A Connecticut bear’s death underscores the urgent need to prevent human-wildlife conflicts

By on May 18, 2022 with 0 Comments

The fatal shooting on May 12 of a mother black bear in Newtown, Connecticut, leaving two cubs orphaned, has understandably sparked widespread outrage and grief. Local residents were familiar with the bear; they knew her as “Bobbi” and have launched Facebook pages in her honor.

With her death, the two cubs—who were born in early 2022 and would have been dependent on their mother until next spring—are not well equipped to make it on their own. Now, both have been safely captured by Newtown and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection officials, and their fate is our most urgent concern.

DEEP is investigating the shooting, which involved an off-duty police officer. Terrible incidents such as this one highlight the fact that state wildlife agencies can always use more capacity and more professional training to handle such scenarios, which are likely to continue to occur.

We are seeking more details on this incident, but it’s certainly a tragedy. A bear’s life has been snuffed out, and two cubs are stranded without a mother. It’s precisely the kind of outcome we try to prevent through our wildlife conflict resolution programs, which seek to educate homeowners, policymakers, planners and the general public about all of the ways in which we can make life better for animals and for ourselves through careful and more caring approaches to human-wildlife interaction. This is the best way to ensure the safety and the future of bears in our midst.

It is important to recognize that bear country doesn’t just include the peripheries and surrounding forests of a community. It includes those spaces within our communities where bears can find attractive denning and foraging opportunities. And that’s our shared challenge.

Bears are normally wary of people, but if bears are rewarded with easy access to food near human dwellings, they may come back for more. Each time this happens, they can become more tolerant of human presence—and this food conditioning can lead to problematic behaviors.

Bears who become tolerant of human activity and seek food rewards near human dwellings are often labeled as “nuisance bears.” These are most often females with cubs or subadult males—young bears who have just left their mother’s protection.

But conflicts between people and bears can usually be avoided with simple practices on the part of those who live in close proximity to bears:  

  • Make trash cans inaccessible. Bring them inside at night or buy a bear-resistant trash can or an enclosure for the container.
  • Enclose your compost pile. Open compost piles, especially those with kitchen scraps, are an irresistible treat for bears. Burying compost won’t work because bears will easily find and dig it up.
  • Recycle wisely. If you store recyclables outside, use enclosed bins, as persistent bears will break into even ruggedly built bins.
  • Keep your barbecue grill clean and as free of drippings as possible. Move the grill away from your house when it is not in use, and clean it regularly with ammonia or bleach.
  • Rethink your bird feeders. In the summer, birds can make do with naturally available foods. If you want to attract birds, we recommend using bird baths. If you do set up feeders, install them away from your house and out of reach from bears.
  • Predator-proof your coops and beehives. For nighttime protection, keep chickens in bear-resistant coops fully enclosed with solid wood construction and heavy-gauge wire over any vents or openings. Access doors should have locks. Chicken runs, beehives and other areas can be made safe from bears with electric fencing.

Engaged communities can mitigate the issues that lead to bear conflicts by setting up bear aware programs with seasonal reminders and compliance programs. They can require bear-resistant trash cans, distribute educational flyers and train police and animal control officers in the use of techniques that can teach bears to stay away from areas where they are unwanted. Finally, they can fine people who knowingly or unknowingly feed bears.

This tragedy is larger than just one mother bear and two orphaned cubs. Unnecessary bear deaths occur across North America in areas where black bears and grizzly bears live near humans. But some communities are making progress to reduce or even eliminate conflicts with bears. Most recently, in Whitefish, Montana, for an extra $6 per month, residents will receive 95-gallon, bear-resistant containers intended to prevent both black bears and grizzly bears from accessing trash. We’ve also seen strong commitments to human-bear coexistence in communities in the Tahoe basin region in California and Nevada.

Bears are powerful animals, so all interactions with them must be taken seriously. Each year, millions of Americans encounter bears without injury. Yet, human food sources are the root cause of almost all negative human-bear interactions. It is incumbent upon us to find a way to coexist with bears if they are to persist, particularly in the face of the climate crisis, which may make bears’ natural foods scarce at times. This means adopting the bear-aware strategies we suggest here.

At the heart of our work is the desire to make this world a better place for all, including the wildlife species who share our planet. The outpouring of concern for the situation in Connecticut is encouraging. Still, Bobbi’s death is a reminder of just how far we have to go.

Time is running out for dogs as testing lab refuses to release them

By on May 13, 2022 with 0 Comments
Time is running out for dogs as testing lab refuses to release them

5/16/22 Update: Over the last few days, 160 legislators from 32 states have co-signed a letter to the CEOs of Inotiv and Crinetics, urging the release of the dogs and pointing out that 14 states have approved legislation to authorize adoption of animals released by . . . 

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Tenth annual Horrible Hundred report shows progress, continuing problems with puppy mills

By on May 9, 2022 with 0 Comments
Tenth annual Horrible Hundred report shows progress, continuing problems with puppy mills

Duchess is a Havanese with a wardrobe of tiny, colorful dresses. Cooper is a senior golden retriever who still has a lot of spunk and likes to go on vacations with his family. Alis is a Weimaraner who jogs with her owner and loves to . . . 

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The other Supreme Court case you should be following 

By on May 6, 2022 with 0 Comments
The other Supreme Court case you should be following 

The norm on factory farms is to lock egg-laying hens, mother pigs and calves used for veal in cages so small they’re virtually immobilized. In 2018, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 12, a historic ballot measure that banned the extreme confinement of these animals within the . . . 

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Pushing the federal law to end cruel slaughter of horses to the finish line

By on May 6, 2022 with 0 Comments
Pushing the federal law to end cruel slaughter of horses to the finish line

It is a long way from the stable, paddock and winner’s circle at Churchill Downs to the dark, dank and bloody slaughterhouses in which tens of thousands of American horses meet their sad and pitiable end each year. Yet some former racehorses do make that . . . 

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As the status of cats rises, states turn against declawing

By on May 4, 2022 with 0 Comments
As the status of cats rises, states turn against declawing

Maryland recently became the second state to enact legislation that prohibits the declawing of cats. The first to do so was New York, in 2019, and a handful of municipalities have done the same over the last several years. That declawing (the amputation of the . . . 

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Cosmetics animal testing is in the spotlight—now’s the time to end it

By on May 2, 2022 with 0 Comments
Cosmetics animal testing is in the spotlight—now’s the time to end it

One of our most urgent fights at the federal level centers on passage of the Humane Cosmetics Act in Congress. It’s got strong bipartisan support, cosmetics industry approval and the backing of scientists who understand the limitations of conventional animal tests and are committed to . . . 

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A beloved cat reuniting with his family and other small victories give us hope as war in Ukraine rages on

By on April 28, 2022 with 1 Comment
A beloved cat reuniting with his family and other small victories give us hope as war in Ukraine rages on

When Russia invaded her country in late February, Larysa Frisby of Ukraine fortunately was far from the war zone visiting family in the United States. Unfortunately, her cat Persik was back home in Odesa. Frisby managed to find help to evacuate the cat as far . . . 

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Two ‘big tusker’ elephants killed for the thrill by trophy hunters in Botswana

By on April 26, 2022 with 3 Comments
Two ‘big tusker’ elephants killed for the thrill by trophy hunters in Botswana

We learned last week about the outrageous killing of two iconic and rare “big tusker” male savanna elephants in an unpopulated corner of northern Botswana. “Big tusker” refers to an elephant with at least one tusk weighing 100 pounds but it effectively signifies an elephant . . . 

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We’re calling for SEC action over McDonald’s deception as the company confirms cruel crate confinement

By on April 22, 2022 with 5 Comments
We’re calling for SEC action over McDonald’s deception as the company confirms cruel crate confinement

Today, the Humane Society of the United States is calling on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate and hold McDonald’s accountable for deceiving shareholders and the public about its animal confinement policies. We confronted McDonald’s with a shareholder proposal after suspecting that the . . . 

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Undercover investigation exposes the horrors of animal testing—and more than 80 dogs who need our help

By on April 21, 2022 with 77 Comments
Undercover investigation exposes the horrors of animal testing—and more than 80 dogs who need our help

Today we are releasing the results of our seven-month undercover investigation at one of America’s largest animal testing laboratories. We’re asking you to join us in changing an outdated industry— animal testing—and, more immediately, in urging the release of more than 80 dogs still suffering . . . 

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In Canada, baby seals still face a cruel fate

By on April 19, 2022 with 5 Comments
In Canada, baby seals still face a cruel fate

Today I’m turning the blog over to my colleague Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. For nearly two decades, Rebecca has been on the literal front lines of the fight to save animals, traveling to the ice floes of the Northwest Atlantic to . . . 

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