Opening a hunting season on bears will likely reduce the overall bear population somewhat, depending on where the state sets the limit for bear licenses sold (or however they decide to control bear hunting).
But bears that cause issues for humans are likely to be bears that live too close to homes and roads for hunters to be legally allowed to shoot them. So then it comes down to educating the humans about what humans can do about reducing bear issues (don’t feed birds spring through fall; don’t leave any animal food [for dogs, chickens, whatever] out where bears can get to it; clean grills really thoroughly or bring them into a garage when they have cooled off; etc.).
People also need to learn that just because you see a bear (or coyote or whatever) in your yard or near your school doesn’t mean there’s a problem. The bear is likely to be just passing through, unless you’ve left a food source out that they are attracted to. In Massachusetts, the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (where I used to work) does a lot of educating of people in the greater Boston area about, yep, bears and coyotes live here, too, and yep, you need to keep food away from them, and nope, seeing a bear or coyote is not cause for panic. (And Massachusetts has a bear season, by the way, but the Boston suburbs are too densely populated for safe, legal hunting.)
A personal anecdote: Sometime in the spring I happened to look out at my driveway around lunch time, right when a young bear decided to walk very tentatively up the driveway, cross the quiet road, and disappear into the woods behind the houses across from me. I was thrilled (except I didn’t have a camera to make an observation for iNat). Now, I happen to live right next to the local high school. Did I think I should call the school or the police and warn them there was a bear near the school? No, of course not. But in the town of Arlington, MA, the same event on the same day - seeing a bear near the high school - caused the school to be closed for the day. Arlington is in the Boston suburbs, where people aren’t used to seeing bears. I live in a small town a couple hours west of Boston where bears are a relatively regular sight.
Thanks so much for this info. You obviously have a better outlook on this in Mass than I feel will ever be understood here in Connecticut.
And you cited one of the biggest issues; that OVER-REACTION to an amimal sighting is more commonplace in Urban areas than in Rural. It’s the Mindset, understanding that Animals Live Here, Too!
Hey, thanks so much for your input. All of you. It is greatly appreciated
I’d like to think educating people about bears and how not to feed them would solve this problem, but as an educator I’m entirely certain it won’t solve the problem. Help, yes. Well worth doing, but it won’t be enough.
Black Bears are not endangered. In fact, they’re common in many areas. Their populations increase exponentially unless they are prevented – as is true of everything, including us humans (though we’d like to think we’re exceptions). In general, the limiting factors for animals are predation, disease, or starvation (often expressed through competition). I don’t hunt, though I’ve run traplines for mice and don’t think that’s morally different. I don’t like the idea of shooting bears, but I think it will be necessary if people want to reduce bear/human interactions – and you know a lot of people do. Hunting would be less harmful to bears in general, though not to the individuals shot, of course, than starvation or disease. Hunting bears creates a group of people with an interest in keeping the population alive and well, while seeming to do nothing about the bear population can create public pressure headed by frightened people who think the bears are out to get them and their children. This is one of those cases (life presents too many!) where the only options you have are bad and worse. So I would say, set up a hunting season plus carefully kill individual bears who are causing trouble/fear for people. Sigh.
Bear management is always controversial, as it is for any large charismatic mammal. My state (New Mexico) is going through hunting rule revisions right now for black bear and cougar and the public comment period always draws a wide range of strong opinions about the harvest numbers being proposed and whether the two species should be hunted at all.
Cougars are even harder because they are so territorial they seem to limit their own population pretty well. So while i am not across the board opposed to hunting them, that factor plus the fact they must taste pretty awful makes me a lot less enthusiastic about hunting cougars. Sure, if one is stalking humans and won’t be scared off, shoot that one. Otherwise it may end up attacking a human and that ends badly for all involved including unrelated cougars. But hunting them? I don’t know. I haven’t tried it (yet) but i hear bear meat is similar to pork and a lot better tasting than cougar.
@jnstuart: I mentioned that I used to live in Oregon. Now I live in New Mexico, in Las Cruces. No bears right here, of course, and I’ve yet to see on in the Sacramento Mtns (though I’ve seen scat) or in the Gila Wilderness. But I’ve been told that, as in Oregon, backcountry black bears with no experience of human dwellings or campgrounds run away just like the ones in Oregon’s backcountry.
Which says nothing about managing bear populations which are familiar with “civilization”.
Agreed: people should be respectful of wild animals, whether a bear or a rattlesnake or cougar or peccary. Keep a good distance, avoid confrontation. I am pessimistic, however, as it takes only a few tragedies involving thrill-seekers or dunderheads to create a “eliminate all dangerous animals” mentality.
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