Black Bears Bulldozed in West Virginia

Bear Mountain Top Removal

Written by Sam McCreery and Jen Osha.

In southern West Virginia, the people and the land are paying the price so the rest of the nation can have cheap energy from mountaintop removal coal mining. Here in Rock Creek, men and machines are working 24-7 to remove the “overburden” over the coal seams. What many people don’t realize is that the “overburden” that is removed includes every living thing on the mountaintop, including the animals that can’t escape.

The Black Bear is the state animal of West Virginia. Mountaintop Removal is decimating their habitat by the thousands of acres. Long time resident of Rock Creek, WV, avid hunter and woodsman, Ed Wiley knew the site of a black bear den where the overburden was being shoved over. It was springtime, and he knew that the mother would still be inside nursing her cubs, so he hiked up to take a look.

“They had done cut all the timber off of the site,” Ed remembers. “I got to sit there lookin. Dozers were pushing the soil off. I saw that the momma bear had poked out her head, heard the dozer, and then gone back inside. They kept gouging her way… and then I watched them doze her in.” As Ed watched, the momma bear was buried alive with her cubs at her side.

“Now I’ve heard a bear die, and it depends how they’re shot. But there ain’t nothing like hearin that momma bawl, knowin her babies are dying as she gets dozed in. Those cubs don’t even have their eyes open. They might have been old enough to crawl, but they weren’t old enough to escape. What it witnessed that spring, it bothered me. It hurt me. I feel something needs to be done.”

As a result of this conversation with Ed, Jen wrote a song which she sang at the Mountainkeepers festival. This is the chorus:

“Sing for the children, in their Appalachian homes
Who hear rain on the roof and go to sleep in their clothes
While their parents keep watch because nobody knows
If tonight is the night the slurry dam will blow

Sing for the bear cubs, snuggled safe underground
In their dens with their mamas when the mountain comes down
I say what is it worth, this cheap energy we’ve found
When her babies are buried and our children might drown”

We are hoping to work with the DNR to move the bear cubs before they are buried alive, but so far there has been no progress.

Previously, we produced a CD compilation of music and interviews entitled Moving Mountains: Voices of Appalachia rise up against mountaintop removal with Falling Mountain Music to raise funds and awareness about MTR. This summer, we ( are working together to use pictures, stories, video, and music to express the consequences of mountaintop removal. We’re collecting stories here, but we need your help, too. Have ideas about musicians? Artwork for the cover? How to get the word out? Want to help try to move the bear cubs? Please be in touch with us at or

Bear Print

Photos by Sam McCreery

6 Responses to “Black Bears Bulldozed in West Virginia”

  1. 1 Julia Bonds Jul 20th, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    Senator Byrd gave a rousing, emotional speech about Mike Vick animal abuse but why is Senator Byrd actually promoting this animal abuse and murder of baby bears and other animals that we can’t see, like the squirrells, chipmunks, deer and the many others that live in the Appalachina mountains.
    FOR SHAME!!!!!
    May God forgive these people, Senator Byrd and all of us that are allowing this to happen. We are all complicit in this when we use coal fired electricity and we don’t fight for change.

  2. 2 Maya Andrews Aug 2nd, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Blackbears are very sensible

  1. 1 Black Bears no friends of coal-- west virginia confidential Trackback on Jul 20th, 2007 at 1:23 pm
  2. 2 Planetsave | Saving the World Since 1999 | Free Email & Green News » Blog Archive » Monday Green Link Dump: Green Beer, Bulldozed Blackbears, and Boston. Oh my. Trackback on Jul 23rd, 2007 at 12:46 pm
  3. 3 Don Surber » Blog Archive » Overbearing Trackback on Jul 23rd, 2007 at 6:14 pm
  4. 4 Ad Dominum » Blog Archive » Lent 01 Trackback on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 1:15 am
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About Ivan

Ivan Stiefel is a West Virginia University Student trying to retire and open a Yerba Mate Café where he may philosophize and write poetry all day. Yet, this will not happen until mountaintop removal is abolished and the climate crisis is solved. Thus, he has decided to organize with the Student Environmental Action Coalition and the Sierra Student Coalition to uproot injustice in the coal fields of Appalachia, go urban kayaking, and spread Yerba Mate in the region. (Yerba Mate is a traditional South American tea. For more information please contact Ivan and he would love to talk for hours on this subject and explain how he believes that the green energy of Yerba Mate will help inspire the coming energy revolution.)

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