Hungry bears spell trouble for humans in Rockies

Wed Sep 29, 2010 6:53pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - A shortage of berries and other foods that hungry bears normally rely on to bulk up before hibernation has sent conflicts with humans spiraling to unprecedented levels in the Rocky Mountain West.

Wildlife officials in parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming say they are experiencing a record year for so-called problem bears, which wander from the wilds into civilization -- and into trouble.

State and federal bear biologists say they are overrun this season with reports about errant grizzly and black bears foraging in everything from garbage cans to garages, in every place from golf courses to city centers.

"I've had as many as 20 calls a day," said Tim Manley, a grizzly bear management specialist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.

Scientists say bears this year are wrestling with challenging conditions. For starters, the mild winter meant bears emerging from their dens in the spring encountered fewer weakened or winter-killed wildlife like elk to prey on.

And late spring snows, which blanketed the high country and pushed bears to lower elevations earlier, delayed or even destroyed the crop of fruit-producing shrubs bears favor, such as huckleberries and hawthorns.

Conflicts between wildlife and humans almost always center on food, and when supplies of nourishment are low in the mountains, bears congregate closer to the valleys, where people live and livestock is conveniently located.

BERRIES FOR BEARS   Continued...

<p>A female bear cub captured with its mother and relocated away from human habitation is seen laying on the ground after being captured by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials in Coram, Montana in a handout photo taken on September 19, 2010. REUTERS/Derek Reich/Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks/Handout/Files</p>