We seem to put up with bears only if they are rendered tame in a circus or locked in a zoo. This is how we like most animals, if we don’t eat them or keep them as pets. We like cute and humanized bears wearing clothes.
There’s the thoughtful Winnie the Pooh (based on a real bear who lived in a Winnipeg zoo) or The Care Bears. The peripatetic Paddington.
I grew up reading books about Rupert the Bear. Rupert was exotic — not because he lived in the wild — but because he lived in England. He had lovely yellow pants, a red sweater, and great adventures with fairies and mermaids.
We like Yogi Bear in his necktie and squashed hat. The didactic Smokey the Bear in a forest ranger’s hat and chino work pants (but no shirt & he always reminded me of how my Dad looked when he worked in the yard). We like The Berenstein Bears, dressed in sissy out-dated clothing preaching family values. Fozzie Bear.
This week, several bears were reported to be raiding green compost bins along Loon Lake Road in the Cherry Brook area of Dartmouth. Wildlife officers found it was only one young 36-kilogram bear.
On Wednesday, they spent the morning trying to find the bear and lure it into a live trap. In the afternoon, the bear approached a home, and the Mounties were called.
The residents said the bear had been near the door. The officers on the scene had to make a judgment call. Residents weren’t safe. The school day had ended, and children were out and about. It was wrongly reported that two officers used their sidearms to kill the bear. Only one officer fired, using a shotgun.
In that situation, killing the bear could well have been the best thing to do. But shooting can’t always be the solution. If we are going to continue to clear-cut the wilderness for subdivisions, we need a better system in place to help the wildlife when their lives become disrupted.
Erik Wenum is a wildlife officer in Kalispell, Montana. He gets about 3,000 calls a year about bears and mountain lions.
Wenum says removing an easy food source in an urban area avoids the problem of unwanted bear visits about 80 per cent of the time. For repeat offenders, he is developing new techniques to modify the behaviour of troublesome individuals. He uses dogs, rubber bullets and yelling to change a bear’s mind about a particular place.
The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has a list of tips for discouraging bears on its website:
- Make bird feeders inaccessible
- Don’t leave pet food out
- Clean off BBQ grills
- Put green bins in sheds
- Add ammonia to food garbage to make it unpalatable
Mary Anna Jollymore of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources says folks living close to wooded area should not put meat or fish scraps into their green compost bins. Instead, keep them in the freezer and put them as a frozen lump into bins just before collection. And don’t feed wildlife.
Finally, we ought to take note of The Three Bears. It’s not that they lived real bear lives. They slept in beds in a nice house and ate porridge. The thing about the three bears is that their home was invaded by a baby-faced criminal named Goldilocks. She committed break and enter when she went into their home and hung out, then theft when she ate their porridge.
As we move further out of the city, we move into the homes of animals; we have no right to demand a land stripped of creatures that we find undesirable.