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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Endangered Bears In Scioto -- Humans and Danger

 Bear In Scioto County, Ohio

Bears in Scioto County! Holy smokes! This is not a dream in 2014!

For some reason, numbers of Ursus Americanus are leaving the nearby woods and strolling in places like downtown Portsmouth and Sciotoville. I'm not really happy about witnessing these dangerous animals so close to home. I guess some locals are thrilled with these encounters, but a black bear in my backyard would likely have me clutching my chest like Fred Sanford and screaming, "Oh, this is the biggest one I ever had! You hear that, Elizabeth? I'm coming to join you honey!"

Now, in all of her nature-loving wisdom, Jenny Richards of the Shawnee State Department of Wildlife says, “If people see a bear, they should just enjoy it. Go, ‘Wow, cool. Look, there’s a bear.’ Any kind of wildlife you get to see is just a treat, so people should enjoy it.”

(Joseph Pratt. "Bear Sightings Continue Around the County." 
Portsmouth Daily Times. June 18, 2014)

But, then Richards added, "When bears become teenagers, they become ornery, especially among the males, and the mothers will run the bears out of their territory, because they need to be off on their own.”

OK, Jenny, maybe you want to see cantankerous adolescent carnivores learning how to fend for themselves at your house, but I have had four children, and I know full well the result of raging hormones, teen angst, and impatient maturation. Teens of all species are unpredictable and prone to outbreaks of animosity. Young humans are bad enough. A hundred and fifty pound Bruno staring me down is not my idea of "enjoying myself."

And, oh yeah, what do you think I should do if by some strange chance this does happen to me? Thanks for the good advice, Jenny. According to Richards, this is what I should do in the middle of my cardiac arrest:

“Now, if a bear should attack or charge you, you should react differently, but if you just see one, the opportunity should be enjoyed at a good distance. Don’t approach the bear. Never run from a bear, because predators like to chase.

"A black bear’s diet is 90 percent composed of fruit and berries, making human attacks rare. If a person should get too close to a black bear, they shouldn’t run and they shouldn’t curl up and defend major organs, like they are told to do with grizzly bear attacks.

"Most black bears can be deterred by standing tall, waving arms and making loud sounds, which will typically scare the bear away in the attempt to act larger than the bear with the bear scare tactics."

Hey, don't worry because I can't run away while suffering the heart attack. But, what if my wandering teen bear is not impressed by my tall stance and frantic screams? What if he is more like Dion? You do remember Dion Dimucci and the Belmonts, don't you?

"Oh well, I roam from town to town
I go through life without a care
And I'm as happy as a clown
I with my two fists of iron and I'm going nowhere"

That, Jennie, would be my luck. The damned bear is grizzly enough. You want me to read his pedigree? I can't take time to run for a field guide to be sure my bear is not a rogue grizzly that's escaped from some nut's exotic animal compound. And, I'm pretty sure the bear will know I'm not dead since I'm crying like a baby and calling for my mama.

My last resort? If all else fails, Richards said that "a black bear attack can typically be ceased by punching the bear in the nose, but if the bear is persistent, a person can curl up and try to defend major organs as a last hope."

Well, I guess I should not worry about bears that do show up on my doorstep. Our local law enforcement vows to help. Portsmouth Chief of Police Robert Ware said "to report any sightings immediately to the police, and, above all, people should stay back and absolutely refrain from any injury to the bear."

Now, I need to report my intruding bear to the police so that officers race to the scene with weapons they won't use to scare the animal away or shoot him if necessary? I was wondering if Ohio Natural Resources had some trained response teams to handle these situations, but maybe potentially unruly bears face immediate arrest.

I'm pretty sure with my luck, my bear buddy will be rabid as well as "ornery." I just hope the response time assures that cops will be there in time to do whatever they do to "not corner the bear" and "escort it to safety." After all, it sounds as if any bear seeing me will suffer from trauma after his human snack.

Evidently, the police somehow perform a Cesar Millan "bear whispering" act and lead the straying adolescent to permanent safety. Yes, folks, the authorities are sure to put the wild animal into the cruiser and take him to the closest woody area, which in my case, is located in the next block up the street. Thank God for the police who always have our safety in mind.

Chief Ware said that while bear and human paths will cross, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the animals from a distance, but to stay clear from them and refrain from anything that might intimidate them.

I think that's a safe bet for me. In my weak mind, I can think of nothing I would consider doing that  mind might "intimidate" a black bear. I have never bullied a bear, nor do I intend to begin this practice. I guess I could try to run him away by calling him "an ignorant halfbreed from the backwoods," yet I doubt if a court would find me guilty for this minor offense. "Officer, I swear I did not in any manner alarm or terrorize the young bear. Honestly, I barely knew the bear. Those are the bare bear facts." Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Ware stressed that injury to any endangered animal is a serious consequence under law and anyone caught killing a black bear will be held accountable. The Chief advised...

“The legal ramifications of shooting an endangered animal are not something someone wants to face,” Ware explained. “We will only do that in an absolute last resort and there is an attack on a person. Typically, the black bear is not akin to being aggressive.”

After understanding all of the ramifications of sighting a black bear, I feel much more relieved. I promise I will handle any Ursus intrusion at my home as a friendly meeting at the crossroads of Brant Avenue and bear territory. Why should I be alarmed when naturalists, police, and paparazzi seem to have the situation in hand? I mean, "typically" these bears are "not aggressive." And we all know "typically" people don't get shot in schools, suffer homes destroyed by tornadoes, crash their cars on the way to work, or run into indescribable creatures at the local Walmart.

And, if I and the bear survive our precarious liaison -- he, the endangered species; me, the dangerous human intruder -- we will both be better for the meeting. That is, after I recover from the four-way bypass surgery induced by the "cool" and "enjoyable" brush with The Wanderer.   

Black Bear Roams Camden

a black bear roams the yards
of Camden residents
was tranquilized moments ago

she had come accustomed to being fed
by the hand of humans
an accident waiting to happen

looking into that pathway
of my woods sitting from my daybed 
my heart races as I 
imagine her coming toward me
standing on her hind legs
front paws waving at me
as her terrifying growls
burst from her mouth
sharp teeth 

breaking down my sliding glass door
to feed on my flesh
her massive beastly power scares me
into submission
as i play dead

By Barbara Washington

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