Filed under: Family Camping, Humor, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, Preparation & Readiness, Tent Campgrounds
Bears, Boredom and Bullies
Each spring our family makes an annual pilgrimage into the wilderness. This year, like most, we selected a cozy campground that sits tucked away in a mountain forest as our base camp and settled in for a few days of hiking and exploring. Our campfire provides a relaxing atmosphere at the end of each day’s activities.
Spring is the perfect time of year for our family. The weather is sunny and cool, wildflowers are blooming and showing off a thousand vibrant colors, and wildlife is out in abundance. The happy melodies of songbirds provide a wonderfully calming musical backdrop as we hike, stopping frequently to photograph the many splendors that the forest offers.
Wild Animals Enjoy Springtime Too
During the first day of our trip while hiking we enjoyed watching a pair of gray squirrels dancing to the music of a ruby-crowned kinglet as he roosted atop a lodgepole pine. At lunchtime we made our way back to camp just in time to see a black bear lumbering his way through a nearby meadow, headed straight for a group of picnickers.
Many people had gathered to take pictures, a quick respite from their boredom and apparently unaware that bears are dangerous. One camper who several people referred to as “Uncle Wayne” walked to within ten feet of the bear until it took up a fighting posture, clearly feeling threatened by his approach.
Telling the frightened children that the bear was “just hungry and not dangerous,” Uncle Wayne grabbed some chicken that was roasting over his fire pit and tossed it in the direction of the bear that enthusiastically devoured it.
A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
Excited stories of the bear circulated throughout the campground for the next couple of days. Apparently it came into someone’s camp while dinner was cooking causing everyone to scamper into the safety of their camp trailer. We even heard that it had fiercely torn into someone’s tent looking for food.
The last morning of our trip, two park rangers stopped by our camp, looking for Uncle Wayne. They explained to us that they had put down an aggressive black bear because it was becoming too comfortable or habituated around humans.
They explained to us that when wild animals, especially bears, lose their natural fear of humans, a very unsafe pattern of interaction begins. Sadly, they went on to tell us, too many people are like Uncle Wayne and think feeding wild animals is helpful. They have no idea of the consequences of their actions.
How to Interact with Wildlife
We took time as a family to ask a lot of questions to the conservations officers and here is what we learned about feeding wild animals.
- By feeding them they lose their natural fear of humans, which can lead to dangerous interaction.
- Feeding animals is against the law in many places. If they find Uncle Wayne, he’s going to be in trouble.
- Animals have particular dietary needs, and foods that humans regularly eat aren’t always safe for them to digest.
- Wild animals that become accustomed to people food can experience a loss of natural hunting and scavenging instincts.
- When animals come to see people as a food supplier they will congregate in larger numbers putting more of them at risk.
- Many wildlife management agencies will put down bears if they show signs of habituation.
Most Important Lesson
DON’T FEED THE BEARS! This goes for all wildlife. Although most people who do this have good intentions, the results are just the opposite. Whether someone does an “Uncle Wayne” and feeds bears while camping or if they just put food out for deer or rabbits near their cabin, they are interfering with natural feeding habits and should never do it. You are in fact being a bear bully.
As for me and my family, we’re going to stick to the trails and keep our cameras at the ready so that the only thing a bear gets from us is stardom on Facebook.
About the Author
Karen Ho Fatt lives in the Canadian Rockies. She publishes the website www.familyfirepit.com which highlights the many benefits of portable campfires and other fire pits for camping and RVing. Karen is an avid photographer and is very active in the outdoors.
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