Feed The Bears?

Going against the wisdom of most wildlife experts, one biologist recommends feeding to control nuisance black bears

Lynn Rogers, the wildlife biologist who's made recent headlines by acting as if he's auditioning to be the next Grizzly Man on the Today Show, is ready to turn bear logic on its head again. This time, he's suggesting intentional feeding of black bears as a way to cut down on problem bears who raid cars, homes, and campsites for food.

Rogers isn't suggesting we let Smokey in on a bite of our Mountain House in camp. Instead, he's suggesting we leave food for bears in areas away from humans, especially during times when black bear's natural food supplies are low. And there is some evidence to back up his ideas. Rogers has cut down on bear problems near his home base of Ely, Minnesota, by supplying black bears with unlimited supplies of beef fat. An unrelated group near Lake Tahoe saw bear break-ins drop from 200 a year to zero after they began providing food to foraging black bears in lean years.

Which isn't to say wildlife managers are changing their tune—in fact most consider bear feeding to be a short-term solution with potentially dangerous side effects. Stewart Breck, aa biologist with the USDA'S National Wildlife Research
 Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, said this: 

"Diversionary feeding of this kind necessarily means that humans and 
bears will come into contact more frequently. And that's when good 
intentions can go bad," Breck said. "While a black bear attack is
 unlikely, bears are unpredictable," he said. "They're powerful animals capable of
 harming people."

Others worry that bear feeding addresses the symptoms of human-bear conflicts without treating the disease. 

"We've done a really poor job, in many cases, of developing land
 without taking into account animal migration and feeding patterns," 
said biologist Rachel Mazur, who works in Nevada's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

 "And feeding them will, of course, reduce conflict in the 
short term. But what are we trying to protect? If we're trying to
 protect black bears as a species, I believe we should be protecting
 everything about them—their ecology, habitat, and natural movement."

At BACKPACKER, I can only think of one employee who's excited about the prospect of feeding bears in the wild. (That doesn't mean you should try, BTW.)

via The Goat

Image credit: pedalfreak