Expert: If you meet abear, don’t freak out | AspenTimes.com
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Expert: If you meet abear, don’t freak out

If you run into a hungry bear at a campsite or even your home this summer don’t freak out – chances are the bruin is more afraid than you are, according to Lynn Rogers.He ought to know. He’s spent 38 years studying and even sleeping next to them.”If anybody has any concerns about safety with bears, they’ll want to come to see me,” said Rogers yesterday. “In 38 years of working with bears, I’ve never had one attack me.”Rogers will share his knowledge today at 7 p.m. in Snowmass Village. The town’s animal control department, which developed the first local bear ordinance designed to eliminate human sources of food, is hosting the presentation in the big white tent on Daly Lane. It is free and open to the public.Rogers is executive director of the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minn. He is a nationally recognized expert on black bears – the kind that have invaded Aspen, Redstone and other parts of the Roaring Fork Valley this summer in search of food. The Colorado Division of Wildlife has endorsed his presentation as a good source of information.Rogers said it is only natural to expect conflicts to continue and increase given the shortage of natural food because of a late freeze. But his message is don’t buy into the popular myths about bears or be on edge because of a possible encounter.He said we live in a society where “everything with sharp teeth and sharp claws are demonized.” Given an escape route, black bears will turn tail and run from humans in nearly every encounter, according to Rogers.Records indicate there have been 52 fatal attacks on humans by black bears in the United States over the last 100 years, Rogers said. He had interesting statistics to put that into perspective: dogs, bees, lightning and, of course, other humans have proved much more fatal to humans.Rogers said the fear that most people develop about bears is largely due to misunderstandings. He will share his interpretations of meanings of the sounds bears make and their body language. What is often misunderstood as a growl, he claimed, is really a moan expressing fear.His experiences indicate he has learned well. Rogers said he has learned what it takes to gain bears’ trust. He has lured them close enough to fit them with radio collars without using tranquilizers or traps, he said. He’s gained enough trust to hang with some bears for 24 hours at a time, including a sow with cubs.Rogers contended that not enough research has been conducted to justify the motto, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” When their natural food sources are depleted, bears will go for easy meals – which often means human sources, he said. But there is no evidence that bears will continue to crave human food sources if berries and other natural crops are abundant.He politely disagreed with the wildlife division’s two-strike policy which requires the agency to shoot a bear if, for example, it ransacks a house twice. Policies are necessary, Rogers said, but flexibility is also needed.He said the best policy with pesky bears is to “just shoo them away.” It’s important to leave an escape route, he stressed. Act aggressive by moving forward quickly. Yelling may be effective but bears may realize it’s another “stupid human noise,” he said.As a final note to allay fears, he said the bears that have attacked and killed humans tended to be in isolated areas where human contact was rare.”The bears that come into our campsites and homes are the ones that are least likely to do the killing,” Rogers said.More information about black bears can be found at the Web site of the North American Bear Center at http://www.bear.org.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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