In Friday's edition of the Payson Roundup, we ran a photo of a male black bear who was caught rummaging through garbage and generally causing mayhem in the Tonto Creek Estates. The bear was sedated, removed from the area and euthanized.
We could have predicted the reaction. A few phone calls and even more casual conversations over the weekend offered the same response.
"Why did they have to kill the bear?"
"Why couldn't they just take the bear deep into the forest and drop it off, far away from humans to live out the rest of its life?"
Because the old bumper sticker is true, "Garbage kills bears." Or, more accurately, humans kill bears.
Bears do not have an ethical responsibility to control their appetites for our trash. Rather, as residents of a small mountain town, surrounded on three sides by national forest, we have a responsibility to the wildlife around us.
We can feel sympathy for a euthanized bear all we want, but Arizona Game & Fish has a policy for the sake of public safety to destroy bears that have discovered the source of fresh baked blueberry pies, pizza crusts and french fries.
The hearts of many readers poured out for that black bear in Tonto Creek Estates, but there is nothing cute or endearing about a bear waddling away with a belly full of human leftovers. If he gets away with it once, he will only become more aggressive upon his return. Next time, a child or pet could be between him and his feast.
A bear who has dined on the dumpster buffet, even once, will forever and always associate human beings with delicious, easily obtained food. And that association does not go away, just because the bear has been removed from the dumpster in question.
Those of us who live in more remote corners of Rim Country, whose lives tend to overlap more often with bears, electric fences and bear-proof containers should be the rule out of respect for the wildlife around us.
In town, such drastic measures are not necessary, but the same level of awareness should be in place.
The Arizona Game & Fish Web site lists these steps to prevent black bears from rummaging around your home:
- Don't feed or give water to black bears. Be aware that human behaviors, such as feeding other animals, can attract black bears.
- Feed your pets inside or remove uneaten pet food between feedings.
- Remove garbage regularly or keep in bear-proof containers. Hide odors by regularly cleaning garbage cans with disinfectants, bleach or white vinegar.
- Remove other enticing food sources, such as birdseed, hummingbird feed (sweet liquid), fruit from trees or shrubs located near buildings.
- Keep bears out with heavy woven-wire fencing at least 10 feet high.
- Use electric fencing with alternating hot and ground wires to effectively exclude black bears. Check local ordinances before installing electric fencing.