Bear can't resist honey

Friday, June 22, 2007

The black bear is back. Lured by the smell of sweet honey, the bear paid a repeat visit to the bee hives of Bill and Donna Gracy in Dogwood Hills subdivision south of Cassville last Thursday night.

One line of electric fencing was not enough to keep the bear out of what is left of the Gracys' hives.

"The bear went right over that electric fence," said Donna Gracy. "Bill is putting a couple more lines up higher to see if that will help."

Over the past two weeks, the bear, thought to be a young male attempting to establish his own territory, has raided the hives on two consecutive Thursday nights. The same bear has also been spotted outside other neighborhood homes.

Barry County Conser-vation Agent Jason Midyett said the bear is currently being handled as a nuisance problem. Midyett said he gave the Gracys a guide that provides a diagram on how to set up an electric fence to bear proof the bee hives. The fence should consist of four strands of electric wire.

"The Missouri Depart-ment of Conservation (MDC) does not plan on trapping this bear," said Midyett. "It has not been classified as a nuisance bear and does not pose a threat to human safety at this time."

The bear that has been frequenting Dogwood Hills is not the first bear sighting reported in Barry County, according to Midyett. He said he has received two other reports of bear sightings in the area this month.

"Black bears have been seen in the county in past years," said Midyett.

In 2006, a bear was caught in a feral hog trap in the Mark Twain National Forest east of Cassville. This black bear was a young male and was released unharmed from the trap.

Midyett describes black bears as "opportunistic feeders." He said these bears are omnivorous and will eat almost anything that is edible. They also love to scrounge for wild honey and tip over dead logs to feast on grubs, termites and ants.

Although black bears pose little threat to humans, bears are wild animals and therefore are unpredictable. Bears rarely come in contact with humans and are generally fearful of people.

Area residents are warned against feeding black bears, which Midyett said could result in a dangerous situation.

"When bears are fed and find easily obtainable food from humans, it doesn't take long for them to become food conditioned and habituated to humans, which is a dangerous combination," Midyett said. "Even the smallest black bear possesses strength out of proportion to its size and can be dangerous.

"Missourians are lucky to have a burgeoning black bear population, and we need to learn the best ways to co-exist with these magnificent creatures," added Midyett. "to make certain none of our valuable bears have to be destroyed, discourage bears from becoming dependent on non-natural foods."

In order to help keep bears away from residential areas, citizens are encouraged to discontinue feeding dogs and cats outdoors and stop storing feed where bears have easy access to it. Residents are also urged to stop putting out wild bird seed until it can be done in a bear-proof manner.

Any bear sightings should be reported to the Conserva-tion Department. These reports can be submitted by telephone by calling 573-751-4115.

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