TONIGHT ON THE THREATDOWN, BEARS!
So, as it turns out, Yogi Bear’s love of pic-a-nic baskets is rooted in actual behavior. Boy Scouts and backpackers already knew this, of course—part of the nightly ritual for any backpacker in bear country is to put food and any other item with any sort of food-like odor into a “bear bag” and string the bag up into a tree (hopefully on a far edge of camp), out of a bear’s reach. Generally, the practice for bears that discover that humans are a source of food is to relocate them to a place without many humans, but between 2002 and 2005 scientists studied some alternate “aversive conditioning” methods to discourage bears from associating Boy Scouts with rice crispy treats. The methods tested included pepper spray and chasing (both of which require a rather brave scientist), along with the use of projectiles—slingshots, throwing rocks, and shooting a bear with a rubber slug from a shotgun. The article about the study, which appears in the January issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management
, tested these “bear hazing” methods in 1,050 events involving 150 bears. Any guess as to which hazing technique proved most effective? If you guessed shooting the bear with a 12-gauge shotgun, you would be correct! A press release about the study contains this curious quote: “Six bears were either killed or relocated for safety reasons during the study period.” I would like to note that the difference between “killed” and “relocated” is pretty severe, and those two statistics probably shouldn’t be grouped together. We’ll link to the study on our website, www.bhamweekly.com
, if you’d like to read it.