Katrina Shadix—founder and executive director of Bear Warriors United (BWU), whose stated mission is to preserve and protect bears, and all of Florida’s natural resources and wildlife, and in carrying out that mission, engages in an array of advocacy and educational efforts—recounts her lifelong love of animals, growing up in rural Florida, a second-generation Floridian. And Shadix may come by her passion for animals naturally, if not genetically: She notes her childhood home was occupied with cats and dogs, and, even now, her mom devotes her days to animal rescue in Georgia. But Shadix’s specific love for—and commitment to—bears came later in life, she explains—long after college (her degree is in environmental science) and forging a career as a medical assistant. And it kicked in under unusual circumstances. Shadix was rear-ended in a car accident, severely injuring her back. She underwent back surgery, and while recovering, heard–a few years after the fact–about the Bear Hunt of 2015. She was so horrified by this information, she recalls, she got out of bed, put on a back brace, and had a friend take her to a bear area, thinking she would scoop up and care for the bears orphaned in the hunt. That plan was ambitious, if unrealistic—but it did spur a more realistic move: Shadix launched Bear Warriors United, and initially considered the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) an enemy, because the agency had delisted bears from the list of threatened species, paving the way for the bear hunt. Over time, Shadix says, she’s softened her stance on the FWC, having recognized that the agency’s biologists and other employees often share her view on bears and bear policy, but express it privately, when saying so publicly would jeopardize their jobs. Shadix in her BWU guise, places a premium on education about bears and bear behavior, routinely functions as an advocacy organization (in 2020, Governor DeSantis signed into law her bear poaching bill, stiffening penalties against poachers), and is happy to provide people free bear straps to make their trash bear-proof. She also offers recommendations on what to do—and not do—when encountering a bear, road-tested (as it were) by once purposely running away from a bear! A must-listen…. (https://www.facebook.com/bearwarriorsunited)
ALSO: I spoke briefly with Robyn Tragesser, of Monarchs and Miracles, a farm in Lakeland which offers various kinds of animal-assisted therapy. They were scheduled on Sept 3 to be presenting Goat Yoga—which is not a yoga class led by the Greatest Of All Time (like, say, Serena Williams). Rather, as Tragesser explains, this involves a yoga session where the humans are surrounded by 14 goats, who might hang out, nuzzle, or climb aboard the human participants. Sometimes, she notes, less yoga gets accomplished than goat hugging, and it’s not uncommon after a class for one or more students to go out and get their own goat—that’s how much, and how quickly, folks become enchanted with goats. Tragesser welcomes anyone, eight-years-old and up, to take the class, and more information—including how to register for the class—can be found at the Monarchs and Miracles website: https://monarchsandmiraclesfarm.com (https://www.facebook.com/MonarchsandMiraclesFarm, https://www.instagram.com/monarchsandmiraclesfarm/)
COMEDY CORNER: Mike Birbiglia’s “I’m A Bear” (DS edit) (https://www.birbigs.com) only heard a snippet—technical glitch
MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals
NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.
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