4 years ago
From Reason.com (h/t Say Uncle):
Richard Ahlstrand, of Auburn, Massachusetts, faces criminal charges after encountering a bear in his back yard and shooting the damned thing to avoid being mauled or eaten. Specifically, as noted at Reason 24/7, he’s 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, once translated from Massachusetts to American, seem to stack up to outrage that Ahlstrand didn’t make his yard completely inhospitable to animals that are rarely seen in the area, and then investigated a suspicious noise with a weapon in hand rather than cower under the bed. Worst of all, he actually defended himself when he encountered danger.
According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Ahlstrand had a 50-gallon drum of birdseed in his backyard, and this appears to be the basis of the “baiting”charge against him. Leaving the birdseed outside might be considered a foolish idea in an area where bears are known to congregate, but the same article quotes the police chief claiming that “bear are not common in Auburn” with the last such sighting about a year ago. So Ahlstrand shouldn’t have had birdseed because … ?
When confronted by the bear, Ahlstrand had a shotgun with him — in his own backyard, remember — because he’d heard a noise and thought he’d seen a bear the day before.
From CBS Boston:
Richard Ahlstrand told WBZ-TV he was stocking his bird feeder Friday night when a bear about seven feet tall and 300-to-400 pounds started chasing him.
That’s when he turned his shotgun on the bear.
“I didn’t have time to aim through the sights, but I aimed in the direction of the head on this thing and I pulled the trigger before it got to me. It just dropped,” he said.
Ahlstrand said he was carrying the shotgun Friday night because he thought he saw the bear in his yard Thursday.
The police version from the Telegram:
Chief Sluckis said the bear is believed to have been attracted to a 50-gallon drum of birdseed Mr. Ahlstrand had in his backyard. He said Mr. Ahlstrand told police he heard a noise outside and felt in fear of his life.
“He went back inside, retrieved a shotgun and decided to shoot the bear,” Chief Sluckis said. “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.”
I’ve lived in Boston and Worcester both, sad to say, and so I’m fairly certain that official Massachusetts policy is that people should dial 911 and then curl into a fetal position whenever they hear a curious noise. But living in the wide open spaces of Arizona, as I do, I’m called upon to investigate suspicious noises fairly frequently.
When backpacking I am a great proponent of taking smells away from camp as much as possible. We have had all manner of wildlife in camp even in spite of our best efforts. Having a large container of food in the yard may not be the wisest thing to do.
But this is a man, made in God’s image, contrasted with an animal, which is not. Laws that favor animals over man are immoral, and there is no question what a judge or jury should do in this case. If I carry a gun in order to stop an assault by another human, I’ll surely stop an assault by an animal.