Friday, July 12, 2013

Bear shot in Scout Camp

A letter I sent to my ward and stake leadership:

Image courtesy of Michael Elliot
Here's the story (see KSL):  Yesterday, a Scout leader shot and killed a black bear at the Hinckley Scout Ranch (formerly East Fork of the Bear Scout Camp, south of Evanston, WY).  Apparently, the camp site had been left in disarray, with food and other "smellables" left out rather than properly stowed, and the bear was attracted to food/debris left out on the table.  The adult leader made an attempt to scare off the peckish ursine, and when that proved impossible, he shot three rounds into the bear, killing it.  The Troop was sent home for putting everyone at risk. Their fees will probably not be refunded.  This situation would not have happened had appropriate procedures been followed.

My thoughts are these: this shows a fundamental lack of awareness and understanding of both Scouting and common-sense outdoor practices. Here are the two main problems:  1) The Scoutmaster and Scouts of the affected campsite apparently disregarded, and/or did not enforce, clearly-stated instructions to keep clean in camp (hygeine is still important at camp!), endangering everyone there.  2) He was "carrying" on a Scout activity.  The Guide to Safe Scouting clearly states, in BOLDFACE, that except for law enforcement personnel who may need to use them in the line of duty, firearms are not permissible on Scout camps, hikes, backpacking trips etc. (p.33). When (not if) the state prosecutes this man ('wanton take" is the term I am hearing), BSA will leave him out to dry for both negligence and violating BSA policy, concealed carry laws notwithstanding.

What does this mean for the Stake and its constituent wards?  To me, this underscores the need for training oversight (a function of the Troop* Committees) of all those involved in Scouting to make sure we have (in the words of master craftsman Norm Abram) "read, understood and followed" the safety/policy documents that will keep our boys safe, us out of trouble and mitigate liability.

UPDATE 12:55PM: Initial reporting being what it is, I had believed that the shots were fired by an errant Scoutmaster, but they were in fact fired by the Camp Director (who does have authorization to use firearms in an emergency).  The fact remains, however, that this was preventable by following basic bear precautions and NOT leaving candy bars out in the open (or worse, in tents). Basically as I understand it now, the CD took steps he felt necessary to protect 500+ people from a mess made by a handful.  I've added a few clarifications above, underlined and struck out. Although the statement about carrying your piece remains true, with clarification, it's no longer relevant to the story.

* Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, Varsity Scout Teams and Venturing Crews
(bonus arrow points if you spot the Monty Python reference)


Latter-day Scout said...

despite the initial errant interpretation and the retraction, I will wholeheartedly support your call for better training and awareness. The initial explanation is certainly plausible given my experience.. let's hope it never actually comes to fruition.

Pale-winged Trumpeter said...

The article stated that it was a young bear... yet the camp director felt that he needed to kill the bear to protect 500 scouts? I've never heard of a bear cub killing a scout or anybody else, for that matter - and it seems that it could have been handled better by a wildlife officer (which would not have resulted in potential charges).