Teri Orr: Wild, wild life
May 8, 2015
It is strange… the reversal. When I first moved to Park City it was much more rural. There were folks who had cows and horses and dogs outside their homes. In fact, the first year I moved here, a kid waited at the bus stop with his item for "Show and Tell." When the vehicle came, he rode his pony right onto the bus. The bus driver let him and the teacher thought it was a pretty exciting item to discuss. The Marsac elementary school (now City Hall) was welcoming.
In Park Meadows, in the Holiday Ranch area, those residents kept their horses in their backyards. You would take a walk and see folks who tied up their horses on the split rail fences outside their homes. They rode over all three resorts in the summers and the top of the Aerie and backside of Park Meadows into Round Valley. There were no homes on the tops of those hills.
The Night Riders were one of the favorite entries each year in the parade. Colorful characters, dressed like Old West ladies of the evening and their suitors, they would start at the top of the street and get as far as the Alamo (now the No Name) and they ride their horses inside to grab a pop before they proceeded to City Park.
And the sheep herders with their covered wagons where they camped out, would dot the lands in Round Valley and the open high meadows, between Park West and Park City Mountain Resort (think The Colony). There were sheep everywhere in the spring and summer.
But there was never talk of wildlife in the neighborhoods. Not ever.
Now we accept the fact moose roam the streets year round. Foxes and coyotes are spotted in residential areas. Deer hang out, right now, eating the tops off tulips like magpies eating, well, anything. It doesn’t come as surprise anymore to see critters inside city limits. And inside your yard.
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So this week when a 2-year-old bear has been spotted lumbering through neighborhoods from Jeremy Ranch to Park Meadows, we are shocked and on, FULL BEAR ALERT. I woke up Thursday morning to the un-characteristic sound of helicopters flying over my bedroom for a couple of hours. Turns out up the road, at my friend’s house, there was a full-on bear stake-out. With emergency vehicles and officers with long nosed rifles and a trap set up in the yard.
The baby bear managed to elude law enforcement.
Later in the day, the schools along Kearns Boulevard were on complete lock down… as if there was a shooter on the loose. Or some kind of national emergency. When I arrived home that evening there were two reverse 911 calls on my phone. The first, telling me there was a bear on the loose. The second, telling me the bear was still on the loose. And while I might have been concerned, I was mostly amused and bit sad.
All this came with a soundtrack in my head. Though I know the origin of the music is much older, like so many introductions to songs classical and others just classic, I first heard the melody, and later the words, on some Looney Tunes cartoon, I’m certain. All afternoon I found myself humming a lumbering heavy bass driven song, Teddy Bears Picnic. A song I loved as child and sang to my own children and now grandchildren. The thought of all the tiny teddy bears having an afternoon picnic in the woods away from their parents was a wickedly lovely little thought.
What if this 2 year old (and I have no idea if that plays out in dog years or some other strange conversion of animal life to human life equivalent time) was on a sojourn to meet up with some other kids and do a little wilding in the woods? I had a smile on my face, all my busy day long.
As of this writing The Bear is on the loose. And this little thief, of a couple of garbage cans contents, is evading a posse of pistol-wearing people intent on capturing him/her.
Which makes me really sad. I understand the bear could do harm to a person or a pet but that isn’t the real nature of a young bear. He’s just a curious kid. And the thought we need to trap him and remove him seems like we have flipped the balance of people versus nature.
Because back in the day, we never saw any wildlife in the city limits. There were all the places needed for wildlife to be wild. But we have built on all their mountain top retreats and hiding/birthing places. We have dug up or plowed under their berry patches and roughage. We have added golf courses and high-rise hotels in place of authentic open space. And year by year, we have flushed nature’s creatures out of their natural homes.
I will refill the bird feeders this weekend and thank the birds for flying by and stopping. I know that moose and deer will be happy to tip them over in the night as well. The masked-faced bandits and the squirrels will try to grab seeds and nuts and the wild rabbits that hop by on occasion will make me smile.
And when Sunday comes, I will remind myself whose ancestors lived in the Park, long, long, before me…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.