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For a bear, garbage is like crack: Once they’re conditioned to human food, they get addicted, and they can’t stop searching it out. Now, a 10-year study following Lake Tahoe’s population of urbanized black bears reveals that it can be just as lethal, according to the NY Times’ DotEarth.
Bears in urban areas are 30 percent fatter because they get to gorge on human trash and food, which leads females to start reproducing three years before wilderness bears. But while they may give birth earlier and more often, any population gains are erased by the dangers of living in close proximity to humans—mostly because of car collisions.
All 12 urban bears followed by the Wilderness Conservation Society’s study were killed by the age of 10 in car crashes. Six of 10 wilderness bears survived at least that long if not longer.
Humans also end up euthanizing more bears after they come into contact with people and become nuisances and/or dangerous. In the late 1980s, before bears became conditioned to human food, no bears were euthanized in the Tahoe area. But 27 bears have been euthanized since the study began.
It’ll take a lot to get bears off the sauce, including eliminating ex-urban sprawl, relocation, and time for bear populations to wean themselves off of that sweet, sweet garbage. A 12-step program probably wouldn’t hurt, either.
— Ted Alvarez