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Living near forest means learning to deal with wildlife
Written by Trista Steers MacVittie   
Thursday, 08 July 2010 00:00

A young bear who became accustomed to the taste of trash paid the ultimate price for his habit last week.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department euthanized a 12---year-old black bear in Flagstaff after capturing him in Sedona on June 26.

Apparently, Sedona wasn’t the first place the bear decided to crack into trash cans. The game and fish department reported he was already relocated in another area for the same behavior.

In the newsroom, we became fond of the bear while listening to stories told by photojournalist Tom Hood about his adventures chasing him around the city taking pictures. We were not alone.

Several residents of Sedona, particularly in the area the bear frequented, found a soft spot in their hearts for him.

The game and fish department stated it euthanized the bear per its policy on human-wildlife conflicts. My question is, what constitutes conflict?

We live in rural Arizona surrounded by national forest land. We’re bound to come in contact with wildlife on a fairly regular basis. Granted, running into a bear isn’t the same as watching a javelina run across a yard during the early hours of the morning. However, choosing to live in a wildland-urban interface brings with it the risk of encountering creatures we might be afraid of.

The bear didn’t try to get into any homes. He didn’t chase anyone. He simply attempted to feed himself in the most convenient manner possible, a natural instinct of all creatures. Dozens of trash cans left along the side of the road is a bear buffet. The bear can’t be blamed for taking the easy road, which isn’t human-wildlife conflict.

The game and fish department spent days chasing the bear around the Broken Arrow area only to end up killing it. Why not transport him back into the forest again?

Humans who want to live near beautiful, undeveloped country need to realize wildlife comes with the territory and adapt their lifestyles for us and them to exist together. Our state wildlife policies need to be adapted to reflect those values.

When I moved here people told me there weren’t bears in Arizona anymore. Well, apparently there are, but there won’t be for much longer if we can’t figure out how to manage wildlife and share our environment.

 

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