Be bear-aware

Published 3:25 pm Thursday, April 16, 2009

By Staff
There was a bear scare in Washington this week, and we can’t say that part of the city’s population conducted itself well during it.
People streamed from their homes and clogged the streets clamoring — often screaming — for a glimpse at the bear.
But this wasn’t a pic-a-nic-basket-stealing cartoon character from Jellystone Park, it was a real, honest-to-goodness bear, with real teeth and real claws. Luckily, no one found out about those teeth and claws the hard way, and the bear didn’t cause any traffic accidents. That is to say, there were no boo-boos.
Next time something like this happens, we would like to advise people to be smarter than the average bear and lay low.
Black bears aren’t particularly dangerous in most situations, but a bear is likely to be frightened by the lights and sounds of the city, and people shouting at it can’t help. They don’t want to eat people, but even a casual swipe from a bear can tear a person’s face apart, and even the cutest small animal will bite if cornered. Bears are no different.
And no one wants to be anywhere around when a mother bear determines there’s a threat to her cub or cubs and decides to protect her offspring.
Also, bears are heavy, dense objects. If one jumps in front of a car on Fifth Street or 15th Street, there’s likely to be a really nasty wreck.
At this time of year, the bear, estimated to weigh about 125 pounds, more than likely was in the city looking for food. We don’t have a big enough bear problem here that people need to be especially aware about locking away garbage, but a little good sanitation goes a long way toward keeping bears out of last night’s pizza crusts.
Above all, don’t feed the bears — even if you get through it with all your limbs intact, it teaches the bears to approach humans for food, raising the risk that they’ll turn humans into food.
If people want to see bears — and they are beautiful animals — we recommend they look from a distance, in the wild.