Wild Parents Kill Maymont Bears
As parents, we do not go to extraordinary lengths to protect our children. Instead, we keep our kids safe in a million little ways, every minute of every day. We hold hands in the parking lot; we take a wide swing around them when we're holding a hot cup of coffee; we reflexively throw a stiff-arm when we open the oven door. We keep them safe distances away from wild bears.
Most of us.
I am not, in any way, going to slam Maymont for this tragedy. I feel terrible for everyone who works over there. Maymont is, hands down, my favorite place in Richmond. It is a jewel, but one that has now been tarnished or smudged or cracked or whatever happens to precious things -- all because of the unbelievably irresponsible behavior of a parent or parents. The details aren't coming out (yet) but apparently last weekend a parent or parents allowed their 4-year-old son to climb over a 4-ft. fence and approach another 10-ft. high fence that surrounded the two bears who lived at Maymont. One of the bears bit or scratched the boy -- not severely enough to even require stitches.
The parents must have high-tailed it out of there knowing it was completely their fault because no one at Maymont was notified about it until Tuesday. After meetings with the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Maymont was compelled to euthanize both bears because of the small but possible threat of rabies. Both bears were destroyed because no one knew which bear bit the boy.
This is heartbreaking. If I had a dime for every time I walked that path and stood one of my kids up to the little window to look for those bears among the rocks and trees I would have enough money to hire a fancy lawyer to sue those parents for negligent idiocy on behalf of all of Richmond.
In the T-D this morning, Susan Allmond, Maymont's senior zoologist is quoted as saying, "They've been ripped from us." Those people, with their one foolish, irresponsible action ripped something from the entire city. They have managed to tarnish something so precious to us and they have, quite possibly, changed Maymont. Reports said there are no plans to change anything about the fences, but just watch. Maymont officials will get nervous -- rightfully so -- and fences will get higher and access to the animals will become more carefully choreographed, and that in itself will change the very nature of the Victorian estate and its beautiful grounds and the way it places you quite easily in a time when people were much closer to animals and nature.
I may be wrong. I hope I am. I hope this doesn't permanently change Maymont. But it's at least changed for a while, because for the foreseeable future when you walk down that hill past the hawks and the owls and get to those little windows, you will see nothing.