Column: Stop wrestling with animal rights, start wrestling with the bears

I'm sure the folks who live up in Lakeview have been following with interest the details of a wrestling match last weekend in Inglewood, Calif., between a man and a bear.

They've been wrestling with their own bear problems at Lakeview. But I don't think it occurred to them that they have a potential sports franchise in the woods above their houses.

If you're not plugged into bear wrestling news, which is kind of like professional wrestling with less hair, I'll bring you up to date on the Inglewood match.

The man, named Dominic Menaldi, a 290-pound weightlifter and bodyguard, claims to have won over his opponent, an 800-pound Alaskan grizzly bear named Dakota.

Dakota, apparently miffed at some pre-match publicity that he was out of shape, had no comment after the match.

However, he did inflict a gash under Menaldi's arm that required 16 stitches. I don't know how to score a bear-man wrestling match, but that's got to count for something.

Menaldi, setting the stage for a possible rematch, said he felt sorry for the bear. "I was feeling bad for him," Menaldi said, "because he wasn't into it. He was out of his element. The first time I wrestled him, it was in the woods where he felt comfortable."

I didn't catch that first match in the woods. Perhaps it was on pay-per-view.

Animal-rights activists naturally are up in arms over the spectacle. They say some California laws were broken, specifically the one that forbids a man from fighting a bear for profit.

What a crazy state.

The municipal code in Inglewood, however, makes it a misdemeanor to "worry or injure" an animal.

The city decided not prosecute, according to Assistant City Attorney Lynn Willhite. "I don't think it's a crime to wrestle a bear, in Inglewood or anyplace else," she said. "I think it's a crime to worry a bear, but as a practical matter a 290-pound guy is not about to worry an 800-pound bear if the man has a sane mind. "

If Menaldi does get arrested for bear-wrestling, it appears he has a good case for an insanity plea.

I agree that Dakota probably wasn't worried about Menaldi in the least. Unfortunately, however, the promoters were blaring rap music upon Dakota's entrance to the ring, and I think that constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Dakota was so upset that he refused to enter the ring, so they switched to "soothing" music by Italian crooner Andrea Bocelli.

This is another idea for Lakeview residents, who have yet to try rap music or Andrea Bocelli on their resident bear population. They could set up loudspeakers and play Eminem - in an attempt to drive the bears away - or Andrea Bocelli, with the idea of making the bears so docile they will quit eating garbage cans as if they were Slimfast shakes.

On the other hand, Lakeview residents may find the bears to be less annoying than either rap music or Andrea Bocelli. I don't know.

What's remarkable to me is that there are laws in California against "worrying" bears, while across the border in British Columbia they have a different approach.

They just shoot them.

In Prince George, a town roughly the size of Carson City located deep in the heart of British Columbia, authorities will shoot and kill about 50 bears this year.

Fifty bears. No wrestling. No relocation. No tranquilizers. Shoot 'em dead.

On a recent morning, a Royal Canadian Mounted Patrol officer stepped from his patrol car - apparently "mounted" can mean many things - straight into the face of a 200-pound juvenile black bear.

The officer pumped five shots from his 9mm service revolver into the bear, which phased him about as much as a wrestling bodygard named Menaldi might have. At that point, the RCMP had yet to exceed even the Californian definition of "worrying" a bear.

Other officers arrived and, within a few minutes, had finished off the bear with a shotgun blast.

"Quite an adrenalin rush to start your day," one of the officers was quoted as saying in the Prince George newspaper.

Probably so for the bear, too. But he probably would have preferred wresting. Or maybe even rap music.

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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