Don’t feed the bears

-A A +A

By James Brookes

Everyone has a bear story or at least has heard a bear story.
Often times these stories are of a brief sighting in the forest, or perhaps a camping trip encounter. More and more these stories consist of bears in our neighborhoods, our backyards or digging through our trash. These aren’t the stories we really want to hear.
While it is great that we get to see these magnificent creatures up close and personal, these encounters can lead to problems bigger than having to clean up the yard strewn garbage.
There are many factors that bring wildlife into our town, our yards and our garbage cans. Bear sightings are not uncommon in mountain towns such as Los Alamos; we do live in their backyard after all.
With factors such as drought and fire comes the expectation of wildlife traveling outside of home ranges in search of food, water and shelter.
Oases like Los Alamos are great destinations for these misplaced and often desperate animals. No matter what the reason these animals come to visit us, we have an obligation to let them be wild. Do we feel compassion for these animals? Of course we do, and we want to help them.
They are hungry, thirsty and sometimes homeless; it’s only fitting to want to offer help. Unfortunately this help, which most often times come in the form of food, is actually harming these animals, especially the bears.
While it might be easy to rationalize helping these bears out in such dire times, I will share a short bear story that might change your mind.
With a call from Game and Fish came the news of a bear that had been put down due to its aggressive nature. It was no longer safe to have this bear roaming the streets of Los Alamos.
While most of the “trouble” bears captured in Los Alamos are relocated to remote locations allowing the bear a second, possibly third chance to survive somewhere without human intervention. This was not the case for this bear. Weighing in over 350 pounds and over six feet in length, this male bear had become more than a nuisance.
It started harmlessly enough; garbage can browsing, chicken killing and fruit tree picking. However he became a bigger and bolder bear as months of easy meals became the normal way of life. Living in and around neighborhoods, he became comfortable and unthreatened in his new home.
Over time this bear became so comfortable that he felt the neighborhoods were his home and anyone or anything in his way was to be dealt with appropriately. If and when a bear is threatened or fears his food source is at risk he will charge, often times snapping and popping his jaws.
These were the types of encounters people were starting to have with this bear. Bold, hungry and fearless, he started to push his way through fences, climb up second story decks and charge anything that got in his way.
The bold behavior this bear was exhibiting is not that of a bear that sneaks out of the canyon at night and feasts on fruit trees and garbage cans. There was something more than midnight food raids keeping him around.
Something was keeping him within the neighborhoods during the day and allowing him to become fearless.
It’s simple — he was being fed. By fed, I mean people were intentionally putting food outside for this specific bear to eat. With no longer needing forage on his own and no reason to fear humans, this bear became more than a midnight garbage thief. He became a fed bear, a dangerous, fearless fed bear.
Obviously, there is no happy ending to my bear story and the details need not be written. However, it is my hope that my bear story will make people stop and think the next time they feel the need to feed a bear.
When an animal must be put down or a falls victim to a vehicle, it is taken to a landfill if no other alternative is found. In this case, I had the opportunity to preserve this animal in hopes it would bring awareness on the dangers of feeding the wildlife.
Please do not feed the bears.