My Turn: Sun bear editorial misses the mark
August 12, 2013
I've had the pleasure and thrill of enumerable black bear encounters over the past 40 years of backpacking every corner of the Central and Southern Sierra.
I've not only developed a deep love for bears, I've also developed a rational, unemotional understanding that some black bears can be dangerous, especially when they've lost their fear of humans, increasing the potential for bear/human encounters, and are attracted to human populations by food in years of less natural abundance, all of which are occurring in the Truckee/Tahoe area now.
The fact is, all wild animals are unpredictable and potentially dangerous, especially an animal that weighs two to three hundred pounds with very large canines and long, sharp claws, with or without a fear of humans.
It's a sad truth that some bears can pose a risk to public safety and need to be killed. A little part of me dies every time that happens. But I have to accept that, due to our negligence, bears sometimes have to be put down.
A recent unsigned Sierra Sun editorial entitled "Is it that hard being bear aware?" was seemingly oblivious to that reality, which is what prompted me to write this article.
The Sun criticized NDOW for "sugar coating" killing the now infamous Glenbrook bear because NDOW used the term "euthanized" instead of "killed" to describe putting the bear to death.
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I agree that the bear was killed, not euthanized, but to expect NDOW to say the bear was killed is naïve in my opinion. It's obvious that NDOW wanted to soften the blow of having to kill another bear. That's completely understandable to me.
It's good politics, especially considering the hysteria that's drummed up every time a bear is killed, and the lashings NDOW has to endure for simply doing its job.
As the editorial states, nobody wants to hear that a bear had to be "killed." Saying a bear was euthanized makes the killing of a bear much more palatable to the public. I don't see anything wrong with that.
Probably because I don't subscribe to the Sun's apparent agreement with "bellowing" wildlife advocates who advance the false belief that all black bears are benign. That's simply not true.
A well-known, decade-long study of the North American black bear published in 2011 surprised experts when it came to the opposite conclusion about all black bears being benign. Black bears can be dangerous under certain circumstances, including the circumstances I stated above.
Although the risk of death or injury by black bears is very low, it still exists. While the study discovered that most deaths caused by black bears are the result of lone males predating humans in the backcountry (which is contrary to the popular belief that black bears never prey on humans), habituated bears attracted by human food can also pose a risk.
Dissemination by the Sun of what I consider to be inaccurate and inflammatory information, including stating that the Glenbrook bear was simply "curious and hungry," is a disservice to the public. It only serves to perpetuate the public's irrational belief that all black bears are benign.
As the editorial stated, "killing" of a bear may be a hard pill for the public to swallow, but what's apparently even harder, is swallowing the pill of responsibility because every time a black bear has to be put to death, it's the public's fault and responsibility for not being bear aware.
It's not NDOW's responsibility, nor the responsibility of legislators in Carson City.
Nick De Fiori is a Truckee resident.