Photo: Jim Francis
DNR removes, euthanizes bears seen as ‘obvious danger’
It was inevitable.
Big Canoe has lost another mother bear and her three cute cubs as a result of people—intentionally or unintentionally—providing artificial food sources attractive to bears. These bears became an obvious danger to public safety, according to Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
They were trapped on September 6, removed and euthanized by DNR at the request of, and in cooperation, with Big Canoe POA, Big Canoe Public Safety staff, and numerous homeowners within the community. DNR had seen multiple videos of these animals displaying atypical bear behavior many weeks before being removed.
These bears lost their fear of humans and were so used to being run off by people that they just moved to a different home and kept causing damage, even after being shot numerous times with rubber buckshot (nonlethal ammunition from a shotgun). At least nine closed garages, sometimes the same garage, and 12 or more secured homes, (six to eight homes the week prior to capture; several that were occupied at the time) had been forcibly entered by this 300-pound sow and her three cubs.
In one home the cubs became trapped in a bedroom when the door closed behind them, according to Adam Hammond, senior wildlife biologist and bear project manager for DNR. Extensive damage was caused in homes entered by this bear family, he added. This female bear was teaching her cubs to display the same behavior and had likely not taught them all the natural skills they would need to survive in the wild—particularly avoiding humans.
The main reason these bears could not be trapped and turned loose elsewhere is because they are dangerous to people and there is nowhere in Georgia that a bear so unafraid of people can be placed that it will not quickly encounter homes, recreation areas, campgrounds, and people, according to the DNR.
Case in point: the nuisance sow and cubs, tagged and removed by DNR from Big Canoe July 23, 2012 and released deep into the Cohutta Wildlife Management area, walked 80 miles into the City of Chatsworth, terrorizing the community and causing a school to be placed on lockdown. There was no choice left but to euthanize them, having identified them as the Big Canoe bears.
An estimated 3,000 black bears roam the hills and mountains of North Georgia. The Wild Life Resources Division of the Georgia DNR states: “As our human population continues to grow and recreate more frequently in these natural areas, the potential for interaction between humans and wildlife increases as well.
“While bears are naturally most active around dawn and dusk, fed bears become bold and will come close to people and homes at any time. Bears that have been inadvertently rewarded by finding open garbage cans, bird feeders, or other foods provided by people quickly learn to associate people with food.
Once bears lose their normal fear of people they are more likely to cause significant property damage and may become a dangerous threat to pets and even people.”
Big Canoe General Manager Jill Philmon, in a Sept. 7 special notice, notified the community of the action taken to remove the habituated bears and expressed her sadness over the loss of this mother and cubs. But, she stated, her number one concern “is now and always will be, the safety and well-being of the Big Canoe property owners and guests. There has never been a reported bear attack in Big Canoe and we will do everything we can to make sure that never happens.”
In Georgia, according to DNR, there has never been a fatal attack on a person by a black bear and only two fatal attacks in the Southeastern United States – both in Tennessee.
Philmon said there are many black bears in Big Canoe “that we will work hard to keep safe. Right now, the other bears seem to be less habituated and it is our job as a community to keep it that way.”
She added: “We continue to ask that you do not leave trash, pet food, bird seed or any other edible materials outside, in your vehicle, garage, porch or other accessible areas. Remember to keep all exterior doors locked as bears are excellent climbers and some have even learned to open doors. If you see a bear on your property, please do not stop to take a picture or video. Make as much noise as possible in an effort to encourage the bear to move along.”