THE BEARS OF BEAR VALLEY
California's black bears have made a comeback in the last decade. Sightings and interactions with humans have become much more common. And while there is always an element of danger for humans, the real danger is usually to the bear when bears and humans interact. As the saying goes, "A fed bear is a dead bear". We have learned just in the last few years that human behaviors formerly considered acceptable, like leaving food out for bears or allowing bears to rummage in the landfill, often have the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of making the bears' lives easier, they often result in the death of the bear.
When bears learn that they can get food by hanging around people they lose their reluctance to interact with humans, and this is bad for bears and people both. For one thing, once a bear gets an easy meal from a garbage can or a back porch, it will come back for more, and it won't take "No" for an answer. Bears are clever and VERY strong. Prying open a locked freezer is as easy for them as opening a box of Cracker Jacks is for you. The trunk or back seat of a locked car is no problem for a bear. The bear is so fixated on food sources that it will forever associate food with any place or object (car, house, garbage can, or person) where it ever got food, even once. That bear's wild life is ruined with just one free lunch from humans, and there's a good chance it will have to be captured and killed as it hangs around people's habitations.
The danger to humans is mostly by way of property damage, but there's always the potential for injury if a human gets between a mother bear and her cub, or gets between a bear and its escape route.
A curious effect of bears' interaction with humans is that a bear that forages in garbage cans or is otherwise fed by people may have more offspring. The mother bear's fat content partly determines the size of her litter, and a bear that lives on pizza and dog food will probably have more cubs than one that lives on nuts and berries. More mouths to feed...
Until a few years ago, bears that hung around people and scared them were captured and relocated to the hinterlands of California. But there are no hinterlands left any more. People have filled every corner of this beautiful state, and relocation of problem bears is no longer an option. So any bear that is captured will have to be killed.
So, you're saying, what can I do to help protect these beautiful creatures for whom our town is named? Glad you asked:
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