3R and its BEARS
by Sarah Elliott
California’s black bears are an iconic symbol of the wild, proof in this populous state that there still remains untrammeled regions and untamed animals that roam free and unrestrained.
In the summer and fall of 2015, Three Rivers residents received an education in real time about Sierra bears. Four years of drought and dry summers caused a change in behavior of these bruins that previously were satisfied in the higher elevations of neighboring Sequoia National Park but were instead driven to the lower-elevation foothills in search of acorns and water.
Bears are not vicious man-eaters as Hollywood likes to sometimes portray. While bears were en masse in Three Rivers, there were no reports of a bear attacking pets or people. Bears are omnivores, and their diets consist mostly of plants and insects. If the opportunity presents itself, bears might go after the unprotected young of livestock, and they certainly won’t pass up a flimsy cage full of backyard chickens, so it is best to bear-proof animal-enclosure facilities to avoid conflict.
Three Rivers, which should be a bear-proof community but is not, was caught unaware in 2015, and bears soon discovered food way more tasty, calorie-laden, and easier to come by than acorns in the tippy-top of an oak tree: human trash. Hyperphagia was never so easy! Of course, no humans were injured or killed as a result of the bears’ easy access to garbage, but bear fatalities were numerous due to depredation and being struck by vehicles.
Reports are trickling in that this year, like last, people in the high country are experiencing minimal bear sightings. It is unknown as of yet what those implications mean to Three Rivers. There could be less bears due to the toll of a multi-year drought on their food sources. Or they could be on their way back to Three Rivers for another round of gorging before winter’s nap time.
Residents should be proactive and lock their trash cans, keep pet food out of reach, bring in the bird feeders, clean the residue off the barbecue, harvest fruit from trees, and keep vehicles clean of food and scented items. All drivers should slow down and expect the unexpected while traveling the local roads, where bears, deer, and other wildlife might appear without warning.
This will ensure only positive interactions with bears. And the bears will live to tell about it.