Will Graves, author of “Wolves in Russia: Anxiety Through the Ages“, was deeply saddened and emotionally effected by the tragic death of Candice Berner in Alaska last week. Graves takes some time to comment on the life and tragedy of Candice Berner.
I feel a need to write something about the horrible death of Candice Berner. While I did not know her, I am deeply effected by her loss.
By all accounts Candice was a young woman trying to make a difference. She was trying to help people who needed it the most. She took the difficult path of working in a remote area doing her best to help people in need. Society must have the highest regard for such people. Working in remote areas always presents a high degree of risk. Remote areas often have poor communications which are coupled with an increased risk of danger. These individuals who volunteer to work in remote areas do not select the easy path; in contrast, they select a most difficult path to help people who need assistance in the most trying of circumstances. They are aware of the difficulties but sometimes not aware of the dangers. But they still accept the risks in order to help. These individuals have a strong urge to make a contribution to society and to people; they select a difficult road and make individual sacrifices to contribute their skills, time, and energy to improve the lives of the less fortunate.
Candice reminds me a lot of my own daughter, Tina. After many years of hard study, she earned a BA in Agricultural Science from the University of Maryland and a Master of Science from Texas A&M in Animal Science. She graduated and my wife and I were very proud of her. We thought, at last finally she can obtain a good paying job. That was not to be. She came home from A&M all excited that she had joined the Peace Corps. Since her knowledge of French was good she received an assignment to work in Cameroon, West Africa. We were, of course, proud of her but also very apprehensive. Off she went to Cameroon and while there we sent her numerous packages of support. She returned to the U.S. with a serious case of stomach parasites which required regular visits to a clinic in D.C. for about one month. After recovery, she was not obligated to return to finish her assignment, but she did. And after she completed her tour, she extended for six months.
We owe a debt of gratitude to people like Candice, people who have been taught that the highest obligation to humanity is to serve their fellow man. It is tragic that she was killed. It is especially tragic that she was not prepared for the threat of wolves. Why was she unprepared? Was she taught that wolves are no threat to humans, that they are always afraid of us? Did societies “disneyfied” view of wolves leave Candice unduly vulnerable?
I am extremely upset that the authorities in Alaska did not provide better protection to Candice. She was new in the area and authorities there were obligated to tell her about the dangers of hungry wolves hanging around the village and watching people. Authorities in Alaska are obligated to warn people, especially newcomers, about the danger and threat of wolves. People are warned about bears, and they must also be warned about wolves. Wolves are powerful predators and when hungry, they present a threat to humans.
My deepest and sincerest sympathies go out to the parents, relatives and friends of Candice Berner. Our entire country has lost a compassionate, skilled and caring person.