Some issues with bear coverage
November 8, 2011
The story of the Douglas County sheriff deputy recently shooting a bear made headline news on Charter.net. Charter’s reporting, however, was grossly inaccurate. The cute, little cub standing with forepaws on momma bear, (a photo to no doubt elicit sympathy for the bears) is a grizzly, as is the mom. We have no grizzlies here; only black bears.
Almost always, wild black bears will run at the sight or smell of humans. Habituated bears, or “garbage bears,” however, will not always leave. In fact, most will not. They have lost their natural fear and respect for humans because humans have either fed them, or have allowed them to have been fed (as occurred in this case) on unnatural bear food – human garbage. That makes those bears very dangerous.
So, whatever the circumstance involving the bear shooting by a Douglas County sheriff deputy may have been, mistake or otherwise, it was probably legitimate. The bear did not leave of its own volition when confronted by a human. That deputy (and I hope he or she remains unnamed in order to be protected from the wrath of well intentioned, yet ignorant bear-loving residents) may have unwittingly saved someone from getting mauled – or worse at some future date.
I have taught wilderness survival in Douglas County for over 30 years, and I too, love our bears, but we all need to understand that regardless of how cute and cuddly they appear, they are wild, apex predators who are unpredictable, and as far-fetched as it may seem, fully capable of killing and devouring humans. I am concerned that with the prevailing nonchalant attitude toward Tahoe “residential” bears, it is just a matter of time until we see headlines of a tragic bear-human encounter.