Keep Whitefish wild by protecting wildlife

| October 14, 2020 1:00 AM

I moved to Whitefish from California in the late 1970s after traveling the U.S. for 10 years. This was the  best place to live that I had found anywhere. I loved that this is Whitefish, Montana, a rural, super  friendly, honest and incredibly beautiful mountain town, with wildlife abundant. This was not a big city  somewhere, and hopefully never to become one. That was why people lived here, visited here, moved  here, and forty-three years later, that is why I am still here. 

For me the greatest charm about the area has always been the wildlife. When I first moved here I was  quickly taught by the locals to respect the wildlife and importance of the role they played in our  environment and community. They were here first and that was to be respected, first and foremost. As  we humans are slowly taking over their wilderness, it is our role to live compatibly with the wildlife and  respect their presence, not fear them or try to eliminate them from our neighborhoods.  

Certain specific times of year we all knew bears, moose, deer, and mountain lions will occasionally roam  the streets of Whitefish. For me that has always been part of the charm of this beautiful place. The  privilege of cohabitating with the wildlife was a big part of why I chose to live here.  

A very sad story has upset me greatly. A mama bear with three cubs was shot and killed  in one of the Whitefish neighborhoods. Even more sad, the cubs cannot be found anywhere, and will likely die of starvation, be hit by a car or shot just like their mama, and left to rot, by some ignorant  human who has no right to be a citizen of our wonderful community.  

Whitefish has been flooded with a huge new population of tourists, many to become new residents. I hope and pray, these new residents will  take an interest, just as I did, in learning the ways of living peacefully in this area with our most special  residents, the wildlife. Please help us keep Whitefish the charming, wonderful, and a bit “wild,”  mountain town that made me fall in love with this place.  

For anyone relatively new to the area, I’d like to be the first to teach you, the way I was taught, to live  here peacefully, and respectfully with nature. For lesson No. 1, let’s just talk about bears specifically. Here  are some basic rules of thumb that I was taught to know, accept and respect: 

• Bears were here in Montana first and mean no harm to humans. 

• When you see a bear, realize you are privileged to see one, respect the fact that  they are wild animals, keep your distance, and they will leave you alone.  

• Do your best to understand their behavior, co-exist, and, don’t do things to get  them in trouble with the law  

• In the spring and fall, if we humans are careless and jam our garbage cans full of  discarded food items, bears will have a hay day. They don’t know any better. They can’t be taught to ignore human carelessness. Please put your garbage in a  ‘bear proof’ garbage can, or keep your cans in your garage or shed, and you will have no trash scattered in your driveway. It’s that easy to save a bear’s life. 

This is a plea to all the residents and guests of Whitefish, please respect the qualities, and critters, that make Whitefish so unique and such a special place to live, a charming  little mountain town with wild animals sometimes roaming the back alleys.  

If you do not like these qualities, Whitefish really isn’t the place for you. You will never  truly be that happy living here and should probably think of finding another place to  live. You won’t make a very good neighbor and it might be hard to make friends. I don’t  mean to say that in rudeness, just want you to be realistic. 

Kathy Sullivan, Whitefish