I have spent the last two months in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem working on a book about public lands, wildlife and people’s connection to ‘wild’ spaces. I’ve had countless conversations with strangers about the famous bison calf who was put into the back of a tourist’s car and then euthanized by the park service when the herd failed to take it in. The sensational headlines have grabbed the public, demonized the sympathetic father and son, blaming them for a tragedy that likely was never going to have a happy ending for the lone calf. Not one person I met had thought about how the tourists got the calf into the car or read the few articles in circulation that include perhaps the most important fact: the calf was not happily standing by mom before it took that famous ride in the back seat of an SUV. It was likely already abandoned.
Fifteen minutes into the open ocean from Oahu’s north shore the great Pacific rolled beneath a gray sky. The warm, moist air was smooth and smelled of salt and diesel fumes from the boat’s rumbling motor. The motor puttered to a hush as Nick secured the bowline to the mooring and the sound of light wind returned to our ears. Around and below us the ocean stretched forth, rich and solid. Within her, gray shapes passed below.
The thin branches of a huckleberry tree fluttered slightly, then shook unexpectedly; teardrop green leaves brushed each other with a soft rustling as their delicate homes shifted up and down. A moment of stillness, then the rounded head of a black bear appeared, following a sniffing wet nose towards the dark, round berries.