Black Bear Among Humans: Kill or Let Live?

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Black bears living among humans has generated great debate on whether they should be killed or left to live. Ursus americanis, or “black bear,” has been in the spot light lately. In many cases where there has been unfavorable interaction between the black bears and humans the animals are tranquilized, evaluated and then released far from human habitation. It may seem as though the bears are encroaching on human grounds, but in many instances it is humans that are quickly inhabiting crucial habitats that the bear already exist in.

When their habitat is taken over many black bears do not have a choice but to try and adapt to what is currently available to them. Bird feeders, trash cans, and pet food are prime resources that these animals will utilize for survival in developed areas within their home range. DNR officials and biologists continuously bang their heads together on what measures in controlling black bears are considered humane and safe for humans and the animal in the area.

Black bears can pose a serious danger to human life, especially when a mother has cubs to protect. The question is whether methods of dispatching the animal are a better choice than making the determination that some bears can be safely released. In previous news, many black bears in a variety of cities were being tranquilized and released to safer locations.  However, a recent black bear problem within the Twin cities area of Minnesota resulted in the sad decision for the usage of lethal means to manage the situation.

Authorities in Saint Paul Minnesota obviously thought that shooting the bear was the correct decision to make. Before the animal was put down, it was previously shot in a rear leg in another part of the Twin Cities area, according to Minnesota’s Channel 4 News. Due to the major slip in trying to put the bear down humanely, the now injured animal was obviously a huge threat to human safety. Authorities had intended to tranquilize the animal, but due to the pain from the gunshot wound the animal was fearful and confused. DNR officials told police that it was their duty to protect the public, but there was no way to get an animal control officer to the location in time with a tranquilizing gun. Residents in the area became more curious on what was happening and started coming out of their homes, making the situation even more dangerous.

Many local folk seem to become extremely fearful, if not aggressive towards predators like the black bear when they are discovered in their neighborhoods. Although according to the Minnesota DNR website on black bear, the bear’s home range is also within the Twin Cities area. Most residents do not understand much about these animals, let alone the fact that it is not uncommon for a few to come within the city border at times.

In other news in other locations, authorities were successful in removing black bears that came within their localities. Such as in Virginia, where there was a sighting of a bear that was traveling along the beach within the Virginia Beach area. A state biologist had the bear under evaluation for 24 hours and it was then relocated. In Winnebago County, Massachusetts  another bear was located roaming the yard of a local woman and eating bird seed. The woman managed to take some photos of the animal as it passed through her yard. She also stated that it was not uncommon for such animal sightings due to the development in the area. Authorities have yet to find were the animal has wandered off to, but they do intend to tranquilize and relocate if necessary.

Wildlife is a huge resource that needs protection, but when it comes down to human safety it does seem that any potentially dangerous animal is at risk of losing its life when coming in contact with humans.  When black bear try to live among humans, the choice on whether to kill or let live is one authorities will have to make based on the danger the bear poses to humans. How the interactions with the bear are managed, or mismanaged, will also be a factor in the decision making process.

By Tina Elliott



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