Saturday, March 12, 2016

Black bears

Connecticut is proposing a ban on feeding black bears and coyotes.  I have to admit that I hadn't given much thought to people feeding coyotes but apparently that occurs back east, presumably drawing them in for photographs.  It is legal there to hunt and trap coyotes.

Bears are a whole different matter.  Connecticut has an estimated 800 bears in their woodlands and the state is 8% the size of Missouri which has an estimated 300 bears.  Add in the fact that the Connecticut human population density is over 8 times greater than Missouri.*  That's a lot of bears and humans crowded together in a tight space.

The ban of feeding bears in Connecticut is controversial while feeding them is illegal in the 8 other northeastern states.  There is even more resistance to the idea of a hunting season.  Animal rights activists argue that human behavior is almost always responsible for potentially dangerous bear confrontations.

Karen Noyes feeding bear -
The Internet is littered with photographs of people feeding bears.  An Oregon woman named Karen Noyes continued to hand feed bears over a 6 year period in spite of complaints.  There were bears killing livestock, menacing neighbors and one coming through a dog door.  She was finally banned from her home during three years probation for refusing to stop.

In North Carolina, Kay Grayson, called the "Bear Lady," was famous for feeding bears at her remote home for 25 years. She was found in 2015, eaten by bears although whether she died first and was found by them is unknown.  That almost seems beside the point.  Feeding bears in the wild puts everyone who is nearby at risk.  Whether deliberate or accidental by training them to find dog food or garbage, we are responsible for the results and the bear is likely to pay  the consequences.

Bear area (green) and USFS lands
While our Missouri bear population density and geography is far different, the lessons are the same and we have time to apply them before the problems develop.  Humans and bears need to learn to live with each other - separately.

* Connecticut Population - 743/square mile, Missouri - 88/sq.mi.  Wikipedia

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