(BLACK BEARS) MINNESOTA — With summer months among us and families venturing outdoors, bear interactions are rampant. When people and bears come into contact, the bear is typically shot because it poses a threat. Now, this drastic measure can be avoided with a system called diversionary food sites. These food sites are placed away from densely populated areas and help attract bears away from people. In multiple cases this strategy has been extremely successful, and if widely implemented it could save hundreds of bears’ lives. Read further for more on diversionary food sites and their effectiveness. — Global Animal

The Vancouver Sun, Aldo Santin

Mama Bear and Baby
In a summer as dry as this one, food is short and Black Bears tend to wander more closely to humans. Diversionary food sites could keep these bears safe and away from people. Photograph by Norbert Rosing

A wildlife biologist from Minnesota says black bear problems this summer can be solved without killing any more bears.

Lynn Rogers, director of the Wildlife Research Institute and the North American Bear Centre in Ely, Minnesota, said studies show that putting food out for bears at a designated site — a practice known as diversionary feeding — can keep black bears away from populated areas but doesn’t condition the bears to human food.

Rogers said one area of Minnesota has been feeding black bears for 50 years without creating a nuisance problem or a threat to humans.

“I wonder why they think they have to shoot them,” Rogers said.

Manitoba Conservation’s policy is to shoot and kill any agitated or aggressive black bear that is on the ground in a populated area.

Three black bears were shot and killed at Grand Beach on Lake Winnipeg during the past week. The bears were found in the dunes area.

Rogers, who has a PhD in ecology and behavioural biology and has studied black bears for 44 years, said Manitoba Conservation could set up diversionary food sites — using beef fat or sunflower seeds — now to avoid any further bear encounters this summer.

“If you want to co-exist with bears, diversionary feeding is the tool,” Rogers said.

Rogers wrote a research paper in 2009, examining an eight-year period where black bears were fed to keep them away from populated areas.

Rogers wrote the research found that most assumptions about black bears are false and that bear/human interactions can be controlled by providing bears with food.

A modified version of Rogers’ 2009 paper is being published as a peer-reviewed article in the upcoming edition of Human-Wildlife Interactions Journal.

Rogers was featured in a 2010 BBC documentary that labelled him as Bearwalker of The Northwoods.

An official with Manitoba Conservation was not available for interview but a department spokeswoman said it has used diversionary food site techniques for geese, ducks, deer and elk — but never bears.

“There has been a limited amount of study in this area and little information on the long-term implications of such a program,” the department spokeswoman said in an email exchange with the Winnipeg Free Press. “There are also other things to consider, such as where sites would be located and how sites would be chosen, what types of feed to use, determining the kind of expertise needed to implement and continue such a program and develop cost estimates.”

The spokeswoman said bears are only put down when the public safety is at risk and there are no other alternatives.

Rogers said during summers when there is no or limited natural food, bears will be attracted to garbage and food left unattended — like this summer’s dry season. He said with a shortage of berries, black bears will continue to be drawn to campgrounds this summer.

But Rogers said Manitoba Conservation could set up a food site and keep the bears away from Grand Beach or any other area where bears are a problem.

“It worked so well, that we launched another study to see how these bears reacted to people,” Rogers said.

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