Co-existence is the answer
November 20, 2007
Regarding “Are There Too Many Bears in Aspen” (Nov. 15), Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Division of Wildlife (DOW), told The Aspen Times that the agency may encourage “thinning” of the black bear population in Pitkin County to reduce human-bear conflicts. The DOW’s proposed idea is a poor one.
Population reductions in Pitkin County have already occurred. This summer, 13 bears were killed after conflicts with humans, two-dozen more were relocated, and four cubs were sent to a sanctuary. Add to that, sporthunters have likely killed bears this fall during the bear-hunting season. This is no small number, for a very slow-breeding species.
Even more bears will be lost this winter from natural processes. Females breed in the summer months, but the fetus will not fully implant until she goes into hibernation, and it will only become viable if she’s in good physical condition. Since many potential mother bears are likely lacking the necessary body fat to sustain them through this winter, their bodies will reabsorb their fetuses, resulting in fewer cubs this spring. Adults that started hibernation without adequate nutrition will die too.
Black bears slowly reproduce, and all sources of mortality greatly influence their populations. A female bear does not start to breed until she is five years old, and then she will produce an average of two cubs every other year. Some of those cubs may not survive to adulthood, much less become parents themselves. For those reasons, each individual must be respected and cared for to the best of our ability.
Co-existence in Pitkin County is the answer. That means not habituating bruins to human food sources. Non-native trees with fruit, such as crabapples, must be replaced. Garbage and pet food must be stored in a manner that is inaccessible. Bird feeders, and especially hummingbird feeders, should only be put out during the daytime, if at all, and seeds hulls cleaned from the ground daily. Most important, habitat for bears must be conserved and if necessary, enhanced.
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We must make accommodations for Pitkin’s bears right now. Let’s all work together and take responsibility. The Get Smart Bear Society of Whistler, BC, writes on its webpage for wildlife managers: “Destruction of a bear can never be the answer. By removing a ‘problem’ bear we are merely creating an opportunity for another bear to move into the newly available niche. Consequently, the problem is not solved, and wildlife officials commit to a perpetual cycle of removal, and public outrage.”
The DOW’s thinning proposal may harm our bear population, and it is unacceptable, and avoidable, if we take collective action.
Aspen and Studio City, Calif.
Roaring Fork Citizens United for Bears