Bears Chasing Sheep

by Robert Gear (September 2017)


The Wait, Kendra Mallock, 2013




The following headline in The Daily Telegraph (July, 22nd, 2017) caught my eye: Hundreds of sheep killed after bear chases them over cliff.

Was the headline writer trying to tell us something beyond the surface meaning? That was my first reaction. But then sobriety settled in, and I realized that the words were merely literal. The tragedy (at least for the owner of the sheep) took place on the French-Spanish border in the Pyrenees Mountains. A spokesperson for the French Farmers Federation declared, “The state, which is responsible for the reintroduction of the bears, should remove the ones that are causing problems and should not reintroduce any more bears.” The article goes on, “The verbal protest was the latest battle in the long-running war between livestock farmers and animal conservationists who believe bears have their rightful place in the mountain range.”

There are literary and biblical parallels involving wild or untrained animals. In Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, for instance, an untrained dog belonging to Gabriel Oak, a Wessex shepherd, drives the entire flock over a chalk pit, leaving him with nothing except the clothes on his back. For Oak (and the name ‘Oak’ gives a clue to his steadfast character), this tragedy eventually leads through a series of incidents to eventual good fortune. But, of course, that is novelistic license.



Robert Gear now lives in the American Southwest.  He is a retired English teacher and has co-authored with his wife several texts in the field of ESL.


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