Who Killed Otis? We Did

By | November 2, 2015 | 0 Comments


Some time ago I was watching the local TV news. I do this not to learn the news, of which little is shown, but to find topics for my website. That night there was one – Otis.
Otis was a German shepherd. From his photo, I learned that he was handsome. From his grieving owner, I learned that he was loved, and also that he was large – 100 pounds. But even a 100-pound German shepherd was no match for the 200-plus-pound mountain lion that jumped the fence into his back yard one night in the Los Angeles area. His owner searched nearby brush until he found Otis’ partially eaten body.
The owner reported that officials issued him a permit to shoot the mountain lion if it returned to his property. We have reached the stage that defense against wild animals – on four legs or two − is no longer a God-given right, but a privilege to be doled out by officials at their whim. Some might call this “civilization.” I have a less polite term.
Animal-control officers advised residents to keep pets inside at night and to watch their children at all times. How it is possible to watch children constantly, or why this is necessary in a fenced back yard, was not explained. But this utterly passive response is typical of modern society – in regard to wild animals as well as to criminals. In psychology it is called “learned helplessness.” In bumper-sticker culture it is called “Give peace a chance” or “Arms are for hugging.” I have less polite terms for these, as well.
Coyotes are intelligent and run in packs. Once they learn that they can attack dogs and cats with impunity, they begin attacking humans. Orange County, California, reports increasing incidents of coyotes attacking children and adults. But no one – literally no one – proposes shooting one of a group and letting the others run back and report that the area is no longer safe for predators.
Elsewhere in California, two mountain lions were seen near an elementary school. One was tranquilized and will be returned to the forest – where we hope it will remain. The other remains free. As with the frequent coyote attacks, a woman on TV commented, “They were here first.” No, one-celled organisms were here first, but so what?
Our primary obligation is to protect people, especially children. Our secondary obligation is to protect domestic animals. Protecting wild animals, especially those not endangered, is our choice. If we choose to protect them in preference to children and domestic animals, we are responsible for the results.
Suburban areas in California intrude into areas where mountain lions and bears roam. The area where Otis lived was the scene of mountain-lion sightings in the past. Those who live in these areas for the beauty and peacefulness must accept that there is also a risk of dangerous animals, just as those who live in urban areas must accept the risk of higher crime rates and heavy traffic. This much we can agree on.
The disagreement arises about how we react to the risk. Urban dwellers expect increased police presence to deal with higher crime rates and reckless drivers. Sometimes they get more police; sometimes they don’t. But what can residents of suburbs or the outskirts of cities expect? In a word, nothing.

● If they see coyotes tearing apart a cat in the middle of the street, as my wife and I did, they don’t bother to report the incident. They know nothing would be done. And if they did something themselves – shoot the coyotes – they would be arrested.

● If they see a coyote jump the fence and try to carry off their small dog, as did a friend of ours, they know they have to deal with the situation themselves – in this case, by throwing coffee on the coyote. Luckily, the coyote was not a coffee lover and leapt back over the fence. Coyotes can jump at least a seven-foot fence.

● If they drive their child to an urban school early in the morning, as did a colleague of mine, they can expect to see coyotes roaming the schoolyard. So they wait in their cars until other people arrive, and the animals decide to leave. The situation is controlled not by parents, or by teachers, but by coyotes. Perhaps there is a lesson here. Perhaps we should not abdicate control to the wildest and most vicious among us.

● If they go out jogging near a town, as did a woman in northern California some time ago, they can expect to be killed and partially eaten by a mountain lion. Yes, it was here first. That’s not the problem. The problem is that it was also here last.

● If they go out jogging near a city, as did two women in southern California more recently, they can expect one to be severely mauled by a mountain lion – and saved from death only because a bicyclist risked his life to drive off the animal.

It is illegal to hunt mountain lions in California, though they are no longer endangered. It is illegal to trap or poison coyotes. It is illegal to shoot them in urban areas, or to discharge a firearm at all, though coyotes are overly abundant. And if a cat, a dog, or even a jogger or a child is hurt or killed, what happens? After the facts are briefly reported, the TV is almost sure to show a video of a mountain lion lying sleepily, swishing its tail like a housecat, or a coyote trotting along like a domestic dog. Video of injured or dead people or pets is rarely shown.
Frequently this report is followed by an “environmentalist” proclaiming that it’s our fault for intruding into the animals’ habitat. Of course, the entire planet was animals’ habitat, so the end result of this line of thinking is the Final Solution of the Ecology Problem. Some “environmentalists” are frank enough to state that there are far too many people on Earth. How this differs from Nazi ideology is hard to see.
These people declare that to “save the Earth,” there must be a radical decrease in the human population. How they will achieve this we can only guess. But when Bin Laden started talking about the dangers of man-made global warming, we had a clue. When “environmentalists” and mass murderers agree, it is not an encouraging sign.
At the same time that brain-damaged Terri Schiavo was being dehydrated and starved to death over 13 days, in another part of Florida an alligator had to be removed from an urban area. Officials needed to reassure a worried public that the reptile had been taken to an animal preserve and not killed. Officials felt no pressure to reassure the public about Terri Schiavo’s well-being. If I had to express what is wrong with us in one paragraph, it would be this one.
Sympathy is lavished on the predator, leaving none for the prey. We have a shameful tendency to sympathize with predators – both animal and human. Perhaps this reflects our subconscious admiration for the predator’s strength and ruthlessness, and our fear of being like the victim. A proverb states that if we are kind to the cruel, we will be cruel to the kind. That is, if we use up our sympathy on those who don’t deserve it, we will have none left for those who do.
If we waste our sympathy on criminals and focus on their unhappy childhoods, we will have none left for their victims, even for abused or murdered children. If we lavish our sympathy on terrorists and search for “root causes” and “legitimate grievances,” we will have none left for their victims, even for those trapped in collapsing office towers. If we squander our sympathy on predators, we will have none left for their victims, even if they are our most loyal companions. But isn’t this exactly what we have been doing?
Who killed Otis? We did. But we didn’t even notice. We were too busy worrying about the well-being of predators.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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