It is that time of year again; time for the famous Adirondack black bear Yellow-yellow and her Ursus americanus pals to give the resident biologist ajada. The nuisance bear telephone calls to his desk at work have begun and the evening’s summary is nothing short of amazing. The calls usually involve a bear hanging around someone’s property and the property owner feels threatened, or wonders if they should feel threatened. Ed usually tries to work with the bear-bothered citizen on the telephone. He takes the callers through a series of questions related to what might be attracting the bear to the property; bear attractants. After hearing “Nope, we don’t have any of that,” he moves on to, “Do you have your garbage stored outside?” As I’ve noted before, he is a very patient man.
The Adirondacks are not the only part of the northeastern United States enjoying a bear renaissance. Human/bear encounters are increasing across the United States. Last fall, New Jersey held its first black bear hunt in six years due to a large increase in bears in that state. Here in New York, the DEC continues to expand areas open to bear hunting. When I recently read about the world-renowned Appalachian Trail described as a bruin thoroughfare with marauding bears dragging sleeping campers around in their sleeping bags, I had anthropomorphic images of a couple of 20-something bears yelling “Road Trip!” I have been told it is not a good practice to apply human attributes to animals, but in my book, the Far-Side-inspired image of bears yelling “Sandwiches!” upon seeing campers in sleeping bags deserves an appreciative belly laugh.
In a not so amusing but sad turn of events, a black bear had to be euthanized last year at a public campground in the central Adirondacks. The bear was seen hanging around the campground for several weeks and was able to get his paws on human food. This despite repeated warnings to campers to secure their food. Bears are wild animals and, as such, will eat just about anything. People and their food fall into that category. The problems start when bears, or any wild animal for that matter, learn to equate humans with an easy and free lunch. They become habituated to humans and their food. This means they lose their fear of humans and think “Meal time!” when they see or sense human beings. This is exactly what happened at the campground last year. Finally, this yearling male bear became aggressive in his quest for lunch. He began bluff charging and hissing at campers, and therefore had to be put down before he hurt someone. This situation was not the bear’s fault but he is the one who suffered because of human stupidity. Ed didn’t like making the call to take this action and the rangers don’t like killing bears. But they had no choice. It seems so unfair; the bear was just being a bear and he had to be killed because of insipid human behavior. It is a good thing I don’t work for New York State.
Please don’t feed the bears.
Although amusing and sometimes sad, an up close and personal encounter with a bear is not pleasant. If you are planning a trip to the Adirondacks, have a look at these New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) black bear guidelines. Perhaps you can avoid a bad experience and thus still enjoy a chuckle about those silly bears.
Photo courtesy of NY State DEC. Note the thoughful attempt to hide the identity of the bear.