Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Problem Bears in Florence

A 'problem bear' has been killed in the Oregon coastal town of Florence this past Dec 11th, after being fed by humans and becoming habituated to them. The male black bear repeatedly broke into homes and walked up to a homeowner in his garage. An Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division trooper allowed the bear to approach to three feet from him before dispatching the animal with a shotgun. Two younger bears were traveling with this bear. One headed towards an elementary school playground, which had to be evacuated. Earlier a bear den had been found near the school. Fish and Wildlife hopes to be able to trap these two before they need to be killed.

Bear problems result from bears learning to get food from people. Occasionally this happens just by bears finding food stores or garbage, but almost always ots because people feed them deliberately. Not only the bears begin to look to people for food, but they also lose their usual fear of humans. They begin to show up in town. Since more food is available, they don't go into hibernation as readily. They are strong enough to break in when they smell food - houses, even cars, are fair game.

Black bears are far from a scarce animal. Extremely common in Oregon's Coast Range, hundreds live in the forests near this town. Its unfortunate that humans think feeding them is OK - but it leads to unfortunate incidences like this one.

Studies show that hunting does little to stop problem bear situations. Individual problem bears may be killed, but others replace them if feeding intentional or otherwise by humans continues. It has been found that education programs aims at the human population results in a big drop in problem bear populations. A good report on this is available at Reduction in nuisance black bear complaints.

A rather entertaining event involved a black bear with a problem that shows up in humans too. In 2004 at Baker Lake Resort in north central Washington State, a bear was spotted on the lawn passed out from too much beer! Breaking into coolers it had tried a single can of Busch Beer and did not find it to his liking. The groggy bruin was feeling the effects of three dozen cans of the local Rainier Beer when found. An attempt at chasing him off resulted in the bear sleeping it off up a tree. The next day a live trap was baited with donuts, honey and two cans of Rainier. This gave the Fish and Game folks the desired results and the bear was relocated far, far away.