Opinion | Faith & Inspiration
By Charles Towne
Hardly a week goes by without our hearing of another bear being sighted in a residential neighborhood, and it elicits little more than idle curiosity when we learn that the state has trapped and transported another bear to the Ocala National Forest.
Unfortunately, there is no simple formula that will protect a person in all situations involving bears.
Most people consider the bear as ‘just another animal’. This is a mistake. Bears are highly intelligent as well as individualistic and are capable of nearly as many responses in a given circumstance as a human. Imagining that you know what a bear is going to do is a very dangerous belief.
In this short article, I can’t hope to answer all of the questions concerning bears and our co-existence with them. The most to hope for is that we can perhaps come to a greater appreciation of our wild neighbor.
It might well be said that all conflict between bear and man is food related. Bears are the only large omnivore on planet earth. What this means is they will eat almost anything and everything in their perpetual quest for food.
While a bear’s eyesight is at least as good as that of man, his hearing is far superior; but the sense that a bear uses to survive more than all else is his nose. No other animal on earth has greater acuity of smell.
That incredible sense of smell draws him to your back yard in search of the food you are cooking on your outdoor grill, your pet’s food dish, the seed you have placed in your bird feeder and your garbage can.
The key to successfully sharing bear country with those that were here first is conflict prevention. With minimal human effort, bears and people can coexist. The human effort I am speaking of is the elimination of the potential causes of the conflicts.
You may wonder why it is necessary that you should be put upon to avoid these conflicts, after all, a phone call to the authorities and the bear is trapped, tattooed and transported to a nice new home in the Ocala National Forest where he is going to thrive, right? Wrong, and for several reasons.
Bears are extremely territorial. Transporting a problem bear to another area creates new conflict issues with the resident bears where natural food resources might already be taxed to the limit. This creates the probability of fighting between the resident bears and the relocated bear resulting in subsequent deaths.
Due to an incredible homing instinct, bears return to their original habitat. Bears have been known to travel hundreds of miles to return to their home range. The only obstacle that can prevent this migration is a natural barrier such as a large body of water or a mountain range, and we have neither in the state of Florida.
Bears are killed in transit. As they travel to their home range, bears are killed when forced to cross and re-cross busy highways.
Starvation. After days or perhaps weeks the subject bear, if it survives the dangers, arrives home in poor condition, perhaps starving. It is desperate for food so it returns to known food sources, your garbage cans.
Euthanization. Another phone call is made. If the authorities determine that the bear is a “problem” bear, it is trapped again. The bear’s number is compared to existing records, and if found, is the bear transported again? No. It is euthanized.
The trapping and transportation of bears is costly in man-hours and revenue. I am sure there are other ways we would like to see our tax dollars at work, but more important than the monetary expenditure is the fact that a bear’s death is a loss to a natural system that relies upon them as part of nature’s balance.
Bears give us something special, an incredible element of wildness that makes living in close proximity to them mysterious and exciting. They are worthy of our respect and our care.
The following tips, though simple, definitely seem to help and could eliminate 90% of your bear issues.
(1) If you feed your pets outside, don’t allow spilled food to accumulate.
(2) If you feed wild birds in your yard, keep in mind that Mr. Bear loves birdseed. Periodically clean up and remove any spilled and scattered birdseed. Make special provision by using hanging bird feeders and suspend them high enough to be beyond a standing bear’s reach. (Eight or ten feet should be sufficient.)
(3) Place your garbage cans at curbside the morning of pickup thus eliminating all of those delicious and tantalizing odors wafting through the air and acting as a magnet for a hungry bear on the prowl. Oh yes, and rinse as well as wash your garbage cans. When the garbage cans are clean spray some lime juice over the inside of the container. (The lime juice seems to work much better than ammonia.)
Please remember, by not providing attractants we just might be assuring long life for Mr. Bear.
An Outdoorsman’s Prayer
Dear Papa God, You have entrusted man to be the caregivers for not only his fellow man but those creatures we callously call “lesser.” Help us to be compassionate to all creatures. Thank you Papa. In Jesus’ blessed name, Amen
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.