Sad Day – UPDATE May 22, 2012
Gentle Jo was killed in Soudan, MN, last evening. She made it into the forest before collapsing on the run from a shot through a lung. We had been worried, as we wrote in the update for May 17. A combination of factors lured her into the town. Food is scarce in the woods during this period when favored new leaves are maturing and becoming less palatable and the next ‘course’ is not yet available. That course is ant brood and usually starts the last week of May. Another factor may have been conflict with Juliet over territory, possibly making areas in and around Soudan seem a safer bet. People don’t bite and they have bird feeders and sometimes garbage. We don’t know what she was eating in Soudan. It could have been lawn grass and dandelions as we reported for Jewel two nights ago. We have asked to see the stomach contents (among other data). The DNR confiscated Jo’s body as part of their investigation of the shooting.
Soudan has no feeding stations for bears like Eagles Nest Township does. Residents of Eagles Nest Township have been feeding bears for a half century. When food is scarce in the woods, hungry bears typically supplement their diets at the feeding stations instead of going house to house for tidbits of bird seed, etc. Residents there are not dismayed by the sight of a bear. We very commonly hear, “The bears were here first.” Most residents have become knowledgeable and tolerant of bears that are not doing damage, which the bears seldom do there. State data show 80% fewer nuisance complaints from Eagles Nest Township than elsewhere in the bear range of Minnesota on a “per bear” basis.
Many people believe that feeding bears like is done in Eagles Nest Township would create problems by habituating bears to people (which simply means becoming accustomed to seeing people) and by food-conditioning bears (which means creating an expectation of food under certain circumstances). Bears in Eagles Nest Township are accustomed to seeing people at feeding stations where they expect food. The fact that problems are fewer in this Township than elsewhere shows that bear problems are much less a result of “habituation” and “food-conditioning” than hunger. Hungry bears in Eagles Nest stop by feeding stations where they are welcome and typically depart unseen to work hard in the woods for a broad variety of foods.
BBC’s Planet Earth Live is a reality program that covers both good and bad. They will cover Jo’s death on Thursday.
Also on this final program will be the joy of Juliet’s cubs all doing well. Little Sybil scampers up trees with the best of cubs. She plays vigorously and has access to a desired set of nipples on Juliet’s chest. She will do fine.
Another video of Jewel and her cubs from May 17 has been posted at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6Mse8xUjUU.
Thank you for all you do.
—Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield, Biologists, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center