Valiant attempts by state biologists to reform one of Alaska's most famous and photographed bears ended this week.
For more than 10 years, biologists have tried to retrain the 15-year-old bear known as Grizzly 001. She was just the second bear collared as part of a project to get food- and garbage-conditioned bears to change their ways. Although recently her behavior had indicated that the project might be meeting with some success -- she wasn't seen much last year around Deadhorse -- but more recently it became clear the experiment wasn't working. Although she wasn't aggressive toward people, she was getting more and more brave in her hunts for food, tearing through doors looking for goodies.
Finally, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game had to concede that this test case didn't work. She was killed this week after it became clear her behavior, and the behavior her three cubs -- which also showed no fear of people and had grown up on a diet of garbage and such -- could become dangerous. The good news is that state officials found zoos interested in the cubs, so they will not be killed.
Grizzly 001 and the other bears killed in recent years near Deadhorse because of similar behavior were following their foraging instincts for food, which led them to develop behavior that endangered the people living and working in Prudhoe Bay. More recently, the companies operating on the oil field became much more aware and responsible for how their behavior attracted these bears and led to garbage-addicted animals. Now, dumps are fenced off, making it much more difficult for other bears to develop the same habits.
Biologists made a commendable attempt to reform these bears, giving them every opportunity to change their ways and hoping for the best. In the end, that didn't work, which is too bad.
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