Letters / Anchorage Daily News / August 6, 2005
What a charade; bear biologist was slapped down for telling the truth
"Bear expert" is exactly the correct title for Rick Sinnott ("State hogties bear expert over remarks," July 28). This unsung hero of the Anchorage Bowl has worked incessantly to balance the needs of Anchorage residents and local bears (as well as other wildlife). He's worked countless overtime hours and put up with undeserved criticism for his "on-the-spot" decisions.
Now the "PC Police" in the guise of superiors have muzzled him as a spokesman for Alaska Department of Fish and Game. What a shame! His comments regarding the mindless dumping of fish carcasses were perfectly appropriate. It's too bad that hardworking Fish and Game biologists like Mr. Sinnott are slapped down for telling it like it is. No one in the local area has worked harder than this dedicated biologist to meet and balance the needs of the wildlife and "city-life" communities. He deserves accolades -- not "PC charades."
---- Dave McClannahan
Thank goodness someone muzzled Sinnott; we appreciate the silence
Good news! Sinnott silenced, finally! Rick Sinnott had way too much visibility by way of our local television stations and Daily News articles. Sure, the people are aware of bears and garbage issues, but it appears Sinnott let it get to him personally. I once read that he was staking out homes in the evenings, photographing garbage cans that had been placed out the night before pickup, and providing these to the authorities for fines. Talk about obsession!
I'm sure that if the people of Anchorage and surrounding areas were polled, the majority would give thanks for the silencing. There is no need for every household in the municipality to wait till an hour before pickup to put out their garbage cans. Sinnott's silence is much appreciated, thank you very much.
---- Jacques Bergmans
Let's hogtie bears, not biologists
What happened to free speech? Rick Sinnott sees a problem and cannot talk about it. It appears Commissioner McKie Campbell wants the media's attention for himself.
---- Nancy Hood
Sinnott deserves a megaphone and a medal, not a muzzle
Rick Sinnott has consistently expressed, indeed, lived his concern for the wildlife with whom we share our city; now he has been muzzled. It's a sad day for the bears and an equally sad day for the people. The bears are left without his protection, the people deprived of his insight into how we can all live together peacefully.
I met Rick when I came home from work on a Friday evening to find a baby moose crying plaintively in my yard. Apparently the mother had been hit by a car. I called Rick at home. He came that evening and, worried about its vulnerability, tried for some hours to catch it. No luck. Rick returned Saturday with his wife and a visiting relative. Again, no luck. Rick returned yet again to set up a big net in an effort to corner the little critter.
While we never did catch the little moose, the extended effort impressed me with how much Rick cares. Hearing him address community council meetings, I was impressed with how much he knows.
It is no big deal to put the garbage out in the morning or to dispose of fish waste carefully. Rick should be given a megaphone and a medal, not a muzzle.
---- Susan Soule
Blame reporter; Daily News didn't have to print bear expert's comment
Rick Sinnott's off-color comment ran under the headline "Rotting fish dumped on Hillside, prime bear real estate" (July 21). Perhaps a better headline for the piece would have been "State biologist uses the 'A' word." The true shame, I feel, is on journalist Doug O'Harra and the Daily News. O'Harra took a story on irresponsible fish dumping and the hazards it was creating and turned it into a hype-piece on a single misguided comment by Sinnott. Using juicy bits of hype that detract from the point of an article is irresponsible journalism. Proceeding to publish the article without editing the hype was irresponsible of the Daily News.
---- Ben Rolfs
Citizens need to clean up their acts and keep trash out of bears' reach
Rick Sinnott should be given an award for raising community awareness regarding the Anchorage community's problems with bears and garbage, not excoriated for making public a problem that affects us all.
Bears were here before us, and they are opportunistic eaters. If we deny them food, they will look elsewhere.
Anchorage is not the only town, city, village in Alaska with bear intrusion problems. Most communities provide for fines for untended or uncollected garbage that has been left sitting out at the curb too long.
Please, Alaska, let's take care of our waste!
---- Alan R. McGillvray
Sinnott's a scientist, not a politician
Regarding those who create bear problems:
If it walks like a duck, acts like a duck, looks like a duck ... why shouldn't Rick Sinnott call it what it is: a duck? Mayor Duck and these quackers want to live in a safe urban/wildlife city, but no one wants to be responsible for their actions or follow a few simple common-sense rules. Rick will never be a good politician; he stepped on too many webbed feet.
---- Carolyn Kline
Bear biologist's frustration over city trash problems is understandable
The ill treatment of Rick Sinnott by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for uttering an inappropriate comment was a purely political act. It is yet more evidence that politics, not the welfare or proper husbandry of our precious wildlife, is what drives many of the decisions of Fish and Game.
The statement that got him in trouble was one of pure frustration. Because he has dealt with the problem for years, he understands better than anyone that the careless disposal of fish and the refusal of people to cooperate in dealing with garbage bears will not only lead to the deaths of many bears but ultimately to the mauling (or worse) of a human. Given that Mr. Sinnott's expert advice is almost always ignored, it is no wonder that he was momentarily intemperate.
I am a field biologist and have known and frequently consulted Mr. Sinnott for his advice over a period of several years. The bottom line is that he is intelligent and hardworking, conscientious in the extreme and as good a man as I know. As far as I am concerned, his superiors, who appear to be more concerned with politics than wildlife management, should be sent to the mail room (after apologizing to Mr. Sinnott), and Rick should be reinstated and given a raise commensurate to his impressive competence.
---- L. J. (Smiley) Shields, Ph.D.
It's about time somebody told sharp-tongued biologist to be quiet
It is about time someone told Rick Sinnott to clam up. As a former resident of Eagle River, I can tell of twice where a bear had a moose kill in the spring and Mr. Sinnott told the neighborhood that the bear would go away when the kill was devoured. He did nothing to try to relocate the kill or alleviate the situation until the bear got into someone's garbage two days later and had to be put down. Amazingly, nothing was said about the prior calls; it was that the neighborhood was irresponsible.
Speaking for most people I know in Eagle River, no one wants to see bears destroyed, but when it comes to bears or our children, the decision is easy. Mr. Sinnott needs to concentrate on his job and stop bad-mouthing everyone else.
-- Charles Howard
Hang in there, Rick; we need you
If the state ever goes bankrupt, the last employee to be let go should be Rick Sinnott. He is a fantastic public servant and puts in way more hours than any other state employee I know of. Oh, by the way, I agree with his quote and would venture to guess that most Alaskans do.
Hang in there, Rick. We need you and we appreciate all you do.
---- Jeff Lowenfels
Murkowski administration seems to take the hard line on biologists
Boy! You sure don't want to be "unprofessional" in the Murkowski administration, especially if you are a biologist. First, it was all those "unprofessional" habitat biologists who, as a result, were either reorganized out of their jobs or transferred to another department. Now it's another biologist, one who let his anger over some stupid humans get the better of him. They would have put him in the stock in the public square, if we still had stocks or a public square.
On the other hand, if you're an unethical employee, the governor will personally defend your duping the public to the bitter end and even then will be sorry to see you go. Boy! And I used to think that being unethical was unprofessional.
---- Jan Konigsberg
Political correctness beats honesty?
Rick Sinnott has done more than anyone to raise awareness of challenges posed by urban bears. His remarks, most likely off the cuff, were reflective of a genuine human response. What's the problem with that? It would seem we've become a community where so-called political correctness trumps honest emotion.
---- Ken Flynn
Daily News fails to own up to its irresponsible role in Sinnott affair
For years, Rick Sinnott has been the best friend a newspaper reporter could ask for. He always answers his phone. He knows more about wildlife in Anchorage than anyone else, is articulate in his explanations and always gives reporters a direct answer. Rick does not hesitate to say what he thinks and in these days where politics and "spin" dominate, his candor is refreshing. Daily News reporters have taken advantage of these characteristics to add information and interest to dozens of articles on Anchorage wildlife.
So how does the Daily News repay Rick Sinnott? You quote an admittedly inappropriate, offhand remark that had no place in the newspaper. The story could have said Rick was frustrated by the irresponsibility of someone who dumped fish waste, putting neighbors at risk from a bear. But that was not sensational enough.
Does the News stop there? No, you now take the flap you created by publishing the comment, and you make a front-page story out of it: Rick is in trouble for his comment. This is yellow journalism at its worst. And then your editorial page comments on the story, never mentioning the newspaper's role in the whole affair.
Rick Sinnott's biggest mistake may have been that he was too trusting of the press's discretion. The Daily News should be ashamed.
---- Mimi Hogan
City needs Rick Sinnott; take off the muzzle and let him do his job
Anchorage needs Rick Sinnott to save us from ourselves. The proof is in the actions of the unthinking citizens who improperly disposed of fish entrails, the very act which caused his words of frustration and subsequent removal from bear detail.
His response to the situation, though admittedly not tactful, demonstrates his level of caring and commitment to the cause of keeping our citizens safe from wildlife which most of us enjoy. Unfortunately, we don't always understand how to do so safely. We need Rick to continue educating and advising and intervening when necessary to prevent future stupid human tricks in the ongoing saga of human versus bear.
I fear that removing him from the job that he has done so well will further endanger our citizenry. He is our most experienced and respected asset in the cause of bear safety. Let him do his job.
---- Sue Williams
Give us a break; bring back Rick!
Once again our penchant for political correctness has outweighed our common sense. The one person (Rick Sinnott) who really understands the bears in Anchorage and their behavior is removed and silenced over a comment anyone knows was said in frustration. Trust me, as Hillside residents we would have been in line behind him giving this person what-so for inviting bears to dinner with a fish dump!
Now we have the wonderful peace of mind to know that in an emergency with a bear, we'll have the city and Fish and Game fighting over who should respond. With Rick, you knew he would be here night or day and would know how to handle the situation. Now he's banished to moose -- give me a break.
For three years we have called the refuse company and suggested the Hillside bear problem would lessen if they would transfer the Saturday trash pickup to Midtown. People will always put out their trash on Friday night if they are leaving town for the weekend. We were regularly told, "Live with it," until Rick made it an issue. I will be registering a complaint to Fish and Game and the city for this transfer. I hope you will too. Give us all a break! Bring back Rick!
---- Sandra E. Allen
PC ways of Fish and Game invite tragedy in our own back yards
A lack of staffing, or possible delays in response time, could result in a tragic outcome. Just ask the Texas Boy Scout about his casual encounter with a poop'n bruin in the wild ("Brown bear attack leaves Texas Boy Scout injured but relieved," July 23). It could happen in someone's back yard! This is not an "if," it is more like a "when" situation.
It is also just amazing that Team Rick and Jessy are now expected to make comments from "politically correct cue cards" every time someone endangers someone's family or pets. Rick, please be assured that there is a multitude of folks who are very much appreciative of all of your efforts and comments.
---- Bob Tellez
City needs to either get rid of all bears or enforce trash laws hard
Rick Sinnott's comments may have been unprofessional but they are the truth. Rick and Jessy may have been bailing a sinking boat, but at least they were doing something.
There are two options to fixing the bear problem, and ignoring it or responding less is not one. Either get rid of the bears or enforce the law hard. That does not mean a few tickets now and then. It means tickets every time trash is out. The city police do have some down time, so when they drive through neighborhoods with trash out, that is time for a ticket. I am sure the city could start a trash fund from the tickets of violators and pay for the resources needed to cover this problem.
The Daily News could help by setting up a trash bear hot line and reporting the number of bear calls in each area once a week.
---- Carrie Harris
Begich should listen to bear expert and stick with planning picnics
Way to go, Alaska Department of Fish and Game. You just took the best bear biologist in the state off all bear cases because he spoke the truth. Rick Sinnott cares and has more experience than anyone in this state when it comes to dealing with Anchorage's bear issues.
I'm with Rick. What does Mayor Mark Begich know about bears anyway? He should be planning picnics and parades. This biologist is just trying to get his point across to make it safe for people to live in this community and to keep from destroying bears in waste. Get a clue, Fish and Game.
---- Jeff Foglesong
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