June 22, 2012 @ 2:10 pm
Last summer I did an episode and several posts on the Greensboro Bear, a juvenile black bear that was wandering my neighborhood for several days
Here & Now had a piece today on grizzly bear attacks in Yellowstone. They linked to this piece in Outside Magazine, about how pepper spray is more effective than a gun – another of those messages that lots of people don’t want to hear. Here’s my two cents, never having met a bear outside a zoo in my life, but just think about two things. Call them hypotheses.
1) A dead bear has no deterrence value to other live bears. It’s not like they’re attending one another’s funerals and comparing notes. Shooting a bear just opens up a territory for a new bear, who is potentially just as dangerous (or more dangerous) as the old one. Slightly similar logic as Brett Walker used last week during our discussion of wolves, though bears are not social like wolves are.
2) A live bear who’s been trained to leave those spicy humans alone, and who defends his territory against other bears, is doing your work for you. Deliberately, pre-emptively, associating humans with pepper spray might be the way to go, the way some places in India have used electric dummies to train wild tigers. I'm sure there's a better Tom & Jerry equivalent that this one (2:55 in), but this is the one I happened to see on Boomerang the other day while I was zonked out on cold medicine. But anyway, from the report. . .
Man-eating is an old menace in the Sunderbans. In the l970s an average of 48 people a year were killed by tigers. In I983 the electrified dummy was introduced with excellent results. Along with electrified dummies the human face mask made of rubber was introduced which was a great success. The annual toll came down to I7 in 1988. Both electrified dummy and face mask were discontinued from 1989 and man eating incidents again increased from 12 in 1989, to 43 in l992 and 33 in 1993. After 1993 counteracting measures were again introduced. In I994 only 7 persons were killed by tigers. The lowest ever was recorded in the year 1996 when only one person was killed.
Notice the accidental experimental design there. The period in between is an unintentional control condition. Tiger numbers were (and still are) going down that whole time. It would have been easy to say (and probably was said) that tiger attacks were going down not because of the intervention, but because there were fewer tigers. The control condition says no, the dummies worked. It would of course be unethical to do that experiment on purpose (“Well, let’s just see if the killings go up!”), but when it happened, they listened to the evidence.