Bear in Mind

Exploring the common minds and emotions of people and other animals and their lives together

The Fall of June

Eulogy for a Mother

Lynn Rogers, June, and Sue Mansfield

Lynn Rogers, June, and Sue Mansfield

Leaves are turning quickly now. Red maples are living up to their name, and aspens are mostly yellow. Leaves are just beginning to fall. All will be down within 3 weeks if they hold to their usual schedule. —Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, September 27, 2013 [1]

Little did the researchers realize that two days later, their fall soliloquy would turn to an obituary— the obituary of a victim. Her name was June. She was the mother of Ember and Cole, and only twelve years old. [2]

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources might have referred to her death as just a “kill.” After all, June was a black bear. She and another, Dot, were well known and part of a long-term partnership. The Wildlife Research Institute considered both Dot and June to be "research partners. We worked with them and learned from them. They knew us as well or better than we knew them. . . [they] are irreplaceable.” [1]

See All Stories In

The Social Brain

Are we wired to connect? By Matthew D. Lieberman, Ph.D.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Juxtaposed to the Cambridge Declaration of Non-Human Animal Consciousness, the claim of “just a kill” appears hollow, and June’s death, a murder. [2]

Political hyperbole? Not at all. Because science, our culture’s pundit of rationality that guides social ethics and law, declares that “key differences in human and animal brains, mainly found in the frontal cortex, do not play a role in the phenomenon we associate with consciousness.” Further, the “weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.” In common speak, bears share with us sentience, awareness, subjectivity, feelings, cognition, sense of self, agency, and, importantly, something that humans seemed to have lost: executive control. [3, 4]

June was fully conscious, fully capable of intentional behavior, fully capable of experiencing joy, grief, curiosity, wonder, remorse, consternation, puzzlement, ambition, exhilaration, tenderness, anger, love, shame, and all the 31 plus flavors of emotions and mental states that we experience ourselves. The capacity for consciousness means that bears may reflect on the existential and spirituality. Bears may believe in a God and have their own story of how the universe was created. Perhaps, bears even have a Big Black Bear Bang theory.

This speculation is not meant to be humorous. It is meant to encourage humans to think beyond the narcissistic confines of anthropocentrism, beyond the political agenda masked by selective use of scientific fact.

The time is past for speaking with forked tongue, celebrating science on one hand and using it selectively on the other hand for the sole purpose of appropriating power. In spite of itself, science has exploded a millennia-old myth that causes bears and other animals to suffer immeasurably. Individually, and as a society, we are compelled to translate this knowledge into ethics and law.

June’s children are now orphaned. The scorching blast of the bullet that laid their mother down has torn at the delicate tissue of their consciousness. They will recover in some sense. Remarkably, victims of genocide can somehow manage to scavenge a way to survive. But they will remain haunted and hunted until humanity ceases its cruel and angry scourge to obliterate those who simply live to love.

Photo credits: Charlie Russell, C & C Images

 

Bear and man together

Cinnamon and Charlie

Literature Cited

 [1] Rogers, L and S. Mansfield. 2013. The Wildlife Research Institute. http://www.bearstudy.org/website/

[2] Nelson, T. 2013. June the research bear killed by hunter. MPR News. http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2013/09/30/june-the-research-bear-believed-dead, Retrieved October 8, 2013.

[3] Cambridge Declaration. 2012. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. Retrieved July 9, 2013 from http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

[4] Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Non-Human Animal Consciousness. 2103. Website. http://fcmconference.org/ Retrieved October 8, 2013

G.A. Bradshaw, Ph.D., Ph.D. is the author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity.

more...

Subscribe to Bear in Mind

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.