Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bear attacks becoming more frequent in B.C.

© By Othmar Vohringer

The news headline this morning read “Bear attacks B.C. women in her yard”. That did not happen out in the rural countryside. The 35-year-old woman was attacked while berry picking in her garden near the city center. She is now recovering in hospital from serve injuries. The bear was extremely aggressive and had to be shot by the police.

This is not a single case. Recently bear attacks have become all too common in British Columbia. Like this one on May 20: Triathlete Julia Gerlach, 27, had part of her scalp torn off and lost part of an ear after a black bear attack about 150 kilometers north of Fort Nelson, B.C.

And so the list could go on for a long time. Some of the attacks do happen in rural areas but more often they now happen in towns and cities too. Bears have become so accustomed to people that they walk in broad daylight into gardens and into houses if a door is left open.

Drake Stephens of Bear Aware blames humans for the problem and to a certain extent he is right. Leaving household garbage openly in backyards will attract bears. But it’s not all our fault. The bear population has sharply risen in the last few years in British Columbia. Making this province the bear capital of North America with a population exceeding 160,000 black bears. This in an increase of over 30% from 1990 to 2008, in other words the bear population is slowly to exceed the habitats carrying capacity. That is far from the near exiction cries we hear from anti hunters and animal rights.

Bear Aware admits that human / bear conflicts becoming a problem. They offer a “few simple” steps to reduce bear conflicts. Unfortunately, the few simple steps turn into a long list of preventive measures that reach from keeping garbage in bear proof containers to cleaning everything up after a barbeque, which makes sense. Where it gets a bit more cumbersome is by suggesting erecting electric fences around vegetable and fruit gardens. Besides the point that electric fencing has not been proven to keep bears out of gardens, it’s asking for liability suits should a person walk by and get an electric shock. Where the recommendations become downright ridiculous is when it is suggested to keep pets and small children indoors.

Stephens said bears wandering into urban areas typically return to the wilderness on their own. Really? Not according to recent studies made on relocated bears. The studies have shown that typically bears, even if relocated hundreds of miles away, returned right back to where they have been captured. Once a bear learns how easy it is to obtain food near humans he will stay and become more dangerous to humans as time goes on.

The commonsense solution is to increase hunting permits for bears. Of course that does not sit well with teddy bear huggers. They rather would have the taxpayers throw more money at bear capture and deterrent programs that do not work, than admit to a commonsense solution which is to reduce bears to a population that their natural habitat can provide for.

Until such time where commonsense prevails over political agenda I am afraid people in the towns and cities of British Columbia will have to live in increased fear of becoming a victim of unprovoked attacks from bears that slowly start to regard humans as a new food source. The joke that B.C. has a bear behind every tree has become a dangerous reality. Bear bells and pepper spray have become a hot selling item for outdoor enthusiasts and now for town and city people too. While the bells, whistles and pepper spray work some of the time they are not fool proof. There are stories that some bears are actually attracted by bells and other human noises, while other bears seem to be immune to pepper spray.

The only good news in all of this is that people, even the nature detached inner city dwellers, start to view hunters in a much more favorable light. They want something done about the bear problem and hunting them seems a very reasonable solution to the majority of British Columbian's.

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SimplyOutdoors said...

These stories always amaze me-it is a simply equation:

Too much bear with not enough habitat=bear attacks and increased human bear encounters.

This happens all over the country, and not just with bears, but people are always surprised. Don't they know that when population levels are allowed to increase beyond the level that the habit can support that you are destined for problems.

Hopefully as a result of all of these incidents a few more bear permits will be issued and the commonsense approach of hunting will be the means by which the problem is resolved.

Tom Sorenson said...

Like you and Arthur, it simply amazes me that people can be so blind to such a simple solution to a big and increasing problem. I suggest you check out Marian's blog entry for yesterday - for a picture sequence of a bear being released that will really get you going.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thanks for your comments.

I am glad you all see decimating the population to a normal level as a sound solution. Just this very morning there was another news report of a bear in the same area entering a house. The bear didn’t hurt anybody but caused thousands of dollars damage to furniture and raided the fridge. That bear too, was described as very aggressive and consequently killed by police and wildlife officials.

Here is what they had to say to people in the area, if it weren’t so dam stupid I could laugh about it. “People should close all doors and windows. We recommend installing wooden shutters on class doors and windows. We know it’s very hot weather.” (100F for the past week) There are folks that do not have air conditioners. What are they to do? Bake in their own houses because the authorities refuse to get rid of the problem for fear of upsetting a few bear huggers? Bears are beautiful animals but if they choose to live among people and attack them then they become a dangerous nuisance and must be dealt with in a fashion that ensures the safety of the people. Looking people into their own houses is not the solution to the problem, getting rid of the nuisance is.


Anonymous said...

I like the people who shoot bears at random because they are grossly overpopulated, when i work in the bush I see a black bear almost every couple of km's so imagine all the bears you dont see

Othmar Vohringer said...

Anonymous – Nobody said anything about shooting bears randomly. Bear hunting in British Columbia is strictly regulated. The hunting is done my government regulated and licensed hunters.

I don’t quite understand what you mean by “…when i work in the bush I see a black bear almost every couple of km's so imagine all the bears you dont see…

Looks like an unfinished sentence, Lol.

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