Friday, December 23, 2016

A black bear boom has townfolk wondering how they'd get along with grizzlies

THREE RIVERS, Calif.  It was two years back, toward the end of summer, that the bears came. Families of them. Droves of them. More of them than most residents of this small Tulare County town of 2,500 ever had the pleasure of watching frolic in the Kaweah River or the frustration of seeing topple trash cans and break into chicken coops. Last year, though, the bear hoedown ended, leaving people here to wonder where so many of the creatures had gone.  Some who live here on the western edge of Sequoia National Park say that question amounts to an ursine murder mystery — that unnamed villains illegally killed dozens of these relatively docile black bears. And that widespread but unsubstantiated allegation has added intensity to an ongoing debate about whether the time is ripe to reintroduce bigger and more aggressive California Grizzly bears into the wilds of the Sierra Nevada, including areas in and around Sequoia—a possibility simultaneously under study by UC Santa Barbara geographer Peter Alagona and the Center for Biological Diversity...An oak grove in Greg Dixon’s backyard, for example, became an impromptu outdoor theater. Visitors yanked out lawn chairs, cameras and cold beers and watched up to seven bears at a time lounge on tree limbs, splash in the river and stuff their faces with fallen acorns, spitting out the shells. “People went goo-goo over all the bears hanging out at my house,” Dixon said. “We all took hundreds of pictures.” But bears also broke into cabins and vehicles around town, ripped up roof tiles to get at acorns stashed by woodpeckers, threatened livestock and charged people who got too close. Today, more than 25,000 black bears — with narrow heads and small ears and weighing up to 350 pounds -- roam wild in California, state wildlife authorities say. But there hasn’t been a wild grizzly in California in almost 100 years...more

No comments: