FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona wildlife officials are defending the state’s policy on killing bears after the public’s reaction to a bear being euthanized in Flagstaff.
Game and Fish Department officials captured and euthanized the bear Friday after it wandered into a Flagstaff neighborhood. On social media, people asked why the bear couldn’t have been relocated and critiqued the department’s wildlife policies, reported The Arizona Daily Sun.
State policy requires wildlife officials to “destroy” adult male bears that exhibit unacceptable behavior, are found in an unacceptable location or pose a potential threat to human health and safety. It dates back to a 1996 incident near Tucson in which an adult male bear that was caught and released by wildlife officials returned to a campground and seriously mauled a teenage girl.
“The risk from wildlife is pretty small compared to the risk of getting in your car and driving, but nobody wants to be injured by a wild animal, it’s an innate fear,” explained Ken Wilson, head of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University. He led a five-year study on bear foraging and bear-human interactions in the Rocky Mountains.
“Most policy isn’t set by pure science, it’s set by our liability as humans and the risk,” said Wilson.
Another factor to consider is that bears are known travel as far as 100 miles to search for food. Wilson said over half the bears in his study returned after being relocated. But he added it’s not clear that the bears would be aggressive toward humans, saying few bear-human encounters are aggressive.
“I think most bears aren’t necessarily going to be bad bears,” he said.
Wilson said he supports a two-strike system like the one in Colorado. Under that state’s policy, bears not exhibiting threatening behavior are generally deterred or relocated the first time they become a nuisance, but are euthanized if they wander into human development a second time.
Information from: Arizona Daily Sun, http://www.azdailysun.com/