The Day Quill Died

It really isn’t that big a deal. Wild animals die all the time. Why make a fuss?

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Predators kill their prey, animals die from disease and sometimes wildlife will even kill the young of their own species. The natural order of things has a rough edge.

With all that death around, why should it be a big deal if humans kill a few more with highway traffic and trains … even if it is in a national park? These things happen. After all, there is no evidence it was intentional.

It was not exactly a surprise when I read that another grizzly bear was killed this week. It’s happened before and it will happen again. When I found out the bear was walking down the middle of a road, it all seemed rather inevitable that it would be hit by a vehicle.

While these news reports are distasteful and sad, there are more important matters. For example, there were grieving Canadian families attending funerals this week after high profile murders and many more funerals for “ordinary” people. The death of a wild animal is simply not in the same league.

Some people are quite upset when a grizzly bear dies and many others don’t know or don’t really care that much. I understand a bit how the world works and those responses come from underlying assumptions. I’m also not a softie when comes to predators and enjoy watching them hunt. Death is part of the circle of life.

Still my fondness for wildlife has increased substantially over the years. I cringe now at the youthful conversation I had decades ago, musing about hypothetically hunting bears. We tend to learn a few things with age. In my case, I may not have turned into a sentimental sop but I understand how special it is to have even a small connection to a wild grizzly.

A couple of years ago I read about a mama grizzly killed by a train, leaving orphaned twins. I was intrigued when one of the cubs had to have 41 quills taken out of his paw by park staff. A few days later we were in the park and I was absolutely ecstatic to find and photograph the cub – appropriately nicknamed Quill. It was nothing short of a magical experience! The photos on this page explain it well.

Against all odds, the cubs survived their first hibernation and continued to grow. It was a heart-warming story of nature overcoming the cruel impact of human activity. On return trips to the park, I continued to hope and dream of another encounter.

This summer I checked with park staff and was thrilled to learn that Quill was still doing well. In a sense this was my grizzly.

In the last few days I learned of Quill’s death on the highway. Was it just another inevitable accident statistic? Not for me!

Related links: 

My original post on June 7, 2012 describing my encounter with the young cub.

Calgary Herald news story announcing Quill’s death. 

John Marriott’s account of Quill’s mother being killed. 

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Latest Comments

  1. FeyGirl says:

    Just heartbreaking…. We NEED to safeguard these creatures. There’s a big impetus out West to raise money for the mountain lions, to create a safe bridge for them, due to a new massive road being laid through their terrain. They’re now trapped, or being killed on the road. To me, it should be a no-brainer, with the state of these wild animals’ diminishing populations and our continued nonchalance with their protection.

    Thanks for a beautiful tribute to a magnificent, gorgeous creature… RIP, love.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I hope they get that infrastructure in place for the mountain lions – they are magnificent creatures and I hope to see one in the wild some day.

      The fencing and wildlife crossings in Banff National Park have a made a huge difference but there is still more that needs to be done, especially with the trains dropping grain on the tracks. It’s nice to know the bears are still there and occasionally I can get fortunate enough to one.

      Like

  2. Scott Marshall says:

    Yes Lyle death in the animal kingdom is indeed survival of the fittest of the laws of nature. It is however when man confronts nature that it goes wrong. The death of the solider on duty at the war memorial recently reverberated around the world. There is little governments can do to protect against random attacks like that on the other hand the official who stopped almost certain other deaths shows how brave people can be in pursuing their duty.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Like usual, you make good sense. I think the part that’s difficult for people to accept is that we can never stop all the attacks but we can take steps to have reasonable precautions in place. Ironically the same is true for humans killing animals in a park.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My Heartsong says:

    I read over the other articles that you high-lighted and loved the photos of Quill when he was younger-I get to know a little of his personality and yes, feel an attachment. it is a sad day, indeed.

    Like

  4. Outlier Babe says:

    I’ve been offline for two months–your new format is striking, as are these photos. They are wonderful. I especially like the rich, precise detail of the first, and the personality leaping out from the second. Beautiful job.

    Like

  5. babsje says:

    Heartbreaking, Lyle. Elegant and poignant, and heartbreaking. I’m so sorry for this loss, Lyle.

    Like

  6. Birder's Journey says:

    Such marvelous photos of this magnificent bear. You have really captured the essence of your human connection with him. So sorry you experienced this loss.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Its fascinating that we can feel a connection to an animal when it’s really not based on much more than observation. But it was a a wonderful experience to see him.

      Like

  7. Garden Walk Garden Talk says:

    Beautiful images and quite a sad end to a majestic creature.

    Like

  8. Phil Lanoue says:

    I know how awful we felt when some idiot ran over an alligator. How do you not see an alligator in the road?!?
    Tremendous photos of the always amazing bears!

    Like

  9. Suze says:

    awww. I’m so sorry, Lyle! 😦 Wild bears used to roam Germany’s woods. In 2009 they shot the last wild bear in Bavaria, I was so sad. How ironic the bear died in a National Park.

    Like

  10. Mike Powell says:

    The more time that I spend photographing wildlife, the more conscious I am that I am intruding into the home of countless species, small and large, and I try to walk lightly and do no harm. It’s sad, however inevitable, when a human’s actions cause the death of a wild animal.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yes, over the years I have become increasingly conscious of that. It’s hard to imagine what the spaces we now inhabit must have looked like before humans took over. I am thankful for all the national parks and other places that try to keep nature a lot less developed.

      Like

  11. Tuxedo Sophisticated Cat says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about Quill. It’s so hard when you have a personal connection. I am always sad when I see an animal that has been killed by a car. It is inevitable that animal will die by humans but it doesn’t make it any less sad.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      It’s interesting that it really doesn’t take much of a connection to make it seem a lot different. The human/wildlife interaction will continue to mean wildlife will lose but thankfully there is more recognition of that.

      Like

  12. dapontephotography says:

    So sad, well written heart felt words and great images of a beautiful bear.

    Like

  13. Mandy says:

    I can feel your ache across the oceans and I understand.

    Like

  14. kathydoremus says:

    Bittersweet post, and lovely photos.

    Like

  15. Lavinia Ross says:

    Beautiful photos of Quill and good article to go with them, Lyle. Have you ever heard of Ben Kilham? I read about him and his work with bears a long time ago. There are many good articles on him and his bears you can find via Google.

    Like

  16. Victor Rakmil says:

    Sad post, but a wonderful read, stunningly illustrated.

    Like

  17. ksbeth says:

    what a sad loss of such a beautiful creature, he was so full of life, that is obvious from the pics –

    Like

  18. Gunta says:

    Sure looks like Quill is posing especially for your camera. What a marvelous experience that must have been! I like happy endings. 🙂

    Like

    • Gunta says:

      Oops. I just read the link and learned it wasn’t such a happy ending after all. So it goes. At least the authorities are making some sort of effort with the wildlife fencing to protect critters and drivers alike.

      Like

      • Lyle Krahn says:

        I would definitely have preferred a happier ending in this. Nevertheless I always have the memories and photos. Part of the reason for sharing my photos and stories is to get others to see the value of wildlife. Our Canadian parks have done a lot to protect the animals but it’s a challenging balancing act when there are strong voices on both sides.

        Like

  19. westerner54 says:

    The critters never win when they enter our world, do they? I guess we don’t always win when we enter their world, either, but the power is definitely on the human side. Sad, but it’s so great that you have these stunning photographs to share.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I am so pleased to have photos as a remembrance. It’s another reminder of many that all the time we have is today. It is frustrating how many animals get killed by human activity. And like you say, they don’t really have a chance.

      Like

  20. Steve Gingold says:

    Yes, there are many important things in the world, some saddening and some joyful. I see no reason to feel any less sadness for the passing of a non-human creature when there is a personal tie. My dog recently received a cancer diagnosis with a not very good prognosis. I can guarantee you that we will grieve for him just as strongly as any human. Obviously, a domesticated animal like a dog most often will have a stronger bond with us than a wild one, although I know of a few humans who have developed strong bonds with individual wild animals. I think it is a shame more people don’t feel strong emotional ties with wild animals even without a personal relationship.
    It is great that you have such endearing photographs of Quill.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Sorry to hear of your pet – that is not an easy time. I’ve never had a pet I see the difficulties other experience as they decline.

      We humans can be an interesting lot. So often we can be nonchalant about a whole bunch of issues then we develop a relationship with a person or animal (or even a really loose connection with a wild animal) and suddenly we view the situation quite differently.

      Like

  21. Honie Briggs says:

    Quill, it seems, enjoyed being photographed. Very photogenic creature, as so many of your subjects are. A sad story, and as you point out, probably not the last one.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      He was an amazingly photogenic creature! The time I spent doing it was unforgettable. There continue to be too many bears killed by cars and trains in the national parks. It’s not an easy problem to fix.

      Like

  22. Carol says:

    Thank goodness you have immortalized him in your outstanding pictures. Take care and I feel your sadness on the death of this beautiful animal.

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Thanks. It continues to a driving force to continue taking photos of moments in time that will never be repeated. I am still thrilled with the opportunity I had with Quill.

      Like

  23. Susan Portnoy says:

    P.S.. I just love the one of him standing up. What lens did you use?

    Like

  24. Susan Portnoy says:

    Wait.. it was Quill that got hit by the car? How did you know the cub died?
    The photos are just lovely and like the new theme. I’m not loving mine.. want something that is better for photos but also has good presentation for writing..Argh!!

    Like

    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Yes Quill was hit by a car and then had to be put down. I read about it in the news article linked at the bottom of the post.

      I found it quite difficult to find a theme that worked for both photos and writing. I invested quite a few hours in that pursuit. Glad you like it.

      Like

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