Bears Behaving Badly

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts, and wild tales from the outdoors

Jan. 27, 2010

Bears Behaving Badly
The results of a new 4-year study indicate the “aversive conditioning” that
comes with shooting black bears with rubber slugs from a 12-gauge shotgun is
the most-effective bruin deterrent — far superior to pepper spray or other
methods. You’ll also read about the first confirmed case of chronic wasting
disease in Virginia, and a new hunting program
for Wisconsin soldiers.

Study: Rubber Bullets Best Bear Deterrent
According to a new bear behavioral study, the use of shotguns and rubber
bullets has everything to do with teaching troublesome bruins to end their bad
behavior. Researchers detailed the so-called “aversive conditioning” on more
than 150 individual bears, some that had become accustomed to human food.

J.R. Absher

Details of the study — which involved a total of 1,050 incidents in California‘s Sequoia
National Park
— appear
in the current issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management.

The conditioning process is designed to link humans with something bad or
painful occurring to the bears, said researchers. Park officials yelled at the
bears during most encounters to reinforce the conditioning. Such conditioning
was most effective, researchers found, when done immediately after a bear’s
first contact with human food.

“Those shot with rubber slugs or
chased were about twice as likely to run away as those given moderate
treatments (rocks, slingshots) or pepper-sprayed,” wrote report author Rachel
Mazur. “Among the 36 food-conditioned bears, rubber slugs had far more
immediate success than other treatments, causing animals to run away 92 percent
of the time. Every other treatment caused bears to run in fewer than half of
the trials.”

And much like humans who exhibit bad behavior, only a handful of the bears
got in most of the trouble. Eleven of the 150 bears accounted for 90 percent of
the incidents. Six bears were either killed or relocated for safety reasons
during the study period.

Wisconsin‘s First Mentor Hunt A Success
Looking back at Wisconsin‘s
first season of mentored hunting, state wildlife agency officials are calling
the program an unqualified success.

After failed attempts in two previous legislative sessions to reduce the
minimum hunting age in Wisconsin, a law allowing new hunters, including 10- and
11-year-olds, to “test drive” hunting became effective Sept. 1, 2009.

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