Black Bear Diplomacy — A Modest Proposal

By Sid Marty | March 16, 2012


The Edmonton Journal has revealed, (February 22), that in 2011, Alberta conservation officers killed 145 bears in the Fort McMurray region, an all time record. Bears were attracted by the presence of garbage at residences and ethical oil camps. A poor berry crop caused the problem, we are told, so no charges were laid for improper garbage handling since this was all caused by an Act of God. I take it this culling was done as part of the government’s efforts under the Bear Smart program, which they plan to expand; Bear Smart program motto: “In Alberta, a smart bear is a dead bear.” Naturally this has raised the ire of enviros who see it as bear Apocalypse Now, “the horror, the… horror” that this should happen in this great land of hewers of timber and drawers of water—or rather, oil.

But what is really sad, as I will explain, is an opportunity we have wasted in the wake of China’s Sinopec oil sands investments, to cement cultural ties with the People’s Republic.  Comrade Joe Oliver, our Resources Minister, has rightly railed against the “billionaire socialists” of America, those counter-revolutionaries like the Tides Foundation who fund eco-terrorists –Harperspeak for citizens who disagree with him– in Alberta and elsewhere. Now that we have put those evil socialists in their place, and are firmly in the economic embrace of the Chinese Communist Party, which controls Sinopec, we have wasted a chance to show it our gratitude for its decision to divest us of our hard-to-market bitumen and our surplus natural gas, which is of little use in our lush, semi-tropical climate.  As those deep thinkers at Alberta Energy would say—“For God sakes, let’s get that crap to hell out of here, before it is orphaned in the ground by high tech solar mirrors and whatnot.”

As you know, we are incapable of refining bitumen in this province—Albertans just can’t do the complex math it requires. Comrade Harper has promised that the Gateway pipeline will ram our ethical tar through those pesky First Nations to fill Chinese tankers waiting on the Left Coast. Still, a bit more gratitude should be shown. After all, China, in the spirit of Panda Diplomacy, is renting us two giant pandas for a mere million bucks a year and found. Surely we must reciprocate, so as to not lose face with our benefactors.

Perhaps, I mused, we could rent China in return a battalion of diplomatic Canadian beavers to help them with their endless dam building projects—hewers of wood and drawers of water to the rescue.

But upon second reading—shazam! A light bulb went off in my head—a small light bulb for such a large head, but I digress. What is one of the greatest dishes in Chinese cuisine (no it’s not ginger beef, that was invented in Calgary) and what is one of the most celebrated elements in Chinese traditional medicine? The answers are, of course, bear paw soup and bear gall bladders, the latter selling in Asia from $1 to $33 per gram for a 30 to 60 gram gall bladder. Bear galls and bile are prized in Asian traditional medicine, and we have 40,000 black bears in Alberta.  You can see where this is going.

Despite the best efforts of Alberta’s PC government—“No that does not stand for Politically Correct, damn it”– billionaire socialist infiltrators in the Fish and Wildlife Division have decreed that Alberta will not tolerate the trafficking of bear parts, such as paws (which have sold for $250 each in China) and gall bladders. This is allegedly to protect look-alike species such as the Asian black bear and Sun bear they claim are being killed and parted out to satisfy the demand for bear paw soup and powdered bear galls in China. What a terrible slander against the great People’s Republic! Oh, here’s a factoid: Pandas are the only species of bear that don’t produce the active ingredient of bear bile, urso-dexycholic acid.  I guess that’s one reason why nobody parts them out these days.

It is common knowledge that medicinal bear bile in China is harvested by caring bear nurses in luxurious bear spas, where happy bears are housed in protective cages.  Using sophisticated surgical techniques, they gently milk bile from the gall bladder via open wounds, known as fistulas.

Instead of corralling our troublesome though ethically oiled tar bears for slaughter and harvesting of parts, which could have been tastefully gift-wrapped and delivered to the Chinese Embassy, they are simply shot and discarded! A quality gift of Black Bear Diplomacy has been wasted.  But it is not too late for a change of policy. Nova Scotia, a bastion of free enterprise where legislators are deaf to the ranting of enviros, due to the constant skirling of bagpipes, has legalized the trade in black bear parts. Why not Alberta? Bureaucrats would have us believe that the best way to deal with human conditioned bears is to shoot them. But western deer ranchers have shown us a better way. In their humanitarian quest to supply aphrodisiac antlers to Asia, to help increase the declining population there, they had to battle with billionaire socialist biologists who warned that disease vectors in deer and elk could infect game farm animals, then spread more widely into the wild population. These mavericks forged on, however, and today there are no deer with chronic wasting disease–west of Alberta’s Highway 2, that is–-and only 7500 farmed deer and elk have been “depopulated” since 1996. No sweat.

We can do even better by partnering with our Chinese friends using their math skills to set up black bear feed lots near their ethical oil camps. There the stream of surplus chop suey will attract a constant supply of black bears, to replace those that eventually stop producing bile due to coming down with a bad case of death. With the expertise gained in China, even we can learn how to harvest that urso-watchamacallit and bear parts like galls and penises for the lucrative Asian market. And since it’s all being done at an ethical oil facility, we can market the result as “ethical black bear products” to placate the bear huggers. Now that’s free enterprise, Alberta style. But here’s the best part: we can use the money raised from marketing our ethical black bear parts to China to pay the rent on those damned giant pandas!

Why didn’t anyone think of this before? As an old friend of mine once said:  “You know, sometimes I think I’m a genius. Not that I’m good at arithmetic or anything—but the things that go through my mind!” I have broken the ground, but I leave it to other entrepreneurs to find markets for the tar sands other wildlife products—ethically oiled duck and a tasty new species of goldeye, a great fish for grilling since you can use it as either food or fuel.  The locals call it “Bitumoreye”.


Sid Marty, a former Parks Canada warden, is the author of a book about poor garbage management and tragedy, The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek (McClelland and Stewart, 2008).


1206 words, March 15, 2012



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