B.C. black bear put down after eating part of dead murderer
Liquor and drugs fell felon; but bears should not eat flesh of bad guys-
British Columbia has an odd, macabre, bear story. It seems a person convicted of murder back in ’93 was on parole and hardly living up to expectations. The mix of drugs and booze probably killed him at his lone party in the woods (actually, it could have been suicide). A bear found his corpse and decided to take a few bites then stash him for later nutrition, but it is safe to assume we don’t want bears or other carnivores gobbling human flesh even if already dead. So the bear was put down. A major factor in the decision to kill the bear was that the man was only very recently dead (not decomposed). The bear dragged him out of his vehicle using the open window.
CNN has the story and a good video.
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.
39 Responses to B.C. black bear put down after eating part of dead murderer
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This shows you must be really, really hard up for wildlife news. Don’t be so absurd that you lose all credibility.
This is not the case. It’s well known that people like to read about the bizarre every once and a while. So two-headed fish at the phosphate mine will go up too, and it instead of the common, “wolf kills lamb; terrified people keep their children indoors.”
I appreciate the variety Ralph! Keep them coming! Thanks!
If your perspective isn’t one of shoot the carnivores and ask questions later, the story is indeed telling and important for the mindset it reveails.
Were flies, worms, an occasional raccoon hunted down and killed for feeding on a dead body?
Why just the bear?
The logic is this…
Bears are not normally exposed to people as a food source, and in fact, generally learn to fear people. This is good, as it keeps conflicts with people low. However, a bear that has fed on human flesh *may* learn that people are a source of food and start actively hunting us. Most states and provinces (BC included) have thousands of bears, so there is no danger to the population. Thus, the precautionary principle is invoked and the bear is removed. Put simply, the known cost (1 bear) of removal far outweighs the potential costs of not removing the bear (i.e., dead people, very bad press).
Of course, flies, worms and raccoons are not likely to start killing people after feeding on a corpse.
Bears in BC: http://www.bearsinbc.com/pages/01black/01population.html
Any evidence to back up that fear?
A big difference in the learning curve of a bear feeding on a human corpse it runs across as opposed to stalking and predating live humans. One is scavenging, the other is hunting.
Some behavioral ecologists believe that carnivores develop a “search image” for certain types of prey based upon what they have hunted and fed upon in the past.
Thus, some have explained wolves’ reluctance to kill cattle in some conditions (e.g., after the initial reintroduction) as unfamiliarity with the food source. However, once they discover a dead cow and feed on the carcass they form a search image for that type of prey (i.e., cow = food).
I think the logic here should be readily apparent:
Bear feeds on novel food source; bear identifies food source (via sight, smell, etc.); assuming no adverse consequences (e.g., bad taste, illness) associated with the food source, bear forms a search image for the novel food item.
If this bear was in your neighborhood, would you be willing to take the risk?
++One is scavenging. The other is hunting.++
Of course it may depend on the bear species (griz more likely than black), its genetics (I would expect a smaller, gentle temperment coastal black bear in WA to be less likely than a larger AK or Canadian black bear to make the jump to stalking a human as a food source)…and both have some of the same smells, and visual queues.
Hunger can be a great motivator…and behavior changing. Think of those wolves that chowed down on a dead cow, and then made the link to stalk live ones. Once tasted….with no adverse consequence…. get a live one. They are probably just as good.
Its such a bizarre story…
Interesting story in that there is still much confusion about what makes bears eat things. The theory here is that once having tasted flesh this bear would stalk humans. . but, we have no way to know that. In fact,since the bear cached the man perhaps he tasted terrible or perhaps the bear got stoned. All in all we only have theories about bears motivations in a case like this, but from my observations of wild bears I saw that they seemed to know something is dead almost instantly and it becomes something else to them right away.
“but from my observations of wild bears I saw that they seemed to know something is dead almost instantly and it becomes something else to them right away”
Linda Jo – I have a retriever mix (a pound stray) who loves to catch & eat mice, ground squirrels etc. when the opportunity presents its self (which is seldom, thankfully) but if she runs across something already dead, no matter how small, she either gives it a brief examination and walks on or, she flops and rolls back and forth on it.
I’ve witnessed other dogs doing the same thing with cow or horse manure.
Learned or instinctual behavior?
Nancy, I think smell for animals means something we can’t imagine because it is a primary sense. It is my theory from watching bears and dogs that it is possible that strong smells translate to personal power. Therefore it a dog finds something stinky to roll in they do that to proudly wear a new strong smell. For bears,who also do that, humans seem very strong because we smell very strong, and here I am talking about live humans. We smell like toothpaste, shaving cream, shampoo, laundry soap, deodorant, rich foods, tobacco and all kinds of things that are foreign to wild bears. So, we look at a bear with all those claws and teeth and great strength and we are afraid because of the visual input and they look at us with all those rich smells and think we are very powerful. Hence, if they get a chance they run from humans (live ones). But bears understand that a dead person is just meat, maybe not good meat, but easy to eat none the less. My theory about strong smells explains why bears don’t eat people who are soft, easy to eat and usually slow and weak. If a person sees a bear, however, and smells like fear it is at best confusing to the bear and some bears may take that as an invitation to explore more, and if the human then runs . . . well, what bear wouldn’t want to know why or how far they will run. The idea that we might be biteable or eatable, however, only seems to occur after we are dead or hurt.
Interesting theory Linda Jo. Thanks!
Yes, interesting theories. One missing one here, is that hunger can be a great motivator. Once something is tried, it might be eaten again. Odor, physical appearance, availablility, etc., something that smells like a human -dead or alive- might be on the menu AGAIN, if it is easier to get than whatever else is around, or times get really tough.
Never mind this human was in a car. Another aspect of familiarity. Just reach in and snatch whatever is there through the open window. Or, in the case of some larger bears, just pry the car door open for whatever is inside – something that some Yellowstone bears have done in the past to snatch coolers or a bag of chips.
Not really a bizarre story at all, when you fit the individual pieces together in time and space. >>> Smart bear + hunger + willingness to try new available food source + opportunity (really doesn’t matter what it is if it has caloric value, and maybe smells good and doesn’t fight back).
That is why a bear will munch down on a can of pork and beans, or canned corn, punching through the metal to get whatever is tasty inside. Once tried, it may be on the menu forever wherever it is, ….if given an opportunity.
So then, the moral of the story might be seen as; if it’s even the slightest bit scary ~ even the thought of it being scary ~ then we must kill it… to save humans who have decimated the planet by killing damned near everything including other sacred humans. I think there ought to be more bears eating humans to curb the population that has exceeded the planetary carrying capacity. Our antisepticized world is being attacked by wildlife… therefore, they must be killed so we can further destroy their habitat and save ourselves from unsanctioned fears.
I think the situation is much simpler then your portrayal suggests. I suspect you remember the recent case in Utah where the Forest Service was held (partly) liable (to the tune of 2 Million USD) for the death of a child that occurred when the family camped at a campground known to be frequented by a food-conditioned bear and were not warned. Now imagine what would happen if a similar scenario were to unfold with a bear known to have fed on human flesh. I imagine the time it took to do the political calculus for that decision could be measured in microseconds.
With growing carnivore populations, there will be more animals killed to benefit (or reduce the perceived costs to) humans. Just as we ask some people to accept the *costs* of carnivores, so we will need to be willing to accept the inevitability that some animals will be killed to keep people safe. That seems like an easy trade-off to make.
“With growing carnivore populations, there will be more animals killed to benefit (or reduce the perceived costs to) humans. Just as we ask some people to accept the *costs* of carnivores, so we will need to be willing to accept the inevitability that some animals will be killed to keep people safe. That seems like an easy trade-off to make.”
And that is where I see the “taking” of carnivores as a problem. Quite frankly, and honestly… I think that we need to accept the importance of predators/carnivores ~ not the human variety ~ is understated and problematic in that we humans seem to assess our own value at a much higher level than that of wildlife, which in my realm of thought is a major error. We can send our young folk off to war and kill other humans but if a wild animal does it, it’s just the awfulest thing ever.
There once was a time when the other species outnumbered humans, I wish I had been around then. In my more than half o century of existence I have come close to complete loathing of the other members of my own species, mostly over their “ignorance by convenience of choice” mindset. Let the bears eat people, there’s way too many of us and all other species would likely benefit from a major depopulating set of events providing them with more habitat and food. Unfortunately, humans are pretty toxic in all manner of being so they ,ay not reap much benefit from actually eating us but they certainly would fare better if there were half as many of us as there are.
At this stage in the game, I see “critters” as being far more important than humans, period.
That sounds great. Which member of your family do you want to let the carnivores eat first?
I think you’re taking a ‘glass-half-empty” perspective, here. As we look across North America, large carnivore populations appear to be doing quite well. Generally speaking, their populations are increasing and they are expanding in terms of the territory they occupy. Black bear are a case in point. After being nearly eliminated from much of the east and midwest, black bears are recolonizing former habitat–in large part, this is due to the fact that there is a LOT more mature forest in these areas (also good news for some species). There are now thousands of black bears in the state of New Jersey; and due to very good management, there are relatively few conflicts.
Personally, I am far more fearful of public opinion turning against carnivores–because situations like that the one I described, above, in Utah–than I am of losing the occasional animal to the precautionary principle.
Years ago there was a great story about an elderly gal on the northern border of Yellowstone. Her orchard ,for all intents and purposes, was for the Bears who would frequent her place around harvest time. The neighbors would wig out at the proximity of the Bears. Her case was classic “I love all Bears and only a select few humans” I’ve loved that quote and sentiment ever since.
So she ticked off her neighbors, and possibly increased their safety risks, and maybe in the long term the risk of lethal control of habituated bears for her own vanity. Doesn’t sound like somebody really thinking things through.
This is a bit like the guy feeding dog food to bears out near Long Beach on the SE WA coast. Something like 5 or 6 black bears had to be lethally controlled including the one that climbed into the investigating WCO’s truck through the open door shortly after he arrived at the site. Another five had to be relocated to Mt. Rainier. That was a little less than 2 years ago.
Stupid is as stupid does, and the bears, doing nothing but taking advantage of easy meals, die in the end.
Sorry, not “SE,” but SW WA coast north of Astoria, OR (and the mouth of the Columbia River) about 15 miles
I’ve also wished I could go back in time to when the big carnivores ruled, e.g. Beringia during the Pleistocene when the first humans were just edging across the land bridge. Probably no modern human has ever wished so more than Dr. Dale Guthrie at UAF who has lived and breathed the Pleistocene for decades, and even dined on Steppe Bison killed by lions and preserved in ice 31,000 years ago (near Fairbanks). I’ve even thought I could handle the Jurassic for up to a week, if they’d let me take along a .50 BMG rifle with a large supply of ammunition . . . . . . but that idea vanished during a recent visit to the Museum of Natural History when I learned there were specialized gigantic mosquitoes adapted to sucking blood from dinosaurs!
“I think you’re taking a ‘glass-half-empty” perspective, here. As we look across North America, large carnivore populations appear to be doing quite well”
Not speaking for Salle, JB but I believe large carnivore populations are barely being tolerated at best, in North America.
As long as hunting seasons are adjusted and fine tuned often, as is now the case with wolves in the northeast and wolves (& mountain lions in some areas) in Montana, so your average “wall hanger” is satisfied with the bag limit, you won’t hear too many complaints when it comes to carnivore growth.
In a business today and the manager had a badger (full body) mounted on his wall. I much prefer to seem them alive, they are fascinating creatures, but unfortunately, badgers are just another carnivore (regardless of their abilities to keep rodent poepulations in check) on the “hit list” out here in the west, when it comes to tolerance.
“…I believe large carnivore populations are barely being tolerated at best…”
No offense, but I believe your location (and Salle’s) may be coloring your perspective. You show me Idaho and Montana and I’ll raise you California and Colorado. I would wager that tolerance for carnivores is as high as it has ever been (nationally) and it is only likely to increase as human populations become more urban.
Moreover, if you take a look back over the past 30 years you’ll find black bear, cougar, coyotes, bobcats, and wolves have all expanded their range in the lower 48. In some cases (e.g., wolves) this was because of protective policies, in other cases (e.g., coyotes) carnivores were successful in spite of our policies. Of course, some species (e.g., lynx, wolverine) are not doing as well; but in general, people who are interested in carnivores have a lot to be happy about.
Yeah but JB, what good does it do to expand “one’s” range if you’ve always got a target on your back?
Louise, Nancy –
It is a good question. The answer is…. society (us – our communities and state governments) will determine where large carnivores are compatible with human communities and how large carnivores, as a wildlife trust resourc, should benefit human society.
Mark- Isn’t it time for you to be out stomping on White Pelican eggs?
Are you still dumping Badgers and Skunks on their nesting islands?
Stomping on pelican nests is not in our pelican management tool box. Badger and skunk releases were an adaptive managment trail that didn’t yield desired results. It’s unlikely we will use natural predators in the future to achieve pelican management objectives.
When you ask, “what good does [range expansion] do?”–are you talking about the ecosystem, the species, or the individual animal?
If we’re talking about ecosystems, then my answer is that any effects predators have are likely to be site-specific (and highly variable). If we’re discussing the species, then increased range contributes to resiliency and redundancy, making the species less susceptible to extinction. If we’re talking about individuals, then movement into unoccupied range may provide space for their offspring to more easily occupy, increasing individual fitness. Wild animals live very precarious lives; they have “targets on their backs” even when humans leave them alone.
If bears are not hungry they do not try new foods. All the money spent on predator control could so better be used in making sure the habitats we allow our predators have the natural foods they need. . . even if that means we have to plant a few remote fruit trees or enhance the native plant population, or take out some more dams, educate people who live remotely not to feed animals at their house but to leave their natural food in place. For instance, the new homeowner who has just bought a new mini-ranch logs the back forty for a better view . . wipes out the anthills, the rotting logs and wetland plants and then sees a mother bear with young in his yard looking for something to eat. Hopefully the general sentiments about animals will reach a tipping point before we wipe them all out for our convenience.
While I agree with your sentiments (more habitat is always good) I’m not sure your reasoning is sound. Planting more fruit trees (or cultivating other wild food sources) might indeed help an individual bear (or family) avoid conflicts, and ultimately, control; however, creating better food/habitat for bear 01, simply opens up the marginal parts of its habitat to another bear, increasing the likelihood that it will come into conflict with humans.
Protecting core habitat is great (and important), but where marginal habitat, bears and humans coincide, there will always be hungry bears that get into trouble.
++If bears are not hungry they do not try new foods. ++
Not sure that is a universally true statement. Bears, or any animal is always looking for easist food, with least risk of harm to itself, and maybe even tastiest.
Bear choice at the urban fringe, or on the range: anthill or ripe cherries and pears; grubs or camp cooler and chips; green berries or penned chickens or lamb/calf, perhaps.
WM your are right that you cannot make a blanket statement like that . . but I have noticed that bears can be picky when they have enough of the foods they like and there is no doubt about that. I have bears in my backyard and my garbage can is out but no raccoon or bear has ever knocked down our cans because there is a huge patch of blackberries, apples, pears and other foods in the same block. In Alaska we found that the bears were occasionally looking for salt and would like things left out and bite canoes and kayaks but they weren’t pushy for human food when there was a creek full of running salmon to be had. Perhaps I should have stated that I don’t feel we know enough yet about bears and their food preferences. Enhancing the natural food they eat has not been done yet as far as I know . . so who can say it would not help bears and humans co-exist?
JB you do know that the habitat tends to regulate bear numbers. . bears have delayed implantation and mother bears will not have cubs if there is a limited food source. If we want to have bears, and we do, if there is not enough food in the habitat besides running into human trouble bears will stop having cubs and we will run out of bears. What you are saying about the marginal habitat being occupied by other bears could be true in theory but not for long. Dispersing bears are not successful at raising young if the habitat cannot support them.
By “marginal” habitat I refer to the availability of natural food sources. But bears, as you know well, are nothing if not adaptable. You said, that hungry bears “do not try new foods”. I don’t know that this statement is true, but I do know that the logic is flawed (again, no offense). Even if we except your statement as true, the problem is this: First, few bears, regardless of the natural food supply, are going to be well fed ALL the time–that is, every bear will be hungry at some point and thus try new foods. Second, where bears live close to humans there will always be some novel, anthropogenic food source close at hand, tempting any bear that can’t find natural foods. And yes, bears who live in marginal habitat may not breed, but those who live in good habitat do, and their offspring will be pushed out and away from their home range. When the good available habitat is occupied, this means living in marginal habitat.
It also seems relevant to point out that black bears have been increasing in BC (where this incident took place) over the past several decades. There are now somewhere on the order of 100,000-120,000 bears in BC alone. Killing one bear of a large and increasing population on the precautionary principle seems reasonable to me.
The black bear got the death penalty for recycling: harsh!
Let them eat people… it won’t be long before we’re all there is left for them to eat since we insist on trashing everything else. We’ll probably be eating people too before long… think soylent green.