Wolf and lamb make unlikely bedfellows

August 10, 2004

Looking to the future, Isaiah prophesied that, in addition to the wolf and the lamb, "The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together." Though they may sound like unlikely bedfellows, let's hope the day is coming when all animals, including humans, will live together in peace and harmony.

A wolf and a panda sit atop my television set - that is, small, stuffed replicas of these animals. Although I had set them on either end for a balanced look, my 5-year-old grandson changed their locations. Without saying a word, he moved the wolf to snuggle up against the panda. I have to admit, they look less lonely now. In fact, I haven't the heart to separate them.

However, because of the facial expressions sewn into these stuffed toys, the wolf looks perfectly content while the panda has rolled his eyes as if to say, "Who wants to cuddle up to a wolf?" This standoffish attitude may well reflect the mind sets of both man and beast in eastern Kentucky.


According to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, "Bears have significantly occupied the ... counties along the state's eastern borders through all natural behavior. That is, bears have not been imported or released."

The biggest challenge with the bears' returns to their native lands in eastern Kentucky may be keeping the peace between humans and bears. The bear biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Department said, "We need to alter some behavior to prevent conflicts, and since we can't explain it to the bears, we're trying to educate the people."

This includes: don't throw out garbage; don't put garbage in cans until pickup day; don't leave pet food outside; and keep your barbecue grill clean.

What if you could communicate with bears? What would your advice be for the bears? My first suggestion would be that bears need to find some way to be helpful. One person, in commenting on a bear-sighting in northern Kentucky, suggested the bear had traveled to the area to eat cicadas. Now, that would be a neighborly thing to do. Especially if their diets could include Japanese beetles.

Or what if the bears discovered that those big, fat worms on tobacco plants were a bruin delicacy - this could be a boon to farmers. We would have to warn the bears to tiptoe through the rows of tobacco and not to crush or munch on the leaves. After all, we wouldn't want bears to take up our nicotine habits.

However, it is going to be difficult to school these bears in appropriate neighborliness, even should you survive learning their language. According to the experts, "Black bears are usually secretive and prefer to be left alone."

Let's sum up the whole subject with a wonderful quote that has nothing to do with the subject except that it does mention bears. "Never sell the bear's skin until you have killed the bear." LaFontaine: Fables (1668).

By the way, this saying is the origin of our use of "bear" to designate one who sells short on the Stock Exchange with the expectation of covering at a lower price. Don't ever say you didn't learn something from a bear.

Katherine Orton is a free-lance writer living in Danville.|5/6/04|***

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