Scoutmaster Minute- The High Cost of Getting Even

March 24, 2009

Years ago, you could go to Yellowstone National Park and watch the bears feed on garbage [see below].  An old Scoutmaster tells about one night when he sat on a stand of bleachers facing a dense growth of pine and spruce.  Eventually a grizzly bear, the terror of the forest, strode out into the glare of the lights and began devouring the garbage that had been dumped from the kitchen of one of the park’s hotels.  Now, a grizzly bear can ship any other animal in the Western world, with the possible exception of the Kodiak bear; yet he noticed that night that there was one animal, and only one animal, that the grizzly permitted to come out of the forest and eat with him under the glare of the lights—a skunk.  The grizzly knew that he could kill the skunk with one swipe of his mighty paw.  Why didn’t he do it?  Because he had found from experience that it didn’t pay.

I have also found that to be true.  I have encountered both four- and two-legged skunks during my life and found from sad experience that it doesn’t pay to stir up either variety.

When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us-power over our sleep, our appetite, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness.  Our enemies would dance with joy if they new how they were worrying us, exasperating us, or simply getting even with us.  Our hate is not hurting them at all.

Our hate only hurts ourselves.


(adapted from BSA Troop Program Resources, pp. 11-12)

From Bearman’s Guide to the Bears of Yellowstone National Park:

Grizzly bears…frequented the open pit garbage dumps that were located off the roads where food scraps and refuse was deposited from the nearby motels and restaurants in Yellowstone National Park. Grizzly bears are not as tolerant of people as black bears and never really hung out near the roads like the black bears.

     Having readily visible bears in Yellowstone Park was very popular with park visitors. It was also “considered to be the primary cause of an average of 48 bear-caused human injuries per year from 1930 through 1969.” (Cole; 1974 Yellowstone National Park Bear Management Order-4).  

    In 1970 the park service initiated an intensive bear management program designed to restore the grizzly and the black bear populations to subsistence on natural foods and reduce bear-caused injuries to humans. Regulations prohibiting the feeding of bears are strictly enforced as well as regulations requiring human food to be kept secured from bears. The garbage dumps have been removed and all dumpster’s and cans have been bear-proofed.

    As a result of this bear management plan we are left with a wild bear that feeds on natural foods and is a little more elusive in the park. However, we still have a few problem areas outside of the park, where bears come into contact with garbage and human foods and this results in many bear deaths each year. (Sanders, et al; 2001 Gallatin Canyon Bear Proof Trash Research Project)


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