I can agree with two things Marybeth Holleman said in her Nov. 26 appeal imploring Alaskans to “live and let live” with black bears: namely that bears are smart and learn quickly; and that there is a burgeoning human population with an increasingly industrialized paved and developed world out there.
I disagree with most of the rest of her diatribe.
Black bears, along with the other species of American bears, wolves and mountain lions plus homo sapiens, are at the top of the ecological food chain. As such, these species have been duking it out for thousands of years to see who gets to stand at the top and who backs off. While some would say that these interactions are part of past history and that humans have summitted, in a few of the less developed corners of the planet, it’s still going on.
When humans leave bears to do as they wish, bears definitely learn quickly that they don’t have to be concerned about the humans and they’re free to pop the garbage cans, the pet foods, the poultry and the pets confined to fenced yards. And if you walk around a corner in the woods and accidentally come face-to-face with one of these conditioned bears, look out; you may wind up in the hospital or worse.
Ms. Holleman’s insistence that if we leave the bears alone, the bears will leave us alone, is a fairy tale. The best way to minimize problems with bears is to manage them as is done throughout most of Alaska, where bears are hunted, harvested and readily learn that humans are to be avoided.
One more thing: late spring/early summer black bear is delicious.
— Jim Lieb
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