Bears have the right to act like bears

Maybe we are too quick to shoot problem bears

The number of bears killed around Whitehorse is unsettling. 

I know bears are dangerous, difficult to predict, threatening, and scary when you meet one face to face. I’ve had four such encounters and I don’t want more.

I indeed respect all the things that humans should do to avoid bear contact and that we should deal with property and personal attractants. But recent reporting said the bear was “aggressive.” I think bears are allowed to be aggressive. They can defend their young. They can stake their territory. They can be curious and get close to things. They can even charge. Most bear awareness instructs us, among other things, to stand our ground, which is often effective, as bears are posturing to make a point. They can also break away at the last minute. That is indeed frightening, but does not make the bear a problem. Very often, they will let you back away.

I know this is not always the case and that we’ve had some tragedies. But in the recent Whistle Bend event, key information was discovered afterwards — that the sow had a cub. That is more than an adequate reason for aggressive behaviour. When coming into contact with people, a bear in a compost container, greenbelt or neighbourhood does not to my mind automatically constitute a habituated bear or a problem bear. They can be deterred. They can be passing through. They can move on or be frightened away. Even seeing the same bear more than once is not, in itself, a problem.

Of course, if a person is defending human life from imminent physical injury, by all means, use any means necessary to save that life, including a gun. But if that danger is no longer immediate then are there other actions that can result other than deciding to kill the bear in order to save it.

Attractants are a significant part of the problem, but are we too quick to use the gun as a solution?

Ross Burnet

Whitehorse

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