Biologist thinks it may be the answer if done properly-

Please DO Feed the Bears, Biologist Says. By Lia Kvatum. National Geographic News.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

10 Responses to A sometimes solution for nuisance bears? Feed them.

  1. MJ Graham says:

    Interesting research, although as the article states, not peer reviewed. A problem I have with the one project was that the food left for the bears was primarily beef fat. If this type of “diversion” is to be continued, perhaps it would be better to have feeding stations with more typical bear food. First off, beef fat would not normally be part of a black bear’s diet and, secondly, black bears eat far more vegetable matter than meat. Then perhaps the noted anticipated changes in bear behavior would be less extreme since the food provided would be similar to that they find in the wild????

  2. Rogers promotes all the wrong behaviors for dealing with bears! While the Craigheads also suggested bait stations as a potential option they never engaged and promoted the dangerous type of human/bear interactions that are shown on Rogers videos and it is sad that National Geographic or Animal Planet give him the type of exposure that could lead to human injury or deaths and ultimately problems for bears!

    • Save bears says:


      I could not agree with you more, Dr. Rogers has done nothing more than add to the problem, as a researcher, he should be helping to educate the public in ways to mitigate problems..

  3. Linda Hunter says:

    I do believe from my own observations that full bears are much easier to get along with than hungry ones even if by getting along with them you mean having them occasionally pad through your front lawn quietly. However, it has been necessary to get the “don’t feed bears” mantra to be part of the public common thought in order to prevent people from making bears pets, then nuisances. There must be a way, even if it is purposely re-planting certain depleted habitats, to make the bears have a better quality of life. This is one of the reasons I am so bothered by the idea of using forest debris for bio fuel. Talk about starving the animals!

  4. jdubya says:

    I need some help from people who know these types of studies better than I.

    Utah is estimating the number of bears in the state based upon a regression type analysis in which they can enumerate the numbers of male bears killed within any specific year cohort. Thus, for example, of the bears born in 2001, so far 78 male bears have been killed that allows them to estimate 734 male bears were born in that year. Given a 44 males to 100 females ratio then the estimate is just under 2,500 bears born that year in Utah.

    To me the math is fuzzy especially going from the 78 males killed to 734 total population. How did tey really get that number and how solid is it? Who knows these types of data analysis that could school me? Please email me at graylingtrout at thanks.

  5. Save bears says:

    Numbers factors are always difficult to figure out, you need to know the formula that they are applying to their study to come up with total figures, normally they will count a certain section of real estate then apply the formula to derive a total number of animals, then apply another formula to determine fatality rates, to come up with a final estimation of population, then it is adjusted based on counts in other areas, it can indeed seem like fuzzy logic/math..

    In order to get a good handle on how their studies done, you would need to contact the authors and see if they will tell you what actual counts are, based on size of count area and what formulas they are applying to come up with the final numbers..

    Without knowing their actual formulas and actual count numbers, it would be nearly impossible to figure out.

  6. jdubya says:

    SB, Yes and that is the problem. They are NOT doing what you have described. Instead they are calculating the population solely upon the kill numbers. This is NOT based upon bears per square hectare or whatever. And that is why I am puzzled about the model and the math.

    • Save bears says:

      I have to say, after working in the field for a number of years, that is a very odd way to try and determine population numbers, I would like to see their study parameters to determine what outcome they were trying to derive…if they are estimating population just based on fatalities, then I would question the accuracy of the study, that is one of the least reliable pieces of data you can use to determine overall population numbers…do you happen to have the names of the study leaders? Perhaps I will contact them to see if I can determine why they used this methodology…

  7. SEAK Mossback says:

    It sounds like they are using some type of cohort analysis, similar to that used for some fisheries – examples being Pacific halibut and Bering Sea Pollock. Basically, you develop a population model that tracks the relative abundance of different age classes and removals through time to get at estimates of recruitment, natural mortality and population size. It is a common and useful technique that is a cornerstone of management of some fisheries but also has some serious potential pitfalls. There are definitely assumptions! It’s certainly been associated with some spectacular failures, including the Canadian Atlantic cod disaster, which in fairness wasn’t entirely a stock assessment failure but also a failure to heed good but unpopular scientific advice. Here’s one retrospective look at that . . . simulated data can always be dangerous!

    One of the potential pitfalls is how you sample the age/sex composition of the population. In fisheries, that often means conducting routine annual research cruises using random sampling techniques and gear that is as non-selective as possible rather than relying on the composition of the catch. In this case, it sounds like they may be making some assumptions from the composition of the bear harvest and that the bear population is a homogenous population unit (when in fact it could be segregated in semi-isolated mountain ranges?). Also, it’s good to have some way of validating or calibrating this type of population method before relying on it. For example, the International North Pacific Halibut Commission has for many decades conducted standardized annual cruises up the whole coast from Washington to the Bering Sea and measures catch-per-unit-of-effort as an index of abundance and also collects detailed age and size data. In the case of black bears, that might entail conducting an intensive genetic type mark-recapture study – not sure how you would sample the age composition of the population except from the harvest. I don’t know anything about the particular problem you are describing. Their use of this particular method may be part of an overall population assessment program or it might just be a first effort to get beyond just sitting in the office and saying “ Well, I think there are this many black bears out there!” If the later is the case, it may not yet be a method you can yet have much confidence in. Here’s a paper I quickly located on the web describing the cohort analysis method as it has been applied to Pacific Halibut.
    Hope that helps a little . . .

  8. jdubya says:

    Thanks SEAK: you are exactly right about the cohort analysis and I appreciate the links to the info. Great!


April 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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