A Bear Story I Will NOT Share

[Reprinted with permission. Article by Daryl Ratajczak wildlife biologist and Instructor at Wildlife for You]

Do you love bears? It is a simple question and if the answer is YES… then I CHALLENGE YOU.

I challenge you to show your love and compassion for bears by SHARING this article to every single picture or video you see on the web depicting the following:

  • A bear on a swing set.
  • A bear in a pool.
  • A bear on a porch.
  • A bear by a bird feeder.
Courtesy of Wildlife for You

They are pictures of bears in backyards doing things that wild bears should NOT be doing.

  1. Are the pictures “cute”? In most people’s eyes… YES.
  2. Are the pictures “cool”? Considering it may be something you’ll never see in your lifetime… YES.
  3. Are the bears in the pictures likely to die at a much younger age because of their actions? Resounding… YES.

That third question and answer above bother me. They bother me because I wrote this article having answered yes to my very first question about loving bears…I DO love bears.

I love seeing them. I love reading about them. I love writing about them.

So why in the world would I want to promote actions that KILL them.

Listen, I know that some of these pictures and videos may be happenstance. Someone came home and found the bears in that situation and snapped a few pictures. I may very well have done just the same. But then I would have made it crystal clear to those bears that they are not and will never be welcomed there. In other words, I would have scared the heck out of the bears and made sure as heck it was a place they’d never consider visiting again. Who knows, some of the folks that snapped those pictures or shot those videos may very well have done that as well (though doubtful).

What bothers me though is the potential repercussions from “sharing” and “liking” these posts.

Here is an example. A recent video depicting a bear family playing in a backyard pool had over 3.5 MILLION shares. It was then posted on numerous news stations as well as a few famous celebrities Facebook pages. One in particular has over 40 MILLION followers. Each news story and each share often talked about how “cute” the video was. I consider it vile…not the video, but the message it sends.

I am not going to go into the details of why a bear that is seeking food in residential areas is a bad thing. For those that don’t know, these food-conditioned bears, no longer display wild instincts and begins to associate more and more with people. In other words, they no longer fear humans and are quite tolerant within their presence. Most often this is because of people feeding them, intentionally or unintentionally.

Here’s the thing… these food-conditioned bears DIE at a much younger age than their wild counterparts. This is due to the multiple threats they encounter being around humans (i.e. cars, poisons, poaching, dogs, etc.). In other words, porch-visiting bear family, including cubs, may not get to grow up to be healthy, strong, WILD adult bears.

Now back to the popularity of sharing videos and photos of bears doing “unbear-like” things…

Millions upon millions of likes and shares and a chance for “celebredom” for the person who shoots the video or snaps the pic.

Now… how often do you think that thought will enter into the minds of the millions of people that live in bear country? Don’t get me wrong, most folks will continue to do the right thing. But how about those less savory folks that are now inspired?

Inspired to try to get a pic of a bear or a bear family “playing in their backyard.”

Inspired by “cuteness” and potential celebrity.

I could hear their thoughts now, “Hmmm… if I could just make a trail of donuts to the swing set. …or the kiddie pool. …or the hot tub. I could be on the news or have my video or pics shared by millions! Anyway, what can it hurt? I’m on vacation, I’ll be gone in a few days!

You may think the above actions are extreme and most will agree they are bad but how about liking and sharing them… is that truly any better?

Alright let’s wrap this up…

It’s okay to smile at playful pictures and videos of bears in someone’s backyard. They are a truly wonderful species that deserve our respect, appreciation and in particular enjoyment. But let’s work together to correct this wrong.

At first, I was inclined to write, “Love the picture… hate the message” but that gets us absolutely nowhere.

Instead I challenge you to “Love the picture… SEND a message!”

Let them know in the comments of their post that these actions, though “cute,” will KILL those bears. Heck, I urge you to share this link next time you see that “cute” picture of a bear doing something that’ll likely get him killed. Let them know it’s…

… A Bear Story I will NOT Share!

Photo by Jack Charles on Unsplash

[Original post can be seen on the Wildlife for You Facebook page]

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  • We’ve seen a small bear (maybe 2 years old) crossing our back yard and more recently checking out empty garbage cans. In the case of the cans, we scared it off. However, an early morning visit by a bigger bear scared US! One of those hot nights we left a low window partially open to allow our Siberian Husky to sleep cooler just beneath it. Before anyone was awake her serious barking had us jumping out of bed. I was first to get to her and saw the bear right outside the window with nothing but a screen between them. When I approached the window to close it, the dog backed off to let me through AND THE BEAR GOT UP WITH ITS FRONT PAWS ON THE WINDOW SILL. I think it was just curious, but way too close for me. Another family member stepped out the front door, thinking the bear would just run off, but it took a lot of yelling and waving of arms to get it to meander off. As you say, this bear was not afraid of us! I’m going to get out my dad’s air horn and keep it handy. Thanks for the article…such good reminders.

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