Letter: Don’t be fooled, bears are dangerous animals


Good grief. When I read the story about the black bear near Fort Ebey being a “nice” kind of bear, several years of Cub Scout and Boy Scout training screamed “noooo” in my head.

There are no “nice” black bears. There are no “safe” black bears.

There is no reason to panic when you see one, provided you use some common sense and take precautions, but last I checked, the number of such bears attacking humans still stood above “zero.” Any bear in this part of the country is capable of injuring, maiming or even killing you. The key is to give them some space, no food and take a few steps.

If the bear is anywhere near residential areas, state fish and wildlife may be persuaded to carefully tranquilize and release the bear back to a more natural setting.

I’ve seen them do it, and they are quite good at it, taking steps to try to do as little harm to the bear as possible, then a “hard release” where they make a lot of noise and try to impress upon the bear that coming back is a bad idea.

It can be very effective at times.

They are also likely in a better position to make sure the bear doesn’t have some disease that can elevate the danger level, such as rabies.

Until state fish and wildlife arrives, a few steps I learned from years of hiking and camping in bear country should help.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve spent plenty of time in bear country, I’ve seen and heard a few, and hey, I’m still unscathed by any bear.

First of all, eliminate all food sources, including in garages and sheds — bears have a very keen sense of smell. Put away any human food, bird food, pet food, and secure the lids on your garbage cans as tightly as possible.

A bear that finds food tends to hang around. They hang around, they get more used to humans, and your risk of attack increases.

Next, while bears generally don’t attack small animals, it isn’t a bad idea to bring your pets in for the night while the bear is in the area.

The fact that this one has made it so far down the island indicates it is hungry, curious and/or lost, and is willing to go great distances to explore. If you want to walk, hike, bicycle, etc. outdoors, make some noise.

On hikes, we used to whistle, sing or just talk.

Other than a diseased bear, the times they are most dangerous tend to be when they are caught by surprise or when you come between a mother and cub.

If they hear you coming, you likely won’t see them at all. A whole troop of Boy Scouts I was in can attest that it seems to work.

Above all, please understand that these are wild, large, strong animals and in a fight, you will likely lose.

Please use some common sense and do not approach them. They are not playthings, they are not toys, and they are not “nice” to people who startle or threaten them.

Tom Pacher


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