Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bear Euthanasia

Missouri black bear - MDC
Two black bears were euthanized last week as a result of getting to familiar with humans.  This has caused a lot of emotional discussion by the general public in the press.  In case you missed the stories, here they are.

The bear 40 minutes south of Springfield had been feed by some landowners in the past and habituated to humans.  Now it was hanging around the house although the new owners had removed all food sources and attempting to come through a patio door.  It became a danger to humans although the bear probably didn't think of it that way.  Now as a "conflict bear," it was trapped and intentionally euthanized with sedatives.

Many good-hearted people asked a logical question, "Why wasn't the bear sedated and given to the zoo?"  The answer is complicated. Unfortunately for the bear, there is a plentiful supply of black bears raised in zoos.  Since bears captured in the wild do not adapt well to life in captivity, the zoos aren't interested in taking them.

In the other case in Perryville, close to Cape Giradeau, the bear was roaming around the town of 8,000, crossing several streets and visiting a front porch.  Police shot the animal to protect the public as no tranquilizers were immediately available.

Tranquilizing a bear safely in an urban setting is often not an option according to Jeff Beringer of the Missouri Department of Conservation.  In addition to having a special gun available to handle a tranquilizer dart, there is the matter of calculating the right dose.  Too much kills the animal, not enough just confuses it and could addle its judgement and make the situation worse.  If the shot missed, it could leave a syringe of powerful sedative lost somewhere in the community.
Collared bear 1117

The MDC has ongoing studies to determine the population size, health and range of our bears.  Tranquilizer dosage is based on the estimated weight of the bear.  Currently some females are radio collared for a year after weighing and other measurements are completed.  This not only traces the females range but allows researchers to locate the bear in its winter den before the collar drops off.

As the bear population grows, it is important that we recognize how to live along side these creatures.  This means learning to be "Bear Aware."  The number one factor in creating conflict bears is feeding them, either actively or passively by leaving out food sources.  Bears are opportunistic omnivores and 90% of their diet is vegetarian.  When they learn that trash cans and dog food dishes are regularly filled, they will remember the site and return.  Most states with bear populations have laws against feeding them and I suspect we will need to do this to protect our population, both bears and humans.

This MDC site has extensive information on how to live with bears.

More on the MDC black bear studies are at this link.  

To find the latest on our black bears, you can follow the Missouri Black Bear Foundation Facebook page.