Living With Bears - Human / Wildlife Conflicts
It is widely agreeable that observation of bears is best at a distance. When bears come too close to our homes, hunting camps, favorite fishing hole, or campsite, it ultimately results in some sort of conflict. Bear conflicts generally revolve around one thing…FOOD. Bears are opportunistic foragers and will take full advantage of any easy meal. In most any case with a nuisance bear if you remove the food, you remove the problem. A primary objective of the MDWFP is to provide technical guidance to reduce human conflict with bears. As with many things, prevention is the best solution to any bear conflict.
NEVER INTENTIONALLY FEED BEARS!
Intentionally feeding bears habituates bears to humans. Bears that no longer have a fear of humans can become extremely dangerous. In addition to becoming comfortable around humans, the most dangerous aspect of feeding bears is bears associate humans with acquiring FOOD. Bears come to expect a free meal and will come to humans to get it; the danger comes when bears DEMAND their free meal. Feeding a bear around your home not only puts you at risk of personal injury and property damage but will put your neighbors and their property at risk as well.
Why Not Just Relocate The Bear?
In order to move the bear, it must first be captured, immobilized, and then transported. This is a costly procedure that puts the bear at considerable risk. In addition, moving a bear that has grown accustomed to unnatural foods does not solve the problem but merely moves it to another area. Additionally, bears have an amazing homing instinct and will usually try to return to familiar territory. Along the way, they cross unfamiliar territory and can wander into urban areas or cross busy roadways, which can lead to fatal results for both bears and people.
Mississippi black bears are normally very shy and secretive animals and are not aggressive towards humans. Black bears, by nature, are not predatory. Black bear attacks in general are very rare and in most cases are result of underlying causes, most of which are avoidable. There has never been a human attacked by a bear documented in Mississippi; however, bears are large, powerful wild animals and should be treated with caution and respect.
Bears have acute senses of hearing and smell, in many cases a bear will know you are coming and leave the area before you are aware of their presence. However, if you were to encounter a bear in the wild one of two actions are most common. The bear may immediately run away when it sees you or the bear may stand tall on its hind legs. Contrary to popular belief, this is not aggressive behavior of any kind and it is not getting ready to charge or attack. The bear is simply standing up to get a better look at what it has just encountered. Even in the case of a female with her young, generally bears do not aggressively defend their cubs. After the bear sees what you are, it will likely go back down on all fours and leave the area either walking or running.
If the bear feels cornered or stands its ground to protect its food, it will exhibit defensive aggressive behavior. This behavior is the bear’s way of saying “you are too close and need to back off.” The bear will “pump” the ground, appearing to do short choppy push-ups and you may hear a loud popping noise, which is the bear popping its jaws together. Quick snorts, or huffing sounds are also common during this type of behavior display. In some cases the bear may even “false charge”, meaning that the bear will quickly run within a few feet of you and stop.