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Bears vs. Humans: Who’s The Real Problem?

Yes, I’m actually posing that question. Who is the real problem, us or the bears? 

The reason I ask this question is due to the ongoing hazing efforts aimed at bear 863 or “Felicia” as her fans call her on Wyoming’s Togwotee Pass section of Highway 26/287. USFWS wildlife officials have been aggressively hazing Felicia away from the highway in efforts to break her habit of feeding next to the highway in plain view of passersby who in turn jump on their brakes and stop to gawk at the now world famous bruin and her cubs. 

The bear’s behavior is understandable, she’s doing what bears do… packing away the groceries in a safe and abundant place. The people’s behavior is understandable as well, for many folks simply seeing a wild grizzly bear is a lifetime event. 

The problem arises from the number of people stopping on a public roadway thus creating an animal induced “traffic jam”. This in turn creates an extremely hazardous situation for motorists unfamiliar with the route and tractor trailer and RV drivers who cannot stop on a dime when an unexpected situation arises. This localized “bear jam” is a ticking time bomb and ripe for a major traffic accident, especially now at the height of tourist season as this stretch of highway is a very popular route to access the area around Jackson, Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. 

It is the above scenario that both State and Federal wildlife officials are attempting to address by hazing Felicia and her cubs. They have simply found that it’s easier to modify the bear’s behavior than it is people’s in spite of repeated efforts and appeals to encourage folks to not stop and block the flow of traffic on the roadway. 

I’m truly not sure where I stand on this debacle. On the one hand is my conviction that human interests and safety trump that of any and all animals as long as we are fulfilling our role of stewardship toward them and not exploiting a resource into oblivion. On the other hand, is my genuine concern for the bear and her cubs. She’s chosen this spot to feed for a good reason, and she’s not raiding campsites or trashing homes so why should we be throwing expensive resources into efforts of behavior modification? Surely there are more important projects we could be dedicating the manpower and money to? Maybe build a parking area and wildlife viewing platform to give admirers a safer place to view this bear from? 

As always, I’m very interested to hear what you folks have to say about this… comment away! 

 

About Todd Helms

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4 comments

  1. DONALD F BEATTY

    I think your later comment is the safest & best alternative. It’s then a win – win for both the bears and people.

    • I second your comment! Next we should haze the humans, as it appears they have no common sense. Bears do what nature tells them. The successful ones learn where food and safety is, that’s how they survive. Many humans never do learn.

  2. When will WY abandoned the legal system, and realize that the Sierra club and liberals will never allow WYF&G to manage/hunt the states grizzlies? Why allow Washington liberals to drain the states resources in the court system as they continue on with a no-hunting agenda? Start handing out lottery permits, and start harvesting these bears. What in the world is WY scared of? Loosing federal dollars? Abandon the federal governments free money handout and make every paved highway in WY a toll road, jack up out of state access, taxes, and fees, and give residents a free ezpass or state deductions to offset any increased expenses they may incur. Get your money from tourism and tell the federal government to buzz off. Then open every gas well you can, and operate a budget free and clear of federal handouts….if the feds decide to punish the state by hunting grizzlies. Wyoming has a game management plan for grizzlies…now get on with it. What are the feds going to do?…invade wyoming cause they harvest 50-60 male grizzlies every year?

  3. People. These morons can’t even pull off the highway. They’re literally stopping in the middle of the lane blocking traffic on a curvy mountain highway with a speed limit of 55 MPH. Haze the bears, or more, kill the bears because they are visible from the road? Why not ticket the idiot drivers causing the problem? Why not have an appropriate violation/charge for obstructing the roadway and threatening human lives? That bear has been feeding near the highway at Togwotee for years with no issues, no human conflict, no conditioned behavior towards human interaction. It’s pertinent to create and enforce a no stopping zone where violators will be charged thousands of dollars and/or have their vehicles impounded. It comes down to policing the humans, we’ve let this slip for way too long ands people are getting downright disrespectful towards wildlife, both in and out of the park. It’s an individual’s responsibility to know the law and abide by it, not WYGFD’s or NPS’s to waste the their time to slap someone on the wrist. Don’t have money to fund more law enforcement?… Raise the stakes with fines, it’s time the tourists either fund it or fear it.

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