People put bears in harm’s way

Because humans, as is our wont, would rather go our own ways than pay attention to the constant warnings from wildlife experts not to leave out bird feeders and not to leave garbage cans unsecured, four bears will likely be sent off to bear purgatory or perhaps eventually put to death.

And given the opinions of two experts, death seems the likely option despite an online petition that has gathered thousands of signatures of folks who want to save those bears, and despite the state Department of Fish and Game changing its mind about killing them and instead exiling them to Pittsburg.

Here is the first paragraph of the most recent story in the Valley News:

“New Hampshire officials reversed course today, saying they won’t kill a mother bear and her three yearlings but will instead try to trap and relocate them to northern New Hampshire.”

Key word here: try. It’s unclear whether the move will result in the bears changing their behavior.

Indeed, Andrew Timmins, the lead bear biologist for Fish and Game, told the Valley News he’s a bit skeptical about that.

The paper reported that Timmins feared the bears wouldn’t be able to reintegrate into their natural habitat given their current behavior.

And that current behavior includes breaking into homes in search of food. What? There are no homes in Pittsburg?

What these four bears have learned is that humans plus homes equal food, and what bears want the most, especially at this time of year, is food.

If Timmins is right, if the bears don’t acclimate well, there is a good chance that they will be killed.

And it’s the fault of humans, humans who don’t take in their bird feeders when spring looms and bears begin to wake up from their long winter’s naps. Plus humans who don’t properly seal their garbage cans.

All the bears in Hanover did was what bears do: They went in search of food, and managed to find it in back yards, which, naturally, led them to realize there was food inside houses, which led them to, naturally, break into the houses. Fortunately, no human has been hurt.

But you can add “yet” to that latter sentence. And it’s our fault.

Bear expert Ben Kilham told reporter Rob Wolfe, of the Valley News, that if we humans don’t address the underlying causes of bear incursions – garbage, bird feeders and chickens left out where bears can reach them – we will face the same problems again.

He advised Hanover officials to pass an ordinance imposing small fines to discourage homeowners from being careless when it comes to bird feeders and garbage cans. It’s an ordinance that shouldn’t be necessary, but humans being humans, well, we want to see the birdies, even if it means sacrificing a few bears.

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