We accidentally train wild bears to snatch our pic-i-nic baskets, and then try to use the same tactics to turn them back toward lives of bark and berries. Recent encounters with humans, writes Maggie Koerth-Baker, show that the forces of psychology are working against us.
In the last 2 decades, some 85% of wild Tasmanian Devils have been wiped out. The primary cause isn't poachers or habitat destruction, but a bizarre kind of *contagious* cancer. "A recent epidemic disease, known as devil facial tumour disease, has brought an extremely rare, but equally devastating, set of circumstances together to threaten the devil population. Facial tumour disease, unlike every form of cancer known to affect humans, is transferred directly from devil to devil when they bite each other, which is 'something they do a lot during feeding or mating.'” — Xeni
Freelance journalist Jessica Grose has a fascinating "long read" in Slate this week (and I'm not kidding about the long part, 8,000 words!) about Bear True Crimes: wild bears in and around Yellowstone National Park who, for one reason or another, attack humans.
Why does this happen? What's it like for the humans who survive? Who investigates the attacks, all CSI-style with DNA analysis and whatnot, and figures out what to do with the problem bears? Is it right to kill them?
Grose's report begins with the story of a mother bear who attacked campers in late 2011. Snip:
The euthanization of the bear known as “the Wapiti sow” was the culmination of a series of horrifying events that had gripped Yellowstone for months, and alarmed rangers, visitors, and the conservation biologists tasked with keeping grizzly bears safe. In separate incidents in July and August, grizzlies had killed hikers in Yellowstone, prompting a months-long investigation replete with crime scene reconstructions and DNA analysis, and a furious race to capture the prime suspect. The execution of the Wapiti sow opens a window on a special criminal justice system designed to protect endangered bears and the humans who share their land. It also demonstrates the difficulty of judging animals for crimes against us. The government bear biologists who enforce grizzly law and order grapple with the impossibility of the task every day. In the most painful cases, the people who protect these sublime, endangered animals must also put them to death.
Edna Geisler, 69, of Commerce Township has been stalked for two months by an aggressive male wild turkey (a "tom") who "lurks in her front yard, screeching at her constantly, even jumping out occasionally and attacking her when she dares wander outside alone."
His name: Godzilla.
"I'm afraid to go out of my house," said Geisler. "I have to go to the post office at 6 o'clock in the morning to avoid him."