By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Make no mistake about it, the recent bear mauling death is an unfortunate, horrific incident. It's also comes as no surprise.

That's why there is just something wrong with the idea that when humans and animals clash, it's the animal who is at fault and should be immediately put down, euthanized. Let's call it what it is: summarily executed.

No one every suggests that maybe we humans are pushing a bit too hard, encroaching on the territory of bears, snakes and whatever other animal comes to mind.

Yet it's the animals that are supposed to complacently move elsewhere. It's not at all unlike the white man's push to exterminate the buffalo, deer, even the American Indian.

In the case of the recent bear attack, it now seems that something else might have been at play.

All three cubs, delivered to their new home at ZooMontana in Billings, Mont., appear to have been well underweight. Each of the three year-old cubs weighed in at 60 to 70 pounds. Normal, the officials say, would have been 80 to 130 pounds apiece.

That might explain their mother's behavior.

She was the one who ripped into the campers' tents and killed one and injured two others.

She was euthanized shortly after DNA tests tied her to the attacks. She was said to have been healthy, but will be the subject of additional studies.

Something, however, caused the cubs to be underweight. Exactly what isn't known yet, and perhaps never will be.

In my layman's experience, it's unlikely they all suffered from some malady, while mother stayed healthy. What affected one surely would have affected them all.

Instead, I'm going to suggest that perhaps we humans are encroaching on their territory too much, perhaps we're pushing them out of prime feeding grounds and keeping them on the run entirely too much.

It's no surprise that animals lash out after humans keep pushing them into a corner.

We've all seen the nature shows depicting survival after an animal attack.

There's the "Shark Week," the "I Shouldn't Be Alive" program that details survival cases and there's always the "Venom ER," that shows all sorts of grisly details stemming from venomous snake bites.

The good Dr. Sean Bush in "Venom ER" is constantly reminding viewers that an encroaching population is sure to create problems with the rattlesnakes that call an area home.

So, if we build a housing development north of Hays in the limestone hills, does that mean we have to kill every snake, badger, skunk or raccoon that slips onto private property?

Do we tolerate some, but just not those who bite, scratch, stink or otherwise bother us?

Now, I'm not suggesting we welcome rattlesnakes into our house, or our yards for that matter. I don't like snakes. Never have, never will.

But, hard as it might be, I recognize they provide a benefit to the environment.

Take bats, for example. They are creepy and bizarre, but I'm told the mosquito population in areas where white-nose fungus has wiped out bats is out of this world.

There's always a cause-and-effect when nature's equilibrium is thrown out of whack. To be sure, we don't have the animals to blame for things being out of whack.

That's our fault.

We should right that wrong, or at least take it into account when we corner the dwindling supply of animals.

When we corner them, we have to accept that they will strike out. Perhaps it would be best to give them a little room, a place they can call their own. Perhaps their own reservation.