November 11, 2019

Blind Ignorance and Eating Bear Meat

National Public Radio presents and article written by David Sommerstein about eating bear meat. The article, as a whole, is interesting and probably many people would enjoy reading it. I did. I would, however, like to take issue with a comment that was written in the article that made me shake my head in exasperation over why writers sometimes write things that can spoil their entire piece by exposing lack of depth in thinking, and exposing their ignorance of a subject. This writer might know something about cooking and eating bear meat, but he should leave issues about bears living in the woods and how they survive to others.

Here’s my beef. The author writes: “”There’s more sprawl. There’s more people living in bear habitat,” says big game biologist Steve Heerkens with New York state’s department of environmental conservation. Yet fewer, if any, natural predators are still around to keep the bears in check.”

Obviously, the first part of this quote from the article, is a quote from a “big game biologist” who says, “There’s more sprawl. There’s more people living in bear habitat.” This comes right after a statement that says bear populations are growing. Therefore, isn’t a more logical and accurate description to say that there a more bears now living in human habitat? But this really isn’t my point.

The author follows this up with, “Yet fewer, if any, natural predators are still around to keep the bears in check.” Maybe the author should have taken a little bit of time to educate his readers and tell us what “natural predators” aren’t around anymore to keep bear numbers in check. I’ll wait.

On second thought, I can’t wait for ever. Isn’t it obvious that this article is telling us that man is not consider either natural or a predator? There really are no “natural predators” of bears, except man. First let me make a possible exception to this. Perhaps if New York, or any other state, imported wolves, maybe 4 or 5 cubs would be yanked out of their dens in mid winter and gobbled up by a pack of hungry wolves. Other than that, man is about the only “natural predator” of the bear.’

Consider, if you will, that New York is the third most populous state with about 20 million people. Now there is 20,000,000 NATURAL PREDATORS of the bear and yet any thoughts of man being a natural predator to “keep the bears in check” are often poo-pooed as unnatural and inhumane.

It just kind of makes me angry when the tone of a statement leads people to think that when it comes to wildlife, man somehow is always the bad guy in the room.

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Poor and Irresponsible Advice About Bears

This is the kind of nonsense that I have been trying to convey to readers for some time. In an article at WUNC.org, a North Carolina wildlife biologist gives the following advice when encountering a bear.

Batts suggests that people limit food in outside areas, places like bird-feeders. But also, if you see a bear, take a minute to enjoy the majesty of the animal.

“Just watch and enjoy the bear as it passes through because that’s what it’s doing, it’s just passing through and I can guarantee you that he is way more scared of you than you are of him. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s the truth.”(emphasis added)

In addition, the article states that the only problem with human and bear encounters with each other is the fault of humans (what else would you expect from a brainwashed environmentalist biologist?) because humans are afraid of bears. While perhaps some people are actually “afraid” of bears, the real problem, as far as humans go, is that they are not given the truth about wild animal behavior in order to make prudent decisions and formulate the necessary respect for the animals.

A state wildlife biologist telling people he will “guarantee” a bear, during an encounter, “is way more scared of you than you are of him” is utterly irresponsible. Under many conditions and circumstances a bear will not hang around when confronted by a human, however readers must understand that it is circumstances surrounding the life of a bear, that has forced it into human-settled landscapes. All wild animals are unpredictable and coupled with certain circumstances there’s always the possibility that conditions are right in which a bear becomes a weapon of destruction. It just sends a terrible message to people to tell them a bear is just passing through and is scared of you more than you are of the bear.

Obtaining accurate knowledge about bear and wild animal behavior isn’t based on fear as this biologists is suggesting. No person can make the best decision in given situations without having accurate and truthful information about the animal. This advice is very poor and I hope the biologist’s supervisors correct the situation before someone gets hurt because they are taught that bears are not potentially a very dangerous animal.

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Is Labeling Bears a Nuisance Dangerous to Humans?

BearTrapThis morning I was reading an article found at RGJ.com about one Nevada community that is working toward providing residents, at a cost, “bear proof” garbage cans in order to reduce human/bear conflicts. While I personally believe that having “bear proof” garbage cans can help in some cases of reducing conflicts with bears, it isn’t the answer to all the bear problems.

According to the article, within a 2,200-resident Caughlin Ranch subdivision, the bear proof garbage cans will be made available at a cost to residents of $6.27 per month, or on average an increase of about 41%, depending on the type of waste service residents now hire. The use of bear proof cans is not mandatory and one has to wonder what kind of participation will occur and even in those who opt for the new containers, will they use them properly? And, without full cooperation, how effective then does the program become? (Note: I am not necessarily advocating mandatory use of bear proof garbage cans.)

This may or may not help. The reason I say that is that bears are influenced by so many things in their surroundings and normal life habits, I’m not sure people realize a bear coming and getting into your garbage is but a small part of a bear’s life. The question should always be what caused or forced the bear to seek food from a human source?

In the article, the person described as the general manager of the Caughlin Ranch Homeowners Association, said:

“I think it will definitely help,” Olson said. “What (bears) are going to realize is we’re no longer a food source. Just like they learned to come, they’re going to learn not to come.”

As I have already stated, having available bear proof garbage cans might help, but it isn’t the answer to all or even most of the “bear problems.” I doubt seriously that providing some or a lot of bear proof cans is going to teach the bears it’s a waste of time to seek out food inside of the Caughlin Ranch community. That’s because there doesn’t seem to be anyone suggesting what the real reasons bears are coming there other than the food draws them out of the woods.

That’s not really how bears operate. They much prefer “natural” food, i.e. mast crops, vegetation, fruits, etc. One thing that might force them to seek alternative sources of food, i.e. human-generated garbage, is when their is a shortage of natural food. That’s not a problem caused by not having bear proof garbage cans. Studies readily indicate that even when giving bears options between human garbage/human food or their natural diet, overwhelming bears prefer natural food.

Another bear behavior influencing factor might be that there are too many bears competing for the same amount of food or in a worse case scenario a combination of too many bears and a natural food shortage can present very serious issues.

A hungry bear is a potentially dangerous situation. What people have done, with a misinformation campaign by environmental and animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), is label these bears that rummage through garbage as “nuisance” bears. The bear is not a nuisance. What the bear does, like getting into your garbage, becomes a nuisance to the people who own the garbage cans. The bear is hungry.

The entire resulting act and mislabeling creates more problems than before people tried to “help.”

Here’s a couple of examples: Protectors of bears often say that hunting seasons on bear does nothing to stop the “nuisance” bears. Their thinking is that hunters don’t hunt these wrongly labeled “nuisance” bears. The question that needs to be asked is whether or not a “nuisance” bear is a new subspecies of black bears or grizzly or polar bears? Where did these bears come from if not out of the woods? Are they a subspecies of bear that is born, lives, hibernates, eats, dens, sleeps, and never sees the depths of the forest, all within ear shot of housing developments like Caughlin Ranch?

It is true bears prefer their natural food selections. If too many bears are competing for not enough food, an overall reduction of bears can provide less competition and bears, generally speaking, will return to the forest and/or stay there and never come out. Some may think this idealistic thinking but it’s not. Yes, there are always exceptions to everything and even with well-structured bear management plans, there are still bound to be some conflicts.

When bears are labeled “nuisance” bears, this can falsely give people the wrong idea that bears, regardless of what we have been told by some, and regardless of whether or not they have become “humanized” or “desensitized” to humans, they are a wild and big animal and can be extremely dangerous to humans under the right circumstances; many of those circumstances we humans don’t understand. To teach people that bears are “more afraid of us” or that they are “intelligent” and “sensitive” creatures is wrong on many levels, say nothing about irresponsible.

Perhaps an example of this can be found in the photographs provided in the article that I linked to above. In the first three photos, we can see a bear trap, on a trailer, on the back of a pick-up truck with the door opened. A bear is about to be released back into the forest. The caption says that officials with the Nevada fish and game are going to use “aversion training” in hopes of “teaching” the bear that humans are not nice people. They are about to use rubber bullets and dogs to chase and frighten the bear away. This isn’t really a problem and is often done by many fish and game officials. However, upon examination of the photos, to the right of the trap, left in the picture, a man is squat down, holding one of the pursuit dogs and next to him a small child.

In photos number 2 and 3, we see a man with what appears to be a rifle pointed in the general direction of the first man, dog and child. We can assume he is preparing to fire rubber bullets at the bear as the bear runs away. To the left of the man with the rifle, can be seen, in the back of another pick-up truck, an adult and another small child.

Is this all that responsible? Have even these “professionals” lost sight of the fact that regardless of any situation, a bear can raise some serious trouble. Have these men and the many citizens been unknowingly brainwashed to think bears are something they are not? Are bears now just a “nuisance” and not a wild animal that needs to be responsibly feared and respected? Isn’t labeling a bear a “nuisance” an attempt at putting human traits and characteristics on a wild animal? Isn’t this then a reflection of a lack of knowledge and understanding of wild bears?

I recall a series of photographs that made its way around cyberspace several years ago. A photographer was at a distance and planned to photograph the release of a grizzly bear from a barrel trap that was located in the back of a ranger’s pick-up truck. What the photographer captured was a series of pictures showing the bear jumping out of the barrel, turning, jumping up into the back of the truck and attacking the man who opened the door to let the bear go free. The man suffered some serious cuts but was okay. We just cannot always and consistently predict what wild animals will do.

Only time will tell how effective this Nevada community’s effort will be. It is hoped that nobody gets injured and it would be nice if people, especially the experts and the media outlets, would think a bit more about what they say and the words we use to label wild animals. Words can easily “desensitize” humans about bears.

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Maine Fish and Game’s Bundle of Contradictions About Bear Behavior

These “Bear Facts” were found in an article published in Seacoast Online from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

Bear facts

According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the black bear is the smallest of three species of bears inhabiting North America, and is the only bear living in the eastern United States. Although most black bears are not much larger than humans, their weight can vary tremendously with the season of the year.

Adult males can average 250 to 600 pounds, and measure 5 to 6 feet tall from nose to tail. Females are smaller, weighing 100 to 400 pounds, and measuring 4 to 5 feet in length.

If you come in contact with a bear, back away slowly, make yourself big by putting your arms over your head, make noise, and head indoors.

There is a misconception, said Doug Rafferty, director of public information and education for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, that a bear would want to harm a human, when their primary goal is food.

“No bear wants to eat a man because a man doesn’t taste all that good to a bear. A bear is hungry. His fight or flight response is based on hunger and whether or not he’s trapped or cornered. He generally doesn’t want to even be around a human,” Rafferty said. “Although the thing you have to remember, is that given the proper circumstances, any bear will attack. These animals are wild, you’ve got to stay away from them.”

I just don’t get it and probably never will. How can anybody state that “no bear wants to eat a man” and then turn around in the same paragraph and claim that under “proper circumstances, any bear will attack”? Why is it necessary to somehow dumb down and mislead people by saying stupid things about bears that can’t be proven when the only things that drive a bear and their habits are circumstances? Why can’t these fish and game and environmental organizations use the same amount of resources to explain to the people what those circumstances are that would drive a bear to attack you?

First, Rafferty claims that it’s a misconception that a bear would want to harm a human, when their primary goal is food. The misconception here is that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is presenting a misconception that a bear wouldn’t harm a human. Bears harm humans more often when they are looking for food. MDIFW seems to be attempting to tell people that bears WILL NOT harm humans when they are looking for food. When there is ample food that bears prefer, we seldom have occurrence to even lay eyes on a bear. But if a bear gets hungry enough, it will eat whatever it can get and yes, under the right circumstances, a bear will choose a human as a target for food.

Those circumstances might include but not limited to or necessarily need to be all inclusive: A bear coming out of winter hibernation is very hungry; there is little or no food available for the bear in its “natural” habitat; a bear, usually a young male, has been forced away from its mother and is in search of food and a new place to live and gets hungry; a bear that has become habituated around humans. They have lost their fear of humans and have determined humans are not a threat to them and perhaps have even tested enough to plan how to attack.

There are also those circumstances when a human may become or is perceived by a mother bear as a threat to her young and/or herself. Bears can also become startled and immediately feel threatened. If they know they can easily and quickly escape, chances are they will but don’t bet your life on it.

And don’t forget some old bears just become crotchety old bastards and will come looking for some human flesh to munch on just for the heck of it.

The second claim made by MDIFW is that, “No bear wants to eat a man because a man doesn’t taste all that good to a bear.” I mean, seriously? Give us the data on that one, okay! When I read this, in my mind I’m envisioning the Geico commercial on television, where people are asked to sample two drinks. One is sweet, the other bitter. When asked which drink they prefer, they pick the sweet one, of course, and the person reveals they picked the drink of Geico Insurance. So, did MDIFW sit down and offer a bear a barrel full of Dunkin Donuts and Hershey chocolate bars and then a pound of human rump roast and determined the bear didn’t care much for human flesh?

Probably the most intelligent bit of information in the “Bear Facts” is found in the last two sentences, “given the proper circumstances, any bear will attack. These animals are wild, you’ve got to stay away from them”. That’s great advice. The rest of it is mumbo-jumbo nonsense. If MDIFW would now just spell out what circumstances, I think then it might help people to understand why they need to stay away from wild bears.

There’s no need to run around in fear of bears but there’s also no need to be spoon-fed dumb stuff like humans don’t taste good to bears. Please!

Tom Remington

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