What sex has to do with it (and other amazing secrets of wildlife management revealed)
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1996:
REND LAKE, Illinois––A rare alliance of local hunters and anti-hunting animal
rights activists joined for the second time the weekend of September 28-29 to drive deer out of
the 1,500-acre Rend Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, west of Chicago, to keep the deer from being
killed in a special bowhunt set to start two days later.
If hunters and anti-hunters working in concert is a paradox, so is driving deer out of a
sanctuary to save them––and the action came, explained Chicago Animal Rights Coalition
founder Steve Hindi explained between deer-herding paraglider flights, because both factions
agree that wildlife management as practiced by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is
“If it’s wild, it can’t be managed. If it’s managed, it can’t be wild,” barked Hindi,
hoarse from days aloft in cold wind. “What the Illinois DNR is doing to the deer herd is agriculture.
I had a miniature video camera glued to my helmet today, to document what went on,”
he fumed. “It’s not a wildlife refuge: it’s like a farm in there. There are tons of corn and beans,
all planted in rows. They don’t have deer overpopulation; they’re trying to attract deer.”
Illinois DNR director Brent Manning told media the bowhunt, like one likewise jointly
sabotaged by hunters and CHARC last December, was “implemented due to an expanding
deer herd on the refuge peninsula south of Nason.”
But members of the Nason Whitetail Association told ANIMAL PEOPLE both last
year and this year that the herd isn’t expanding, isn’t a problem, and has been targeted only
because rumor has it that several whitetail bucks of potential record rack size inhabit the sanctuary.
A headline-making trophy kill, they claim, would boost Illinois DNR sales of hunting
licenses––especially to out-of-state hunters, whom the DNR has been trying to attract to offset
a long decline in resident license sales.
To accommodate the special bowhunt, Manning reclassified the site. The signs still
say Rend Lake is a wildlife sanctuary, as they have for 30 years. Officially, though, Rend
Lake is now just a waterfowl refuge.
That, the locals say, is
profane to the memory of those who
gave up their land and relocated to
create the Rend Lake Wildlife
Sanctuary in the first place––including
a young man named Clark, who
was accidentally crushed to death
when his parents’ home was moved.
The situation made the
locals mad enough to seek help a
year ago from Hindi and Davida
Terry of Voice for Wildlife, formerly
the Ryerson Deer Foundation,
who had just used clandestine videotaping
to stop an inhumane deer cull
in a Chicago suburb .
While Hindi and two other
CHARC paraglider pilots fought the
war in the field, Terry gathered
intelligence, including a memo from
Illinois DNR biologist John Tippitt
to his superiors, dated May 20,
1996. Describing a May 15 meeting
with the Nason Whitetail Association,
Tippitt wrote, “We talked
about why the hunt was held last
year. I explained that it was to provide
hunter opportunity, not for
population control, and if a hunt
was held this fall, it too would be
for recreation and to provide hunter
If reducing the deer population
was the object, Tippitt continued,
“sharpshooters should be utilized,”
rather than bowhunters, “to
lessen the amount of time people
would be in the refuge causing disturbance.”
Deer overpopulation is a
catchy pretext for opening public
lands to deer hunting, with politically
correct ecological echoes. But it’s
also strictly a manufactured crisis.
Wildlife managers have
known for decades that the main factors
governing deer herd size are
habitat quality and the gender ratio
of sexually mature deer. In any
habitat, the gender ratio of deer
from birth through adolescence
tends to be 1/1, with approximately
equal numbers of either gender lost
to roadkills, predation, starvation
and disease. Where humans hunt
deer, however, the gender ratio
skews sharply toward females after
the first hunting season, as bucks
are most heavily targeted, and spike
bucks, just reaching sexual maturity,
are the deer most often
shot––mainly because spike bucks
far outnumber older bucks.
Across the U.S., Arkansas
D e m o c r a t – G a z e t t e hunting columnist
Steve Bowman reported on
October 18, “average harvest data
indicates that at best only a third of
the bucks shot are more than two
years old. The same data shows
average buck kill estimates range
from 50% to 80%, and there are
usually two bucks killed for every
In Ohio, an average state,
hunters annually kill 65% of the
total buck population, according to
Ohio Division of Wildlife biologist
Bob Stoll’s published figures. As a
result, there are now at least three
mature does in Ohio for every
At that rate, even if equal
numbers of bucks and does are
killed every year from now on,
rapid herd growth is inevitable until
and unless numbers are leveled by
disease or harsh weather. Once
severe gender imbalance occurs,
killing equal numbers just perpetuates
the imbalance––as wildlife
managers also know. In Ohio, New
York, Massachusetts, and many
other states, wildlife departments
are now responding to growing
awareness of the importance of gender
balance in deer reproduction by
increasing sales of antlerless deer
permits, a good public relations
move, without doing anything to
ease the pressure on bucks.
In nature, without human
hunting, but with normal levels of
natural predation, which can be
maintained by coyotes in the
absence of larger predators, according
to recent studies at Mt. Desert
Island, Maine, deer live an average
of three years: some more, many
less. The gender ratio remains equal
throughout life. Not all the mature
deer manage to mate every year,
and those who do tend to be older,
better able to handle competition.
On average, a non-hunted genderbalanced
deer herd will raise just
one fawn to sexual maturity per year
for every three adult deer–– which
means the number of deer who are
born each year is rougly equivalent
to the number who die, with normal
year-to-year fluctuation depending
Accordingly, if the carrying
capacity of a habitat is 60, and
30 are bucks while 30 are does, they
will have 20 fawns each year, 20
deer will die in an average year, and
the population will stay at 60.
However, if you have a
predominantly female adult deer
herd, as in Ohio and virtually all
other states, the surviving bucks
spend less time and energy fighting
other bucks, and more time actually
mating. Harem-keeping becomes
less important, as all the bucks can
mate with all the does they can handle.
Because so many bucks are
killed, instead of going into each
winter with 60 deer––the carrying
capacity of the habitat in the model
above––there may be only 50, or
even fewer. That leaves more food
for the does when they are pregnant,
which also means they are much
more likely to have twins. If
instead of 30 bucks and 30 does,
there are 15 bucks and 45 does in the
habitat, 20 deer will still die in an
average year, plus the ones who are
hunted, but an average of 60 rather
than 20 fawns will be born each
spring, creating a “surplus” of as
many as 40 deer in the fall.
In short, the more bucks
are shot (as long as any survive), the
faster the deer population will grow
––as hunting publications worked to
convince hunters for most of three
decades, after the Ohio deer season
was cancelled in 1961, sending a
warning to wildlife managers across
the U.S, because doe hunting had
nearly wiped out the whitetail herd.
“The more you shoot, the
more you get,” articles and handbills
explained, “so long as you
obey the buck law.”
Conversely, the fastest
and most longterm effective solution
to halting deer population growth
would be to cancel buck season.
Then the gradual recovery of gender
balance would stabilize numbers at
about present levels; sterilization or
now in development could eventually
knock the herd size down.
Four years into a five-year
directed by Allen Rutberg of the
Humane Society of the United
States, fawn births are reportedly
down in eight villages on Fire
Island, New York––if not down
enough, fast enough, to suit all
human residents––and while the
estimated annual price of maintaining
the program after HSUS pulls
out runs from $60,000 to $200,000 a
year, costs could drop precipitously
if the technique catches on well
enough to encourage mass production
of the contraception vaccine and
development of more efficient vaccination
But preventing or even
reversing deer overpopulation would
kill the most politically viable pretext
for deer hunting––the second or
third biggest revenue stream for
most wildlife agencies, after fishing
and either just ahead of or just
behind waterfowl hunting, depending
on the state. Only when and if
wildlife funding is no longer tied to
the ability to “manage” deer herds like cattle can wildlife managers
be expected to treat deer as anything but a “cash cow.”
Meanwhile, burgeoning deer herds causing car crashes
and crop damage generate the public complaints which in
turn give wildlife management a politically popular mission:
not just pleasing the hunters, but also farmers and less familiar
allies including horticulturists irate over backyard nibbling,
public health officials worried about Lyme disease and other
ailments carried by deer ticks, and birdwatchers concerned
about deer damage to the understory of bushes favored as nesting
habitat by migratory neotropical songbirds.
Hunters want easy access to killing fields: deer overpopulation
in suburban parks provides it. Hunters want plentiful
targets: deer overpopulation provides that, too.
Hunters don’t want to miss: deer overpopulation
offers reason to legalize baiting, the subject of legislation introduced
this year in at least two states. Hunters want trophies:
introducing hunting where bucks haven’t previously been hunted
provides the occasional big racks that make headlines and
sell more hunting permits.
Hunters want to pretend to be doing something other
than just venting bloodlust: “fighting deer overpopulation,”
ostensibly to “keep deer from starving,” joins the old claim of
“getting meat”––and the more deer there are, the easier it is to
get meat, too, even though hunters for some years now have
gotten so much that Sportsmen Against Hunger and like projects
work overtime to find soup kitchens to take the surplus.
Those projects enable hunters and wildlife agencies
to pretend as well that they’re “feeding the hungry,” never
mind comparing the food value of dead deer with the much
higher food value of the fruit and grain that unnaturally high
numbers of deer take from farmers’ fields. Such comparisons
could spoil hunters’ Robin Hood image.
Rend Lake is only one battle zone this fall between
wildlife management and members of the public who are catching
on to the game. In Michigan, the Department of Natural
Resources boasted as recently as 1989 of raising the deer herd
to a third more than the state’s natural carrying capacity, and
published a manual on how to do it. This year, the Saginaw
County Farm Bureau chapter voted in late September to ask the
state Farm Bureau to investigate filing a class action lawsuit
against the DNR over crop damage.
“We can expect some crop damage, but how much is
too much?” Farm Bureau associate legislative counsel Scott
Everett asks. “It’s hard for us to tell farmers to expect 30%
crop losses for the next several years, but that’s what a lot of
them are facing.”
Michigan motorists and insurers might want to join a
class action, as deer/car collisions are up 182% in 10 years, to
62,603 last year, costing an average of $1,700 each in repairs.
More than 1,000 deer/car collisions occurred in 26 of the 83
Similar increases in deer/car collisions are reported
in Maryland and Wisconsin.
Fights similar to the one at Rend Lake over the introduction
or expansion of deer hunting are underway in Groton,
Connecticut; Boise, Idaho; Peaks Island, Maine;
Montgomery County, Maryland; Minnetonka, Minnesota;
Lewis Morris State Park, New Jersey; Long Island, New
York; Moultonboro, New Hampshire; Cuyahoga and Summit
counties, Ohio; Edmond, Oklahoma; Edgemont, Gettysburg,
Middletown, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and
Wissahickon Park, Pennsylvania; Chincoteague, Virginia;
Guemes Island, Washington; and the Milwaukee and Wausau
areas in Wisconsin.
And those are just the ones involving A N I M A L
PEOPLE readers who have written to keep us posted.
Geese get goosed
Canada geese are caught up in similar politics. There
are two distinctly different Canada goose populations: the
migratory group, governed by the Migratory Bird Treaty
signed by the U.S. and Canada in 1916, and the implementing
Migratory Bird Act of 1918; and the resident group, descended
from giant birds bred and raised in captivity for about 200
years like pheasants, pigeons, and quail, for use as live targets
in wingshooting competitions, and as live decoys to bring their
wild kin into gun range.
Genetically, despite the years of captive breeding for
malleability, resident Canada geese are almost identical to the
migratory group, although according to the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service they do not interbreed. Behaviorally, they are
very different, but evolution into an actual separate subspecies
may take many more generations––if it ever occurs.
Thousands of resident Canada geese were released by
wildlife agencies across North America during the post-World
War II years, in a failed effort to rebuild overhunted migratory
populations which may have had the opposite effect, as the resident
Canadas took over flyway stopovers. When the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service banned the use of live decoys in 1960,
thousands more were released wherever hunting clubs and individual
hunters had kept them.
Resident Canada geese found congenial habitat in the
open lawns of parks, golf courses, and housing tracts, establishing
themselves throughout the northeast and in other locales
from Calgary to England and Ireland. In time, they became
numerous, and a public nuisance, chiefly through defecation
where their phosphoric deposits––good for grass, worked into
the soil as they scratch for insects––inhibit human use.
Resident Canada geese do have nonhuman predators,
including egg-stealing raccoons, coyotes, foxes, and skunks,
but most of those aren’t especially welcome near humans,
either. And when the geese grow up, within just a few months,
they can stand off most predators they see coming.
Allison Freeman of the New Jersey Star Ledger
reported on October 8 that multi-colored vinyl balls with eyelike
circles on them, hung from poles on September 5, had
kept resident Canada geese out of Bond Force Park in
Roseland, New Jersey for a month, at cost of just $10 per ball.
Trained dogs have been equally successful at rousting geese,
for several years in some locations, but hiring the dogs and
their people can be costly. Less successful options, previously
tried in Roseland as well as elsewhere, include spreading a
grape jelly extract over lawns; detonating fireworks and air
cannon; scarecrows; inflatable alligators; and fencing.
No matter how well vinyl balls work, though,
wildlife managers mostly won’t be interested. As migratory
Canada geese declined over most of the past 35 years due to
overhunting and habitat loss, while resident Canada geese proliferated,
states anxious over falling shotgun permit sales have
increasingly sought ways to turn the resident Canada geese into
targets: to separate them from restrictive federal management,
which limits the shooting season for both populations in order
to protect the migratory group.
Accessibly close and widely seen as pests, resident
Canada geese are potentially as attractive to hunters as
deer––but while waterfowling was closely limited in the southern
and midwestern states, amending regulations to potentially
make a n y Canada goose more vulnerable up north didn’t fly
with the feds.
The situation changed after the 1993 midwestern
summer flooding refilled pothole lakes, rejuvenated wetlands,
isolated breeding areas from nonswimming, nonflying predators,
and brought a general resurgence of the North American
waterfowl population, from 57 million ducks a decade ago to
83 million now. When southerners and midwesterners got to
kill all the ducks they wanted, allowing Yankees to kill resident
geese became politically viable––even though migratory
Canada geese are still declining, numbering about 300,000 at
present, with as few as 29,000 breeding pairs.
Currently, states may authorize Canada goose killing
outside of federally set goose seasons and bag limits only by
obtaining depredation permits which cover only one specific
place and time apiece. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on
October 4 proposed a regulatory amendment to enable states to
obtain blanket depredation permits, renewable annually.
“Under the proposal,” explained spokesperson Hugh
Vickery, “between March 11 and August 31, states would not
have to obtain a new permit from the USFWS each time they
determine that a Canada goose control action is necessary.”
In other words, it would be open season in any state
whose wildlife managers want one. An extended comment
period was to close on November 8. (Address comments to:
Chief, Office of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 N. Fairfax
Drive, Arlington, VA 22203, or Craig Rieben,
Currently, special seasons on resident Canada geese
are authorized in 11 states. Some of the killing is done on a
limited basis, as in White Plains, New York, and Ripley,
West Virginia, where exterminators kill geese at reservoirs.
Wildlife officers do the killing in Michigan, where resident
Canada geese were relocated until the Department of Natural
Resources belatedly realized they weren’t part of the migratory
population, and in Minnesota, whose killing quota rose from
325 last year to 2,500 in 1996.
But hunters were invited to kill 10,000 resident
Canada geese in New Jersey, where 7,800 were killed in a
1995 special shooting season. New Jersey Fish, Game &
Wildlife waterfowl ecology program manager Paul M. Castelli
claims the resident population is nonetheless up to 80,000,
from 63,000 last year. Massachusetts hoped hunters would kill
5,000 to 10,000 resident Canada geese in September, of an
estimated population of 40,000, after killing 3,500 to 4,500 in
1995. New Hampshire, claiming a 230% resident Canada
goose population increase since 1990, issued 700 free permits
for a 22-day experimental season on the geese during
September, with a daily bag limit of five per hunter.
Connecticut rules were similar, except that hunters were
charged for their permits.
Pennsylvania, however, prosecuted Providan Life
Insurance for allegedly poisoning 16 resident Canada geese at
its head office in June. On September 23, Providan settled the
case by admitting to accidentally poisoning 10 geese, while
donating $4,850 to the Pennsylvania Game Fund.
Ironically, in view of most wildlife managers’ eagerness
to get resident Canada geese into gunsights, some hunters
don’t think much of shooting them.
“The resident geese don’t react as warily as the
migratory geese,” recently complained New Jersey
Waterfowlers trustee and Ducks Unlimited state committee
member Paul Desiderio, to Neil A. Sheehan of the Asbury Park
Press. “They’re used to being around people. The wild birds,
they can take six to 10 minutes to call down. That really gets
the heart pumping.”
As with deer, efforts are underway to convince
hunters and the public that resident Canada geese should be fed
to the poor. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources
donated 500 geese killed in metropolitan Detroit to food banks
in June, despite a warning from Cornell University poultry toxicologist
Rodney Dietert that, “There’s a legitimate question
about suburban geese being exposed to pesticides, herbicides,
and even PCBs.” But supervisor Charles Holbrook of
Clarkstown, New York, drew regional ridicule when the 251
geese he had killed and sent to a slaughterhouse for processing
turned out to be so seriously contaminated by feathers, oil,
dirt, fecal matter, and traces of lead from shotgun pellets that
zoos wouldn’t even take the remains as vulture food.
The U.S. Canada goose situations are mirrored in
Canada, England, and Ireland. Calgary Parks Division acting
manager Jim Allison is seeking a city bylaw to enforce a ban on
feeding the geese with fines of up to $250 per infraction.
Mississauga, Ontario, tried the trained dog option for eight
weeks from the end of summer until the first snowfall. British
authorities, eyeing an estimated 60,000 resident Canada geese,
are under fire from the Royal SPCA for urging Gloucestershire
hunters to blast them. And Douglas Butler, ex-chair of the
Irish National Association of Regional Game Councils, is outraged
at the Irish government because it opened a season on the
Irish feral Canada goose population of just 538 birds, while
refusing to reopen a season on Greenland whitefronted geese,
closed circa 1975.
(The Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada
Geese, a project of the Coalition Against Sport Hunting, maintains
a World Wide Web site at >>http:// www.icu.com/
With measures to either ban or reintroduce bear hunting
with bait and/or hounds on the November ballots in
Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington, and
campaigns against bear hunting underway as well in British
Columbia and Ontario, Canada, ANIMAL PEOPLE in July
predicted a summer outbreak of bear panic, resulting from the
inevitable conflicts between bears and humans over habitat,
stoked by press releases from fish and game departments whose
personnel saw their bear tag sales revenue jeopardized.
Bear/human conflicts came on schedule, as did the
press releases, but except in B.C., the most serious incidents––
and panics––mostly didn’t come where bears were a public
issue. The Colorado Division of Wildlife publicized 24 cabin
raids by bears during the first three weeks in June, but human
burglars hit at least as many, beating, raping, and occasionally
killing any occupants they met, to little general notice.
Perhaps the bear policy disputes helped raise awareness
to the point that people avoided bear/human conflict.
Then again, maybe bears never did menace people in
most shared habitat as much as hunting advocates pretend.
Outside of B.C., the majority of the bear/human conflicts this
year, as all years, occurred not near year-round human communities,
but rather in recreation areas where a sparse yearround
human population swells to city-sized with city visitors
during the summer months.
In Canada other than B.C., most of the publicized
bear incidents came in the vicinity of Jasper National Park
Alberta––where the abundant presence of bears is a major
One marauding black bear was even briefly a hero in
Jasper, when in late June he chased Bruce William O’Connor,
30, into the arms of the law. O’Connor, wanted for allegedly
stealing beer, drew 30 days in jail.
Others, though, wore out their welcome. At least 11
bears wandered into the village of Grand Cache alone. One
was shot after refusing to leave a backyard deck; 10 were relocated.
Despite the high ratio of relocations to killing, in Grand
Cache and elsewhere around Jasper National Park, each lethal
response drew flak, especially an incident in which a Parks
Canada warden at Yoho Park, near Emerald Lake Lodge, shot
a black bear dead in front of visitors from Germany and Brazil.
Parks Canada said the warden confused a real bullet with a rubber
bullet when loading his gun.
The first bear-caused human fatality of the summer
came on June 15, when Sevend Olaf Satre, 43, of Alexis
Creek, B.C., was fatally mauled by a large black bear while
horseback riding in search of strayed cattle. Satre, whose
ranch was near Bull Canyon Provincial Park, had complained
of bear predation two weeks earlier. Royal Canadian Mounted
Police statements indicated that the bear ambushed Satre, who
either fell or jumped off the horse with an ax in hand, but was
killed before he could swing it.
Overall, the B.C. wildlife division received 3,100
problem bear calls during the first 10 months of 1996, including
972 from the lower mainland area surrounding Vancouver.
Wardens responded by killing 850 bears, about 25% of the
anticipated bag by legal hunters. The total B.C. bear population
includes an estimated 160,000 black bears, plus 10,000 to
While opposing a referendum drive to ban bear hunting
in B.C., provincial environment minister Paul Ramsey
wasn’t happy about the nuisance control killing.
“I hear we’ve had to send someone out to shoot a
bear,” he complained to Greg Middleton of the V a n c o u v e r
Province, “and then I hear that someone was out camping and
had pop-tarts in their tent, or was leaving garbage lying around
homes in new subdivisions built right up against the bush. And
the poor bear is the one who gets whacked.”
Three factors contribute to the incidence of B.C. bear
problems: the proximity of Vancouver to prime bear habitat;
the amount of young second growth in the wake of logging,
thick with berries; and the ingrained preference of most of the
wildlife authorities over the years for lethal solutions instead of
educating the public about avoiding trouble.
Anticipating trouble with increasing numbers of hikers
and drought restricting natural forage for hungry bears, the
Arizona Game and Fish Department moved in early summer to
prevent bear attacks at Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina
mountains, near Tucson. On June 18, officials killed a Mount
Lemmon bear for the first time, a two-year-old female who
was live-trapped, tranquilized, and executed after her third
cabin raid in 10 months. Two more bears, suspected of cabinraiding,
were relocated July 6.
An estimated 12 to 20 bears remained on Mount
Lemmon, descended in part from at least eight “problem bears”
who were released there between 1985 and 1988, when the
region seemed more remote.
Arizona Game and Fish also addressed the human
side of bear/human conflict, charging Patricia Ann Thomas,
41, of Tucson, with criminal nuisance on July 17 for feeding
Mount Lemmon bears. Thomas had been warned in 1995 after
two bear attacks on humans occurred near her cabin.
Despite the preventive measures, Jennifer Corrales,
age 8, camping nearby with her Brownie troop, suffered eye
damage only three days later when she woke to find a bear
sniffing her face, screamed, and was cuffed before the bear
fled. Corrales begged that the bear not be harmed. Her wish
was honored, if only because the bear couldn’t be found.
But a similar attack within less than a week had more
severe consequences––for both the human and the bears. Anna
Louise Knochel, 16, a Tucson 4-H Club camping trip counsellor,
was mauled from head to toe when a big male bear surprised
her in her tent, where she slept alone. Knochel’s scream
brought trip supervisor Brent Kramer on the run.
“I yelled and screamed and beat a flashlight against a
water container,” Kramer said. “Anna did the right things.
She played dead. She went stomach down. But the bear kept
Kramer finally retrieved a pistol from his vehicle and
shot the bear twice, who fled, wounded, to be tracked and finished
off by rangers the next morning.
Another bear was killed and seven more relocated
during a five-day purge of bears believed to be potentially problematic
before the camp site was reopened. Knochel, who
barely survived, faces years of reconstructive surgery and
Perhaps incited by publicity about the Mount
Lemmon attacks and an earlier mauling of a child at the
Angeles National Forest in southern California, a Boy Scout
troop camping in Yosemite on August 12 stoned a bear cub to
death. The troop, led by Ron Roach, of Huntington Beach,
California, was extensively questioned during investigation of
possible anti-cruelty and game law violations, but officals
eventually decided their only offense was stupidity.
“They had their food stored improperly and had litter
around,” Yosemite staffer Scott Gediman said. “What were
the children learning?”
Lassen Volcanic National Park, in northern
California, was closed to tent camping for the first time ever on
September 6, after a summer in which three black bears did as
much as $24,000 damage a week to visitors’ cars, including
$11,000 worth over the Labor Day weekend. Although Lassen
rangers learned to recognize the three bears on sight, they were
unable to apprehend them.
Most of the bear/human conflicts came in the west.
There are so few bears in most of the east that a single 350-
pound male dubbed “No-Neck” created a sensation in July by
roaming from the Florida Panhandle to Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, raiding beehives all the way. A skilled hive-raider
since 1991, “No-Neck” was eventually returned to the
Apalachicola National Forest, southwest of Tallahassee.
But a scarcity of bears is relative. While the prolonged
drought that drove bears to desperation in the west
spared the east, there were still enough bear problems in and
around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North
Carolina that nonprofit park support groups in September commenced
a “garbage kills bears” poster campaign.
In Colorado and the San Gabriel mountains of
California, by contrast, counterparts went high-tech. The San
Gabriel Mountains Bear and Wildlife Preservation Society gave
the Pasadena Humane Society a $400 “Bear-Be-Gone conditioner,
a device which looks like a garbage can but sprays pepper
“My hope is that every foothill community ends up
purchasing one of these units,” said SGMBWPS president
Human ambivalence toward marauding bears was
encapsulated in late September when a family in Springville,
Utah, caught a twenty-to-twenty-five-pound cub in their trash;
fed him bananas, strawberries, and milk; and left him in a
cardboard box on the porch of the local Division of Wildlife
Resources office. Naturally the cub did not stay in the box. He
was recaptured and sent to a wildlife rehabilitation facility the
Much of the rain that didn’t fall in the drought-stricken
southwest this year instead irrigated the northern Rockies.
That meant less need for grizzlies to hunt––and a sharp drop in
grizzly predation on livestock.
“It’s been a good food year for grizzlies,” Wyoming
bear biologist Dave Moody said. “There’s been tons of moths,
whitebark pine, and berries.”
But people and grizzlies still clashed. Grizzlies tend
to respond to humans as if humans were fellow bears. Even
with food abundant, few grizzlies tolerate the presence of other
bears. Reported grizzly attacks on humans are up an estimated
25% since 1990––and the traditional advice to play dead apparently
isn’t working as well as it once did.
Meeting a male grizzly along a remote hiking trail at
Kluane National Park, British Columbia, Paul and Christine
Courtney of New Westminster, B.C., on July 5 shed their
packs and and tried to go crosscountry, away from the danger.
But the grizzly wasn’t interested in the packs. Trying to play
dead, Christine, 32, became the first first human fatality since
Kluane opened. Paul, 31, rushed to her aid, but for fighting
the grizzly––often a fatal error––he was only knocked down,
not badly hurt. He escaped to call park rangers, who shot the
grizzly near the scene.
Washington D.C. lawyer Robert C.
Bell Jr. apparently pursued similar strategy
on August 23 in Gates of the Arctic National
Park and Preserve, adjoining Kluane, when
he and a fellow male hiker inadvertantly
came too close to a mother grizzly and her
cub. Whatever Bell did, he too was killed.
Collyne Bunn, 44, of Haines Junction, Yukon,
remembered those killings on October 15, when at three a.m. a
grizzly smashed the steel door of her cabin off its hinges, ransacked
the downstairs, and started upstairs after her family.
Baby Daniel, age one, slept through the encounter. Jonathan,
four, cowered in a laundry basket, protected only by the blanket
Bunn threw over the top. Bunn thought of throwing her
mattress out the window, then throwing the children onto the
mattress, but instead tried twice to sneak past the bear to the
telephone, to summon help. The first time her fingers shook
too much to dial. The second time she succeeded.
Only after the headlights of her neighbor’s car rousted
the bear did Bunn learn why he never reached the top of the
stairs: “The Fisher-Price child gate was bent and buckled,” she
reported, “but seemed to have stopped him.”
Apparently the bear tried awkwardly to undo the
catch instead of simply smashing the gate down, and became
so engrossed that he forgot the terrified people.
Glacier National Park, in Montana, is one grizzly
bear habitat that isn’t relying on either child gates or playing
dead to protect visitors. Instead, rangers are using Karelian
bear dogs to haze a young male grizzly who became comfortable
with people over the summer, as a regular visitor to the
Logan Pass boardwalk. The object is to encourage the grizzly
to forsake bright lights and go back to the hills before the next
tourist season and potential trouble.
Glacier has a grizzly bear attack expert on staff in
ranger Susan Olin, 39, who in mid-October sued the Canadian
government for failing to warn her about the presence of a dangerous
bear at Banff National Park, Alberta. Olin, fellow
ranger Laurie Shearin, two Australians, and two Germans
were mauled at Banff in September 1995.