Whether you're sitting in your breakfast nook admiring your backyard or hiking in the deep wilderness, biologists everywhere implore you: Please don't feed the bears.
"Bears are normally shy and not aggressive toward humans," says bear biologist Forrest Hammond. "However, a bear that has been fed by humans soon loses its shyness and can become dangerous, especially to the landowner feeding the bears and to their neighbors. Often, as in this case, fed bears will seek similar foods elsewhere, and in the process cause property damage and scare people not expecting to find bears on their porches and in their back yards."
This warning is particularly relevant in light of a couple of recent incidents in which bears that had become habituated to people were killed by citizens in self-defense. As reported here at NRA Family, a Colorado teen who is a competitive shooter was forced to protect herself from a black bear that broke into her garage. Across the country, a Vermont man was charged by the Fish & Wildlife Department for intentionally feeding bears after a neighbor was forced to kill one in self-defense.
Jeffrey Messier, 54, was charged with feeding bears after Game Warden Sgt. Carl Wedin received a report of a bear being killed in self-defense at a neighboring residence on June 22, 2014. Sgt. Wedin responded and recovered the bear. Its stomach contained a large number of sunflower seeds.
The investigating warden went to Jeffrey Messier's residence where he discovered evidence of bear feeding and encountered a bear walking around the residence. The bear showed no sign of being afraid of people and walked right up to the warden. The bear then approached a picnic table where sunflower seeds were placed. It was obvious to the warden that this bear had been intentionally fed on several occasions and had lost its fear of humans.
"People such as Mr. Messier that feed bears often think they are helping them," said Hammond, "but in reality such behavior causes problems for other landowners and often ends with the death of the bears being fed. When we start receiving multiple reports of bears causing problems in an area we most often find that someone is intentionally feeding them."
The intentional feeding of bears is illegal in many states...and even where it's legal, it's never a good idea.