Ojai memorializes Elliot, the bear that touched its heart

by Suza Francina on February 13, 2010

A sensitively written story in the LA Times, by Steve Chawkins.
Story of the Bear Sculpture

Note: Thanks to Robert Peake for calling our attention to the LA Times story.
Robert read the poem he wrote the morning after the bear was killed, at the Bear Art Dedication.

To the Bear in a Neighbor’s Tree
How quickly we become accustomed to the light,
blinking through discomfort, standing upright,
when our claws break, we fashion tools, use
them, and then just as easily put them down.
We discover clumps of hair on the ground,
and see our lack of fur as a great improvement,
stamping and shivering, we like a cold wind!
When our night vision fades, we stumble a dance.
Now, we have lost you too, primeval cousin,
lost the instinct that might have guided us
in shooing you back where you came from.
We can no longer smell what is on the wind.
You sat all day in a tree, learning our gestures.
You waved at the crowds and considered making a speech.
When you became too much like us, we brought you down,
and hauled your massive blackness into the night.
The truth is that we lost you long ago, long before
our friends loaded up their guns. Look how far
we have come! Our fingers fit the triggers.
And still we remember not to look in an animal’s eyes.
I looked, and became frozen on my couch.
I blinked into the sunlight, and you were gone.
The black spot in the tree is no longer you.
It is the place that you have burned into my mind.
Poems and other writings by Robert Peake can be viewed on his website:
Related Stories From the L.A. Times
Wildlife advocacy group against proposed changes to California bear hunting regulations

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert February 13, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Thanks, Suza. I thought this reporter really captured the spirit of the event, and of the community coming together to honor the memory of the bear through many different contributions–from drumming and impromptu speeches, to important information we can use to educate ourselves to help prevent something like this from happening again. Despite being from the big city, the journalist seemed to understand and respect the significance of this event for those of us in Ojai who were touched by the bear.


Suza February 13, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I wholeheartedly agree, Robert. The writer, Steve Chawkins, showed great sensitivity reporting this story.
I also noted that the subtitle did not resort to the usual euphemism, “euthanized.” It actually stated:
“A monument graces the city where the visitor climbed a tree, touched hearts and was killed.”


Cara February 14, 2010 at 5:27 am

Keep fighting for animal rights. It’s only the beginning.


BC February 15, 2010 at 8:23 pm

What about bear meat? It’s suppose to be really good when prepared like a breakfast sausage. And bear skin rugs? They seem like they would be really warm.


judy k February 15, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Have you ever tried human meat, BC? I hear it tastes like pork chops! And what about human skin lamp shades? They seemed to be really popular about, oh, 75 years ago!
Please respect others’ sentiments and refrain from you unnecessary, biting comments.


BC February 16, 2010 at 7:54 am

You don’t have to play the Nazi card, First Nation peoples ate bear meat and used bear skins, are they Nazis too?


judy k February 16, 2010 at 7:53 pm

It was your TONE I was responding to, BC–inappropriate, disrespectful sarcastic comment on this story. I eat meat, and I’ve had bear meat, too. Please be more respectful. Thank you.


Suza February 17, 2010 at 7:45 am

Thank you, Judy, for your Comment.
BC, I have read enough books such as “My Life As An Indian,” to know the difference between hunting for “sport” with dogs, high tech guns, tracking devices, etc., and hunting for survival.
Chumash elder Julie Tumamait has also pointed out that bear, who walks upright and has a body similar to humans, was considered a “brother,” and not eaten unless it was necessary for survival.


BC February 17, 2010 at 8:37 am

You mischaractorize the hunting community. They probably have more respect and concern for the welfare for the animals they hunt than the average person. That’s why rural people have really connected with down home folks like Sarah Palin who know how to hunt and survive in the wilderness. The bear population has quadrupled that’s why fish and game are raising the limit.


Suza February 17, 2010 at 8:56 am

BC, several Ojai Wildlife League members, including myself, recently met with Fish & Game officials. We listened respectfully to each our various points of view and had a productive dialogue about many issues.
I do understand that not all hunters are alike. I have to run to work but perhaps we can discuss more another time…


To Brian Cox February 17, 2010 at 10:23 am

Brian, new hunting Comments are under the Letter I posted today from Marge Emerson to Fish & Game.
I would like to know your opinion on the
Fact Sheet on Hound Hunting:


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