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Don't feed the bears

A hand-written note at the start of a trail I hiked last week warned people to lock their cars because there were bears in the area. (That made me imagine a bear breaking into my truck and driving off.) Later in the week I saw a video posted on Facebook showing a black bear balancing high in a chokecherry bush where it was munching on the tree’s fruit.

Fall is when bears are feeding heavily to put on weight for their long winter’s nap. This feeding frenzy is called hyperphagia. Their nap is called hibernation. The bear in the tree and the note were reminders that bears are seriously searching for food right now.

That search had a tragic end last week in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Two people were caught feeding a female black bear and its two cubs along a road. That’s against park rules, and the people were fined.

“A fed bear is a dead bear” is a saying meant to remind people not to feed bears. That’s because if the animals think of humans as providing a meal they may hurt someone for a snack. So the park staff had to capture the female bear and cubs.

Unfortunately, since there was no zoo to take the mother bear she was killed. A home was found for the cubs, but they will live the rest of their lives in a “bear ranch” in Michigan.

“The loss of these animals removes the opportunity for this bear family to contribute to a healthy, wild population and for visitors to enjoy them in their natural setting,” the Park Service said in a news release.

So do everything you can to ensure bears don’t get a snack from you or your family. Pick up your trash. Ask your parents to move their barbecue grill and bird feeder inside if there are bears in your area. Pick up apples that fall off of your tree, or a neighbor’s tree. Help keep bears safe by making sure they look somewhere else for food.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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