Droughts Causing Bears to Seek Food in Our Backyards
On a usual day, bears will munch on leafy green shoots from a fresh sapling or blackberries from a shrubbery bush. Coming across a hive set in a tree would be considered a treat since it is one of their all time favorite snacks. But this summer’s heat and prolonged droughts have caused their usual diet of plants and berries to become dehydrated and shriveled driving them to seek food in our backyards.
Black bears are omnivorous but mostly eat vegetarian with 85% of their diet consisting of vegetation. They typically eat insects, grasses, flowers, and bulbs and forage for high-fat items like acorns and beechnuts in the fall to bulk up for winter. They will even raid the nut caches of squirrels. But the hottest month in over a century (July 2012) has hit the U.S. and is taking its toll on the species by disrupting their routine meals and forcing them to look for food closer to humans. In the last few months there has been a significant increase in bear- vehicle break-ins and many have been sighted walking around neighborhoods and strolling through backyards.
Last week a bear in upstate New York attempted to claw his way through the wall of a candy store but was unsuccessful at getting inside. Another black bear in Colorado tried to break into a different candy store but was a bit more savvy. He gently broke in through the door, quickly walked in, stole a piece of chocolate covered candy, and fled the scene without damaging any property. The culprit was caught red-handed on the store’s surveillance camera (see video below). The bear really enjoyed his treats because he came back for more a total of seven times!
“We’ve been here 17 years and never had a problem with bears,” said Roslyn Starer, who runs the Candy Cottage in Old Forge with her son, Larry. “But it’s been so dry the normal foods in the woods just aren’t growing. So they’re coming into town.”
Another bear somehow locked himself inside a minivan completely destroying the interior of the car in a desperate attempt to escape. Campgrounds in Eastern Kentucky were closed a late weekend in July because bears were frequently caught raiding people’s picnic baskets and coolers.
The chokeberries and serviceberries in Aspen Colorado withered to a crisp from the sun’s rays, which most likely caused a mama bear and her three cubs to break in to over a dozen vehicles in June. Officials say that the drought is causing the bears to resort to new tactics and are becoming more intelligent in the process. They are even breaking into houses while residents are home putting humans in danger of being injured or possibly killed. Bears that are caught raiding people’s homes are usually trapped and relocated or humanely euthanized.
Although all of these incidents are nothing new or unheard of, particularly when droughts hit, wildlife biologists say this has been a particularly busy season.
This year has been the hottest year on record for some Midwest states since temperatures were first recorded dating back 117 years ago. Hopefully the forecast shows some relief coming from the clouds within the next few weeks because the bears and rural residents could really use it- and soon.
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