Bear killed as habitat is destroyed

As my first post, I want to talk about bears because of the recent incidents in my immediate area.

Recently two bears wandered into our town on the northern outskirts of Toronto. The first one was tranquilized by the authorities and moved to a safe area.

The second bear that visited last week, however, did not enjoy such a positive result. It spent a weekend wandering around people’s back yards, possibly in search of food. For the entire day Saturday and Sunday morning, it did not  threaten to hurt anyone. Neighbors kept their distance and watched the animal make its way from one area to another. Sunday, the police were called that a bear was roaming the neighborhood. On scene in minutes, they began approaching this bear which did what was natural. It kept moving away from them, climbing fences to escape. Eventually, the nervous animal climbed a tree as bears will do to escape threats.

The police closed in which made the bear increasingly nervous. It’s unclear what happened next, but the gun shot was quite evident. The bear was dead.

This entire scene would not have occurred had its habitat not been so drastically disturbed.

While investigating recent construction that I had noticed a few weeks ago, I was shocked to discover that the destruction was more massive than I thought. Thousands of acres of trees and meadows not far from town had been demolished. In their place is a huge swath of mud as far as the eye can see. A few scattered clusters of trees remain, for the time being, but it’s clear they too will be destroyed.

The death of this bear, one of hundreds of casualties caused by this devastation, was disturbing. Black bears in this area are not aggressive, rather they prefer solitude and peace. Here’s some of what I discovered at’s web site.

The prime habitat for the black bear in this region is forest canopy of hardwoods such as beech, maple, birch and coniferous species. Other areas important to black bears include fields of brush, wet and dry meadows. Bears will climb to feed, escape enemies and to hibernate. Those living near human habitation tend to be more nocturnal, hunting for food at night. Generally, black bears feed on vegetation, new shoots on various plants such as wetland plants. In summer their main diet is buds, berries and fruit. Humans can inadvertently attract bears which tend to enjoy bird seed and honey as well as anything they can find in household waste.

Bears usually breed between June and July. The babies take 235 days to gestate, with litters born in January/February. This means that any cubs will be at extreme risk right now – June – and throughout the summer when construction crews are hyper-busy. The litter size is typically 2-3, but it can go as high as 6 cubs which are dependent on their mother’s milk for 30 weeks. They will reach independence at 16-18 months of age. While the young bears are threatened by bobcats, coyotes, wolves and other wildlife, “black bear fatalities are overwhelmingly attributable to human activities.”

The article goes on to say that “American black bears typically avoid confronting humans when possible.” In fact, although they lived near our pioneers decades ago, “black bears were rarely considered overly dangerous.” Interestingly, if a bear is confronted by humans, it will rarely attack, reserving its response to mock charges, swatting the ground, and blowing through its nose. “Attacks by brown bears rarely lead to serious injury” although such attacks are generally motivated by hunger.

Black bears enter their dens in October/November where they stay for 3-8 months depending on the climate. These dens are made in hollowed-out tree cavities, under logs and rocks, in banks, caves, culverts and in shallow depressions. They use dense cover for hiding, thermal protection and for bedding. This is the exact habitat that local developers just destroyed.

When we take out a forest such as the ones I saw, the bear has nowhere to go. Their homes are demolished. Their food sources are taken away. And, if the excavations occur at the right time, their young will be killed.

Bears are just one creature that suffers at the hands of man taking land for monetary value.

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