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People to blame for bear behavior

Posted: Friday, June 09, 2006

A series of recent bear sightings, attacks and shootings force us humans to remember we aren’t the only ones at the dominant end of the food chain.

The past week saw three brown bears shot in defense of life and property in three consecutive days, bringing the total DLP killings to four so far this year.

· Last Saturday, a 900-pound male was shot and killed after it charged hunters at a black bear-baiting station off of Mackey Lake Road.

· On Sunday, a yearling male was shot and killed by a woman in Nikiski after it, its sibling and mother charged the woman’s horses.

· On Monday a 5- or 6-year-old male was killed by a man in the Longmere Lake area who said the bear had gotten into his honey-producing beehives and looked like it would go after his goats.

Those are only the most recent bear-human interactions this year.

· On May 1 the first DLP brown bear shooting of the year was at Solid Rock Bible Camp in Sterling after the animal got a little too interested in the camp’s livestock.

· A man was mauled by a brown bear while jogging near his North Fork home on the lower Kenai Peninsula on May 28. He survived, after 11 hours of surgery, and the bear escaped unharmed.

· A brownie has become a regular fixture at the Cooper Landing Dumpster site this spring, keeping even the industrious Sexy Senior Dumpster Cleaners from picking up the trash it has strewn in the woods, for fear of being attacked.

When situations like these arise, it’s easy to blame the bears, to call them “nuisances,” “vicious” or “out of control.”

Here’s a few more terms: “careless,” “liable” and “stupid” —only these don’t apply to the bears.

Other than the North Fork mauling — where it isn’t clear if the bear was a sow cut off from her cub or if it was protecting a kill — there is one obvious cause behind all these interactions — humans. It may not be the humans these bears tangled with most recently, but somewhere along the line, some lazy, inconsiderate humans left out garbage, didn’t properly fence off their livestock or in some other way encouraged these bears to lose their natural wariness for people.

Careless humans were even likely to blame in the instance Saturday where the bear was shot at the bait station. No matter what your personal opinion of bear baiting, an examination of the contents of the animal’s stomach — including deli meat, a garbage bag and other trappings of a trash rummage — showed it wasn’t the hunters that had caused the bear to lose its leeriness of people.

A house, driveway, mailbox and property taxes have the tendency to lull people into thinking they own their land, but Mother Nature doesn’t see it that way.

The bears were here first. We moved into their turf. And if we expect them to respect our usurpation of their jurisdiction, then it is our responsibility not to teach them that chicken coops, garbage cans, backpacks left unattended on riverbanks — in short, people — equal food.

Bears are wild animals and their main goal in life is to put the least amount of effort into obtaining the largest amount of sustenance. Careless humans offer plenty of those opportunities.

Not only does this carelessness threaten the guilty party, it threatens their neighbors, the bear and everyone else that bear comes in contact with for the rest of its life.

Don’t blame the bears. Realize that it is human activity that leads to bad bear behavior — and act accordingly.

For tips on making your home and neighborhood bear safe, contact the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.



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