a bear outside is really easy to shoo off using noise and your own physical presence. Use body posture and a tone of voice that communicates what you want. Bears understand that.
You’ll recall from old literature: don’t stare at a bear; it’s threatening. Well, it is! So that’s one tool you can use when a bear is on your home range, or near your den.
I’ve gone to the landfill, and got them to leave a pile of garbage by standing and staring them down. I’ve done it several times. It took 10-15 minutes, and eventually I could see their unease, and finally they looked at me and turned around and high-tailed it. So direct eye contact is a powerful tool.
Please make sure you’re in a safe position, make sure they have a safe avenue of escape, make sure there isn’t a bunch of kids next door having a play-date, or that you’re chasing the bear through traffic. You need to be cognizant of what’s going on around you, and do it from a safe space. You could be standing right outside your door knowing you could go back inside your house at any moment.
Would you say there are ever any legitimate overpopulation issues with bears, or is that view an excuse to go hunting?
Sylvia: I think it always comes down to human-caused conflict: people providing attractants for bears, and people not being willing to accept the responsibility of removing those attractants. It almost always comes back to people being able to solve the problem, and perhaps choosing not to, or not knowing how to.
Overpopulation? We can talk about bear biology. Bears go through courtship and mating mid-May through mid-July. That fertilized egg stays in a state of delayed implantation until they go to den. When they start looking for dens, if they have enough body fat to sustain a pregnancy, then one or more eggs will implant on the uterus wall. If they are not fat enough, the fertilized egg will just be reabsorbed into her body. So if the bear is really fat, she could have up to six cubs, although normally it’s two. If not quite fat enough, she might have one.
How do they get fat? By food availability. In the past, bears did not overpopulate their own habitat. They’re designed to sustain their own population by food availability. If there’s not as much food, there are not as many cubs, so that natural system doesn’t allow for overpopulation. People can affect that, in providing non-natural foods. This creates a slightly larger urban bear population than might be normally sustained in that same habitat, so it comes back to people.
If people want to get rid of urban bears, hunting in the woods does not target those bears.
What are your thoughts on human management vs. bear management?
Sylvia: We have to do both, but it certainly starts with people. And so we’ve now been looking towards community-based social marketing tools to foster sustainable changes in people. We’re not there yet. We need to work on changing social norms, to make it unacceptable not to be bear-smart, just as it’s unacceptable to get in your car and drive home drunk from a bar or visit someone’s home and light up a cigarette.
Would you argue against shooting bears in the name of human safety?
Sylvia: Yes. If you shoot a bear, you haven’t addressed the root cause, and another bear will move in to access that habitat or niche. It’s a cyclical problem, which shooting never resolves.
Nature abhors a void, right?
Sylvia: That’s right. Five homes in a row have bird feeders? If you kill the bear on that street, another is going to move in. Also, with shooting bears, there’s the issue with bear social hierarchy. Say you kill a dominant male, who’s been keeping teenage males out of his range. You’ve just opened yourself up to more than you had before.
Do you think we could achieve a no-shooting policy?
Sylvia: We have had zero-kill years in Whistler. It’s not the norm, but we have gone through a year with no bears shot because of conflict. Normally it’s because natural foods were abundant. Bears don’t choose to come into residential areas if they can get food elsewhere.
So it looks like we could live peacefully with bears!
Sylvia: Everything is in the realm of possibility. It’s our choice: We can see ourselves outside of the eco-system and continue in our selfish ways, or we can consider other animals in our daily lives, and adjust for them.
Then there’s the other extreme, with the animal lovers wanting to commune with bears and make bears into pets and feed them on their porch. I know you’re not advocating that, but there are probably people in your audience who feel that way. Let them know it’s equally destructive; for bears will be shot in the name of public safety. Feeding bears on your porch or backyard, deliberately or with a birdfeeder has the same outcome, even if the intention is not the same.
Thank you so much, Sylvia. This has been informative and a real pleasure. Any other thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
Sylvia: I’m working on my third book: a photo book with inspirational quotes and sayings, and joyful stories elevating bears, as a keystone species that represents all animals and wildlife. I’m just trying to do what you guys do, and elevate non-human animals in the consciousness and the everyday consideration of people as they go about their lives.
MORE INFORMATION: www.BearSmart.com
EDITOR’S NOTE: The interview was conducted on September 26 th and October 2 nd and is edited for clarity and space reasons.
LETTER 1 – Montana's Fishtrap Wolves
The Fishtrap pack is eradicated for the pleasure of hunters!?!?! (I can’t imagine that having a bullet rip through your insides is a pleasurable experience for wolves. I just could not subject an animal to that frightening and painful experience.) . . . and because a single cow was allegedly killed? Unconscionable, barbaric, and infuriating. The only way I know of to gain the attention of beef producers is to hurt them financially. Nothing else is likely to work. They are obviously limited in cognitive processing capacity. I live in Ohio, a long way from Montana of course, but I am quite prepared to give up beef entirely to gain the attention of beef producers. Perhaps if many of us do that the local producers will pressure their brethren in Montana. Anyone else interested in a boycott?
William P. Howell, PhD
Editors' Note: A full throttle boycott of the meat industry and its products spares heaps of misery. Thank you!
LETTER 2 – Stories From Alaska
Just got the Autumn magazine and liked a lot about it (including the fur poster) but have to say the tale of the jays and squirrels and the hawk took the cake — a true adventure story, really well written!
Cheers to “Avatar” and “Titanic” filmmaker James Cameron for going vegan and making the environment a priority.
“You can’t be an environmentalist, you can’t be an ocean steward without truly walking the walk and you can’t walk the walk in the world of the future, the world ahead of us, the world of our children, not eating a plant-based diet.” Well said, James!
Send cheers to:
Directors Guild of America
7920 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046, USA
A small company is making artisan almond and cashew milk. A cheer for this positive and creative initiative from OMilk — “Milk Without the Moo.” New York City dwellers can find it in retail stores or even have it delivered to their doors, like in the old times! Varieties available year-round include the Cashew Classic milkshake, Organic Almond milk and Cold-Brew Coffee Almond Milk.
Check them out: www.omilknyc.com
Cheers to musician and animal advocate Morrissey for his comments on The Colbert Report on October 9 th: “If you stick your grandmother in an oven, she will probably be tasty. But is that any reason to eat your grandmother?”
When Colbert objected by insisting “murder is delicious,” Morrissey answered: “But to a really intelligent being, murder is not delicious.”
Morrissey requested a meat-free studio environment on the day of his appearance.
You can contact the production company Comedy Central to say thanks and request more vegan coverage at http://www.comedycentral.com/help/programming-feedback ( According to its website, “Comedy Central does not accept postal mail for any reason.”)
Cheers to actor Anne Hathaway, playing the role of Fantine, for ensuring her wardrobe in Les Mis was vegan — down to the synthetic boots. Send a supportive cheer to:
9111 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills , CA 90210 USA
Movie-making for Expendables 2 resulted in the killing of about 22,000 endangered bats in Bulgaria. The crew disrupted a cave full of hibernating bats, causing approximately 30,000 to flee; it’s estimated that only 8,000 later found a new spot to resume hibernation. Please write to Millennium Films, subsidiary of Nu Image, to tell them you will not support the film, to ask them to help groups working to protect these bats, and to insist that the company’s future filming projects leave nature intact:
Nu Image Global Headquarters
6423 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90048
Thanks to Friends of Animals supporter Carol Meerschaert for alerting us to the Gaylord Palms Hotel, with its baby alligators in the hotel atrium, where guests are encouraged to watch them be fed. The hotel chain was just purchased by Marriott. Let the hotel know that the values Marriott claims to hold cannot possibly be furthered by captive alligators on display. Even if the alligators grow up and are kept alive in a refuge, as hotel employees claim, that doesn’t justify taking these youngsters out of their natural homes. Please contact:
Gaylord Palms Hotel
6000 W. Osceola Parkway
Kissimmee , Florida 34746
Hotel Operator: 407-586-0000
A big jeer goes to wolf-hater Alan Redford, a Montana legislator who, our supporter Denise Boggs has reported to us, joined hunting groups to file suit and overturn protection for wolves just north of Yellowstone National Park, opening this area to hunting and trapping. YNP is home to over 600 wolves, and at last count with a month to go, more than 130 have been trapped or shot by hunters. Contact:
Alan Redfield (R) HD 61
538 Mill Creek Road
Livingston , MT 59047-8709
Refer to http://www.leg.mt.gov for further ways to express your views about this activity to the Montana Legislature. Please encourage friends to speak up as well.
The staff of Friends of Animals wish to express our condolences and deepest sympathy to the friends and family of our long-time director for our New York City office, Sandra Lewis, who passed away on Dec. 21, 2012. Sandy, who lived in Craryville, New York, was 74 and suffered from Parkinson's disease.
I remember the day in the late 1980s, when Sandy appeared in my office, then in South Norwalk, Connecticut, and a request that I consider her for the post at Friends of Animals. Sandy breezed through an impressive portfolio of ads she produced for high-profile companies, and told me she was tired of working for the companies that sell drugs, auto insurance or other commercial products, and wanted to take a cut in pay to work at Friends of Animals. What a deal! Then she told me how much she adored dogs and all animals. I hired her on the spot, and her extraordinary talents unfolded for Friends of Animals over the next two decades.
Sandy attracted all kinds of talented and eccentric people to our work. She had top-notch ad agencies producing eye-popping ads for free. For anti-fur demonstrations in New York City, she produced the Bread and Puppet Theater puppets, and re-wrote Christmas carols and notable slogans with catchy anti-fur messages. And when I wrote the first vegan cookbook in 2005, Sandy found me a hard-working agent in New York City.
Sandy 's abilities were brilliant; her loyalty and devotion to our advocacy work made her irreplaceable. There was no one else like her in our field, and never will be again. Sandy was generous, sweet, super-smart and remarkably funny. I enjoyed hearing her talking about the 45-minute trip from Greenwich Village to the office — not because I enjoyed her ordeal, but because she had me in stitches with the stories.
Sandy 's twin, Susan Williams, said, “I know how loved Sandy was by all the people who have expressed sorrow and love at our loss of a special loving and dedicated life.”
I loved Sandy; she was an angel.
VEGAN FOOD TRUCKS ARE ON A ROLL
The term “food truck” normally conjures up thoughts of a greasy-spoon diner with wheels: fast, cheap and oily burgers and fries, fat-laden doughnuts covered with sugar, unidentifiable slabs of meat on a dirty grill.
But as more healthful, sustainable and kind living takes hold in the U.S., food trucks are becoming sophisticated.
Vegans have so many diverse and tasty choices. Here, to give you the gist, we sample a few gems.
GMonkey: Fresh from Farm to Street
Chefs Ami Beach and Mark Shadle aren’t monkeying around when it comes to wholesome, delicious food. Their mobile kitchen, Gmonkey, offers vegan comfort food, raw delights and freshly pressed juices — prepared, in large part, from their 100% organic, solar-powered, sustainable farm.
“We were inspired to open a food truck for the simple mission of bringing vegan food into areas deprived of that option,” certified raw chef, nutritionist and cookbook author Ami (pronounced “Ah-Me”) told us.
“Gmonkey came first, and then we opened our restaurant, G-Zen [in Branford, Connecticut]. Never did we expect the impact we’d have on entire communities, farmer’s markets and schools.”
The project involves educating communities about veganism and sustainable living. The restaurant and truck are part of the same “G-Green” sustainable mission: “We have the same amount of garbage a regular house would have,” says Ami.
Both Ami and “G-fans” agree that the hand-cut sweet potato “G-Fries,” ($6.00) which Mark has been making for 20 years, is their most-loved dish. Served with smoked hickory ketchup, they’re described by one devotee as “a religious experience.”
“We are redefining what vegan food looks like and making it sexy and provocative. We make it a sensory experience,” says Ami.
The grilled “G”, ($8.00) made of tapioca cheese on organic hearth bread with caramelized onions and house-made Shadle Farm Pesto, is beyond your typical grilled cheese sandwich. Referring to it as such would be an injustice.
The Feisty Monkey ($7.00) — whole-wheat soba noodles over organic field greens with fresh cilantro and house dressing sprinkled with cashew parmesan — is a surprisingly refreshing combination. The “Award-Winning Raw Fudge Truffles,” made from raw Peruvian cacao and coconut oil and sweetened with blue agave nectar, are sinfully delicious and (almost) guilt-free.
Although closed during the winter, the truck is always open for catering and will return this spring with new items and additional locations. “We keep a set menu, but we have specials every day just like our restaurant,” Ami reassures us. “We‘ll add specials daily depending on what’s available at the farm, and our desserts will be focused more on gluten-free offerings like doughnuts and cupcakes.”
Sighed a long-time “G” devotee: “I wish I could eat there every day.”
To find them, and learn more about their plans to expand throughout Hartford, check Twitter for @gmonkeymobile
On Facebook: facebook.com/gmonkeymobile
You can also call 860-759-8880 or send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Squeeze: New York City’s Love Affair with Raw Vegan Food
Overworked and over-caffeinated New Yorkers take heed: The raw vegan revolution has arrived and it’s called The Squeeze.
The newest star on the New York City vegan food-truck scene was founded by NYC native Karliin Brooks. The Squeeze Truck — and its mini-me, The Squeeze Juice Cart — caters to a health-conscious crowd, both vegan and non-vegan. (The New York Post recently spotted Colin Farrell “downing juices from New York health-food truck The Squeeze while in town.”)
No doughnuts or deep-fried seitan on this truck: only juices, salads, snacks (try the delicious sprouted buckwheat popcorn – $8.99) and desserts you can enjoy without the urge to run around the block 15 times.
The bustling business also offers juice cleanse plans ($59.00 to $79.00 per day) — not for the faint of heart or wallet; but then, it is the only 70% organic pressed juice truck in the country.
The most popular seller in the raw-foods category is the kale and quinoa salad with hazelnut parsley pesto and cranberry. Not a hint of bitterness in the kale; just the right amount of quinoa; a delicate sweetness brought by dried cranberries.
Also delicious is the feather-light strawberry coconut chia seed tapioca ($7.50); or try “The Jeans I Wore in High School” ($8.50): a concoction of orange, grapefruit and lemongrass tasting more like a pricey cocktail you’d have an at an upscale New York City lounge than a juice.
Karliin’s glowing energy and positive disposition — the kind you’d hope to find in someone who lives a healthful, cruelty-free life — shows through: “We are seriously committed to educating people and helping them transition to a pleasurable and sustainable lifestyle as well as saving the lives of animals,” says the founder, who plans to roll into the Hamptons this summer.
Further expansion is likely as word gets out that the vegan life is more than just a diet trend.
To find out more, visit thesqueezejuice.com. And check out their specials and news about current locations or catering on Twitter: @thesqueezetruck or via e-mail: email@example.com . They also have a Facebook page.
The Vegan Yacht Sets Sail — Texas-Style
As purveyors of good ‘ol Tex-Mex plant-based cuisine, Mike and Danielle Wood are a vegan power couple, both inside and outside of the converted trailer known as The Vegan Yacht. Together, they paint murals and menus on the outside of their Airstream, gather produce by scooter, and prepare and serve the food in generous portions.
Their vegan version of the Texas classic “Frito Pie” ($7.00) wins rave reviews from Austin visitors and Texas natives alike. And tempeh chili — with roasted corn, kidney beans, tortilla chips and avocado in a grilled tortilla — promises a delightfully crunchy taste explosion and does not disappoint.
The Vegan Yacht also sells beet brownies ($3.00) and organic smoothies ($6.00) such as “Jerome’s Chocolate Banana” (banana, soymilk, cacao and agave) and the “PB&J” (apple juice, peanut butter, peach and blueberry). They make their own seitan, cashew cheese, cashew sour “creem”, chorizos, and salsas to assure they’re organic.
The Vegan Yacht is currently moored at 1110 East 12 th Street, Austin, Texas 78702 (2 blocks east of I-35). Catch up with them on Facebook page or their website: http://theveganyacht.com . Or call 512-619-7989, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rockin’ the Vegan Tacos at The Vegan Nom
If you’re in Austin, driving along East North Loop-B, and you spot a little royal-blue truck with “Rockin’ the Tacos” emblazoned across the top, you’ve found the Vegan Nom. Owner Chris Rios has been slinging the tofu scramble at the “Nom” since the truck’s debut last year: “I was born and raised in Austin and breakfast tacos are a big part of Austin's culture. I wanted to preserve that…When you taste my food you get a taste of the real Austin.”
The Vegan Nom won the 2012 winner Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook Off. And a ll of the Nom’s signature tacos ($3.00 – $4.00) — the Avocado Real, the Bean Diablo, the Vegan Jalisco with its handmade vegan chorizo and slice of lime , the Local Tex-Mex, and the Three Amigos — have their own fan base.
“ We buy as much organic and local ingredients as much as possible,” says Rios. “We avoid GMOs; and our tofu, tortillas and spices are fresh from Austin, Texas.”
Why open a food truck instead of a restaurant?
“A food trailer allows you to be a little more interactive with your customers, and you can serve more people without the high overhead of a restaurant. It also supports Austin’s unique and creative culture.”
The backyard garden is ideal for a cold (BYOB) beer and the Bomb Nachos ($5.00) — corn tortilla chips topped with refried black beans, vegan queso, creamy salsa verde, onions, jalape ños, alfalfa sprouts and cilantro.
Rios hopes to introduce the tacos and homemade sauces into farmers markets, coffeehouses, and food stores, to “change the perception of what vegan food taste like.”
Keep rockin’ the tacos, Chris. We’ll be watching the store shelves for those sauces!
Visit them at 120 East North Loop Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78751. Look them up on Facebook, or send a tweet to @ thevegannom. On the Web: thevegannom.blogspot.com/ . Or call 512-217-7257.
Smokin’ the Good Stuff: Homegrown Smoker Vegan Barbeque
Homegrown Smoker’s Jeff Ridabock, in Portland, Oregon, does not claim to be in the business of serving vegan health food:
“We like to think of ourselves as a comfort food spot more than anything else. I do believe we are the first all-vegan BBQ in the world. We call ourselves Homegrown Smoker Vegan Barbecue, which is true as we source locally as much as possible (Homegrown), smoke our proteins with apple wood (Smoker), and only use plant-based products…We try to keep foods familiar, comfortable and casual. Foods most of us grew up with. We just do so without animal products. It's fun, challenging and delicious!”
In short, the Homegrown Smoker is a genuine vegan counterpart to raunchy, wings-and-fries style dining. Customers hear about how everything is made as lunch is served with their preferred level of sauces and spices. The customer base is intergenerational.
“My kids were my influence on becoming vegan,” Ridabock notes. “I was an animal-protein specialist for a national restaurant supply company for many years. If it came from an animal I knew all about it, how to prepare, serve, cut, and store it…”
Ridabock has now been vegan for four years.
A Connecticut native who migrated west, Ridabock began with coolers, a canopy and folding tables. Today, the “pit boss” and crew (Ridabock’s son Jared helps on weekends, with catering support from daughters Kedall Elise and Clara Matami) have become a Portland legend. The names of the foods are spoofs on the “mock” names vegans use. Big sellers are the Macnocheeto ($7.00), a burrito loaded with their Mac-Nocheese, smoked soy curls and beans; the Loafaroni ($8.00), a smoked Field Roast loaf with maple-bourbon sauce; and Mac-Nocheese ($8.00) on a grilled bun.
Enjoy a filling lunch here and have a feisty conversation about animal rights all at once. Find them at Mississippi Marketplace, at the corner of North Skidmore and Mississippi streets in Portland, just behind the Prost pub. Look for the green cart in the “Vegan Corner” next to Native Bowl. You can also phone 503-277-3823, or find them on Facebook, Twitter (@homegrownsmoker) or their web page: homegrownsmoker.wordpress.com .