Bird feeder-raiding bear didn’t need to die in Traverse City | Information, Sports activities, Jobs

It’s not the ending that neither of us wanted.

We, along with many of our neighbors, were dejected to learn that Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials had decided to euthanize a bear that has become a fixture on the west side of Traverse City.

It’s a terrible ending. A potentially avoidable ending.

The lumbering bird feeder caught our collective attention in 2020 when he began participating in a hodgepodge of low-hanging food in residential areas in Traverse City and Garfield Township. He visited trash cans and backyard bird feeders for months last year and successfully escaped efforts by DNR biologists to capture and relocate him.

And for months, officials urged everyone to remove the Bruin’s incentive to drag himself near people by abolishing bird feeders and keeping trash cans inaccessible. Cutting off this low hanging food supply often encourages bears to return to natural feeding habits in areas that reduce their contact with humans.

Finally, in April, DNR staff lured the 400-pound yogi into a trap with the birdseed – a meal the bear had become painfully accustomed to. Then they moved it about 90 miles from Traverse City.

Surely the width of the mitt would be sure to keep the bear away from the temptation of suburban living in Traverse City.

Unfortunately, the town’s pull proved too much for the bear, and he quickly returned to the area – tracking data shows he was back in Grand Traverse County in mid-May.

He found what he was looking for – lots of bird feeders and trash cans to raid.

By the time the DNR captured the giant bear for the second time on Thursday, it had grown in both girth and audacity. According to the DNR, he now weighed about 500 pounds. He had also almost lost the natural aversion to human contact and excitement – a behavior captured in dozens of photos and videos posted on social media by Westside residents.

DNR officials said the bear’s persistence and audacity had become too great a risk to public safety, they were being forced to euthanize him.

It’s a frustrating ending. An unnecessary ending.

Humans contributed to this adult bear’s death by simply not following bear conscious protocols in an attempt to remove any lure that would keep him around the neighborhood. If we followed all of the best practices that DNR officials have spent the last year asking us to adhere to, this bear may have simply returned to the thick forests of the Boardman or Platte River valleys.

Chances are that this great bear would have ended up in some unfortunate interaction with humans – on a freeway or by settling down in a neighborhood in confrontation with humans anyway.

But we humans certainly didn’t do our part to give it a chance.

– Traverse City Record Eagle

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