I was wondering about what to write in my article when I had a nature call. Being without indoor plumbing, I made my way outdoors. As I grabbed my bear spray, I thought I should pay attention to see if there was a bear in the yard. I had gotten into the habit of just walking out.
As I peeked around the corner, I saw a black bear—probably two years old. I guess that was a “different” nature call.
I know the bear. We were not formally introduced, but I have seen him around the neighbourhood. A month ago, he was very skittish and would run off to climb a tree. It might have been his first time on his own.
A week ago, the bear was standing on the side of the road as if hitchhiking for a ride, not scared of the vehicle at all.
When he saw me coming around the corner, he ran off but then changed his mind and came towards me. He was not aggressive but certainly not scared. I figured it would be better if I went back into the cabin, to protect us both.
The bear proceeded to check out the yard and came to the back door.
Having the bear pretty much knocking at my door gave me more concern for his safety than mine. The problem is that people enjoy watching the bear in their backyard instead of chasing them away.
I totally get that. You want to watch them. On the other hand, our priority has to be to keep them safe. It feels counterproductive to chase an animal away when we appreciate them so much, but it saves their lives.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game website: “Bird feeders have proven to be a major attractant for urban bears, and bird feeders should be taken down April first.” You can put them back up on November first.
Bear feeders are … I mean bird feeders are the number-one attractants for bears in the spring. If you are going through the trouble of putting up a bird feeder, you are clearly passionate about wildlife, so please extend your love to the bears and take them down in April.
In 2017, 63 bears were killed due to human-wildlife conflicts, which does not include relocated bears (which might be a death sentence for them in many cases). Human-wildlife conflicts are in many cases avoidable. Don’t make the animals pay the price by habituating them.
We need to chase them away with air horns, bear bangers and by banging on pots. And, apparently, paintball guns are even better.
We don’t want to end up like the Europeans and have to travel to another continent because they have no bears left; or, in my case, immigrate to another country.
If we stop on the side of the road to watch a bear, they get used to humans not being a threat. It’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde situation for the wildlife. One day we are not a threat, then the next day we shoot or trap them.
I thought that if a bear was trapped and relocated, that would be a humane situation. But is that actually the case? Do we even know how many survive? It’s not like going to a resort in Mexico where everything is like at home, just in a warmer climate. Imagine waking up with a solid hangover, with no clue where you are or what happened last night. There is no film crew to get you off the island when you’ve had enough. No GPS. No clue where to find food and water.
There is a dominant male grizzly somewhere in the area, and for a little black bear that would mean the end of his short life. Male grizzlies are very unlikely to win the Father of the Year Award. Any new bear will have a tough time surviving in his territory. It would be especially rough for the little guy from Tagish that inspired the article.
Please look at the picture. It’s a living being. It has a soul. We are drawn to them because we know that.
We have lost so many species already. While we call wildlife a renewable resource, it might be like with my friend’s hair—you’re gonna miss it when it’s gone.
Dare to care. Take the bird (bear) feeders down on April 1, keep the yard clean of other attractants, scare any bear off and pat yourself on the back for making a difference.
If you don’t think you can make a difference, you will remember this when you have that one pesky mosquito in your tent or bedroom. Then you know that just one can make a difference.