(Lander, WY) – The KOVE 1330 AM / 107.7 FM Today in the 10 interview series Coffee Time continued today with host Vince Tropea, who recently spoke with Renee Schell and Brian DeBolt from Wyoming Game and Fish.
Schell is the Information and Education Specialist, while DeBolt is the Large Carnivore Conflict Coordinator.
Both stopped by to discuss the recent black bear sightings in the Lander area, the ensuing investigation into those sightings, and some tips and reminders for folks who want to avoid unwanted bear encounters.
(You can view footage of one of the bear sightings here.)
According to DeBolt, there were a few sightings reported before the one on July 13, but at the time those were just sightings, and not “nuisance or conflict behavior.”
Those reports were also spread so geographically far that there wasn’t any indication of it being the same bear.
Upon receiving the July 13 report, DeBolt then went door to door in the area and learned that there were multiple (approximately 30) unreported moments of such behavior that led to many “food rewards” for the bear.
It was then later discovered that it was indeed the same bear looking for those food rewards in that geographic spread.
Unfortunately, when bears and other large animals develop these behaviors for food rewards, relocation becomes more difficult, DeBolt explained, and in this case the bear was indeed euthanized.
“As rare as it is for black bears to become aggressive toward people, it was this exact bear behavior that he was exhibiting that the next step is injuring or killing somebody,” he later added. “We don’t want it to get that point.”
DeBolt went on to say that while it is totally understandable for citizens to not want to report bear sightings for fear of a fatal outcome for the animal, not reporting early can lead to more aggressive behavior when the those food rewards become more difficult for the bear.
Schell added that the more a bear has to work for its food, the less likely it is to return to that food source, and she also stressed that reporting bear and other large animal sightings immediately gives Game and Fish “the most management flexibility,” namely, successful relocation.
“Game and Fish wants all wild bears to live out their life as wild bears,” Schell said.
Preventing bear presence in the first place is also another way of mitigating these types of extreme outcomes, Schell and DeBolt went on to explain, and there are a number of ways residents can help in that regard.
Below are some examples of proper storage techniques for trash and any potential local honey producers, such as enclosed bins and electric fences.
Schell also reminded folks that there is an animal feeding ban ordinance within city limits, which includes the intentional and unintentional feeding of wildlife (other than birds), and proper feeding/storing techniques can help prevent larger animals from becoming “food conditioned.”
“We’re not out to chastise, punish or publicly humiliate somebody that just accidently got into their stuff,” DeBolt added. “Our intent is to prevent the bear from getting food rewards and becoming food conditioned (and to) keep people safe.”
Check out the full Coffee Time interview with Schell and DeBolt below for even more information, and to get the details on the Game and Fish bear spray giveaway on August 19.
Be sure to tune in to Today in the 10 and Coffee Time interviews every morning from 7:00 to 9:00 AM on KOVE 1330 AM / 107.7 FM, or stream it live right here.