Friday, January 26, 2007

When Lions Attack

I know I have a thing about wild animal attack blogging, but it bothers me when I read about someone getting mauled unnecessarily. This time a 70-year old man, Jim Hamm, in a California state park suffered a mountain lion attack.

He and his 65-year old wife are experienced hikers and were on a well-defined trail when the lion grabbed the man’s head and tried to drag him into the woods. I guess it was dinner time for Mr. Lion when Hamm walked by (and yes I’m aware it’s a bad pun).

Hamm’s wife grabbed a log and tried to beat off the lion. Hamm told her to grab his pen and try to stab the cat’s eyes. She tried and when that didn’t work, she grabbed her log and resumed beating the animal. The lion finally decided enough was enough and fled.

Mrs. Hamm helped her husband to the trailhead and got help. He underwent surgery for scalp and facial lacerations. Park rangers hunted down and shot two lions; the story does not say if they ascertained which if either of the two cats was “guilty.” The quotation marks are there because the lion was only doing what comes naturally and is incapable of real quilt.

Here’s the main thing, we have two people in the woods without proper gear. They didn’t have guns and indeed were banned from having them (California Administrative Code Title 14, Section 4313). I don’t blame the Hamms. They were using the park the way the government wanted them to—passive observors instead of people who could actively defend themselves with something other than logs and pens.

Humans are tool-making mammals and those tools set us apart from animals with larger teeth and claws. When Mrs. Hamm grabbed a log and a pen, she used tools to defend her spouse. She created a club and a stabbing implement. Humans have made much more effective tools than sticks and pointy objects. We call them firearms and too many people in society and government don’t want us to have them.

I understand (although I don’t agree) why governments ban firearms and other weapons in parks. They’re afraid that some fool with more testosterone than brains will shoot an animal just to do it. Unfortunately, it’s a valid fear. A few gun owners give the rest of us a bad name. But, governments treat someone who wouldn’t shoot an animal needlessly just like they treat the idiot that would. The result is leaving presumably good people like the Hamms at the mercy of animals and two-legged predators.

Police the parks, arrest the idiots who abuse guns, but let the rest of us carry the tool that prevents us from being prey.

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