A state environmental conservation officer shot and killed a young black bear Tuesday, Sept. 25 in Long Lake.
State Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Dave Winchell said the bear was killed because it had lost its fear of humans after being fed by them.
"This weekend it approached a young child, coming within 4 or 5 feet of it," Winchell told the Enterprise in an email.
Winchell said the bear had been seen in Long Lake numerous times over the last several months. It was reported to DEC that its mother had been struck by a car and killed earlier in the summer. Shortly afterward, it had become habituated to human food and lost its fear of people.
"The local folks had felt sorry for it and started feeding it by hand," said DEC Region 5 Wildlife Manager Lance Durfey. "That is a recipe for disaster for bears, any bears, because that quickly teaches bears to associate people with food, and once they do that, they will be nuisances and potential safety issues."
Durfey said the DEC tries to rehabilitate or relocate bears in many cases, but because this feeding "had been going on for so long, the bear was not capable of being rehabilitated. We were left with the only choice to euthanize it."
Durfey noted that it is illegal to feed bears, intentionally or not. People who feed bears unintentionally are given warnings before any tickets are issued.
Durfey reminded the public to keep garbage inside overnight in areas where there is bear activity and not to put bird feeders up until November.
This is the 13th nuisance bear killed in the Adirondacks this summer by the DEC, homeowners and farmers. The DEC put down six nuisance bears this summer in the Old Forge area alone, where people feeding wildlife is common. In DEC's Region 5, which encompasses the northern and eastern parts of the Adirondacks, there have been seven nuisance bears killed by DEC staff, homeowners and farmers. The department killed another this winter in the Tug Hill region, just west of the Adirondacks.
Biologists have said the increase in nuisance bear activity was due to the dry weather this summer, which caused food sources to be scarce for the animals. The bear population is also believed to be increasing, in part because last year was an abundant year for bear food, which allowed the animals to have a successful reproductive season.
People who feed bears are often criticized on Internet forums after the DEC kills a bear that has become habituated to human food. This week, the DEC has received some negative feedback from Facebook commenters for killing the bear, especially because the action took place the same day the DEC killed an injured moose in the Wilmington Notch, an action that has drawn a lot of attention. Many Facebook and forum commenters have questioned why the DEC didn't try to save the moose or leave it alone, but state wildlife biologists determined the moose was injured and ill, and that relocating it wasn't safe for the moose or state biologists, largely because the moose was at the bottom of a ravine in the West Branch of the AuSable River.
Durfey told the News that putting the bear down was the "humane thing to do."