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Science!: Please Feed the Bears!

Lauren Admire | 3 May 2010 21:00
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Please Feed the Bears

Remember all those warnings of please don't feed the animals? Well, those are still true, with one exception. You can feed the bears now.

Bears are a bit of a nuisance. They're really big and really hungry. They break into cars, they terrorize campers, they steal food from open picnic baskets. (I clearly learned everything I know about bears from Yogi the Bear.) Some biologists state that as humans continually move into black bear territory, bears will begin to see humans as food sources and get increasingly aggressive. However, biologist Lynn Rogers doesn't believe this is the case.

She suggests placing food away from potential problem areas before bears get too desperate. By feeding the bears, they will "become used to seeing people and therefore less likely to be defensive," Rogers explains. "And people are used to seeing bears, and therefore less likely to fear their presence."

Rogers isn't just suggesting this because she thinks bears are cute and cuddly. She's been running long experiments in Minnesota, where she and a team have been placing food in the middle of homes and campsites. The scientists made no attempt to conceal themselves, and no other bear attractants like dumpsters - or open picnic baskets - were removed.

During this eight year period of experimentation, only one problematic bear was removed, whereas in the three years before the experiment took place, six bears had to be removed. Further, they have also found that feeding the bears during a drought period reduced the amount of problematic bear break-ins.

"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," states Stewart Breck, a biologist with the USDA's National Wildlife Research Center. "While a black bear attack is unlikely, bears are unpredictable. They're powerful animals capable of harming people."

Source: National Geographic

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Lauren Admire wants a bear ...

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